Mentors needed for local program

By Marlena Hartz: PNT Correspondent

Charles Murrell has been all over the world and never made a friendship quite like the one he has with Kendall Christinson.
Christinson, too, has seen many places. While his travels are a result of his mother’s change of employment, and Murrell’s are a result of service in the Air Force, the two find they have much in common — they share a passion for music and the 12-year-old Christinson envisions a future in the Air Force.
The budding friendship was made possible through the re-organized Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Clovis.
“Kendall really likes the military and I show him around at the Air Force base,” said Murrell, 37, a tech sergeant at Cannon Air Force Base.
Murrell said he encourages Christinson — who plays the piano and writes short stories — to stick with the things he likes to do, regardless of what his peers think.
“It is great,” said Christinson as he worked the controls of a video game Wednesday at his house, “just because I have someone else to play with, care for me, and do things with.”
Murrell has three children. But they live in Phoenix with their mother following the couple’s divorce. Being away from his children has left a void in Murrell’s life.
“I don’t think anyone’s childhood was easy,” said Murrell, who was born in Oklahoma and raised in Phoenix. “I want to make sure Kendall has the adult guidance he needs because we all make so many mistakes in life. It’s important to have someone around you can trust.”
Since becoming program coordinator for Curry and Roosevelt counties six months ago, Christine Martinez said she has forged 42 children-mentor relationships. But lately, as the number of children seeking mentors has risen and the pool of available mentors has dwindled, the process has reached a stalemate.
The roadblock hits Martinez especially hard — she understands what it means to be a mentor and have a mentor firsthand.
She met her own “little sister” four years ago. “She seemed needy,” Martinez said. “Now, she is so much more independent.”
According to the agency, 90 percent of children who participate in Big Brothers Big Sisters are from one parent or stepparent households. Most come from low-income families and are acquainted with hardship at tender ages.
A national study by Public Private Ventures documents that youth participating in the program are 52 percent less likely to skip a day of school and 46 percent less likely to start using drugs.
The Clovis agency closed in early March as part of a national organization restructuring that put four local employees out of work and left more than 100 local mentor-child pairs in limbo.
The office reopened in July as part of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern New Mexico.
The Roswell-based agency will oversee operations in the area.
“It’s definitely in the rebuilding stage,” said Jill Dennis, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern New Mexico. “We had a lot of support in Clovis and I hope we can have that again.”