Big Brother mentor makes difference in child's life
CHECK MATE Terry Cullum, left, a volunteer with Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Meridian, plays a game of chess with Damone, a third-grader at Crestwood Elementary School. Cullum was matched with Damone about two months ago. Photo by Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star.
By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Nov. 10, 2001
An 8-year-old third-grader at Crestwood Elementary School is learning to play chess from the big brother he met just two months ago.
Damone's "big brother," however, is actually a volunteer with Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Meridian. But that makes no difference to Damone, who loves the company and attention.
Damone's big brother is Terry Cullum, 28, of Meridian. He is the manager of Friedman's Jewelers at Bonita Lakes Mall and spends an hour a week on his day off with Damone at school.
Damone said he looks forward to Cullum's visits.
Cullum became a big brother volunteer after learning about the program through a friend who was a mentor last year. Cullum is engaged to be married; both he and his fiancee have children.
Cullum said he sometimes works more than 60 hours a week, but he still finds time to be a big brother mentor because he wishes someone had taken the time to do the same for him when he was a child.
Born in New York, Cullum was in the Boys Choir of Harlem for two years. Through the choir he had interaction with adults and children, but he said he lacked one-on-one contact with male role models.
Cullum said the Big Brothers-Big Sisters program is important because children can learn from their mentors, see how to live their lives and confide in them.
Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Meridian has been trying to double its mentorship to 200.
Terrence Roberts, program director of the local chapter, said about 35 applications for mentors have been received over the past month. Training sessions are being planned for new mentors.
The program is for Meridian public school students in kindergarten through seventh grade. Mentors meet with children for one hour a week at their school.
There are more children like Damone, too. He said his favorite chess piece is the king "because I want to grow up to be a king."
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.