OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Many Ocean Springs High seniors received special recognition Wednesday, not for making the top grades or for their athletic abilities. They were honored for what they have done to help children. Those seniors have devoted their time and friendship to help children who face all sorts of challenges.
A banquet at Ocean Springs High School celebrated a special achievement for 120-seniors. The students are Ambassador Mentors in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Mississippi Program. For the past year, they have dedicated at least 30-minutes a week to help a child who just needed a friend.
"Growing up, I always had somebody in my life that was there for me, someone closer to my age to be there for me, and I knew it was important for me to do that," said Ambassador Mentor Lila Brand.
Each senior was paired with an elementary student who may be struggling at school or dealing with a crisis at home.
"It helps the student with their self esteem. It might help them with their grades. It might help them just to know that somebody cares," said Program Coordinator Julie Milanese.
The mentors were chosen based on their good character, leadership, and grades, but most all, their compassion.
"There's more out there than just me, and it's really important for me to be able to help others," said Ambassador Mentor Jessi Lockett.
While the seniors volunteered their time, in the end, they felt they were the ones who reaped the highest rewards.
"It's been awesome! I'd go once a week and we'd go and shoot basketball or if his teacher asks me to help him with some schoolwork, then I'd do that, or we'd talk about anything he needed to talk about," said Ambassador Mentor Kaffrey Jacobs.
"This actually meant a lot to me and it changed me and it made me feel good and made me realize how well off I had it," said Jessi. "I was able to be in another person's life and help change their life and maybe be the person they needed and they didn't have. If they were having any trouble, I was there to talk to them."
It was an experience the mentors hope to pass on. After all, the theme of this year's banquet was "A Chain of Love."
"It was really a humbling experience. She was always so excited to see me. When I walked in the door, she would run and give me a hug. I really think we created a bond that I want to see her later on in life to see how she's doing," Lila said about her mentee. "I'm changing her life, and that's really humbling and an honor to be part of this program."
Ocean Springs High has hosted the Ambassador Mentor Program for the past six years. The next group of chosen will be chosen at the end of the school year.