Recognizing the need for positive role models in the lives of young Santa Monicans, the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles and Virginia Avenue Park to find mentors for local youths.

The summer months have been targeted as a time of outreach and recruitment for volunteers who are interested in making a difference in their commu- nity, as well as for signing up local youths into the program.

Santa Monica boys and girls ages six through 16 will be matched with Big Brothers and Big Sisters who serve as mentors, friends and role models for the youths.

Anyone who is over 18 years old, has a safe driving record and passes what is described as an extensive background check and screening process is eligible to be a mentor. A one-year commitment is required.

Though potential mentors may be intimidated or overwhelmed, spending time with local youths and being a positive role model can be a very rewarding experience, program officials say.

Some mentors might teach a child in their community how to ride a bike, while others take children on their first picnic. Most important, mentors can change the course of a young person’s life for the better, program officials say.

Ty Treadway, a three-time Emmy nominee and Big Brother to a young Santa Monican, stresses the importance of donating his time to mentoring.

“Not everyone is lucky enough to be born with two loving parents that are strong role models,” Treadway says. “There are so many really great kids out there who could use the positive guidance of a caring mentor.

“And you may just be surprised by all the fun you end up having.”

The mentoring program is part of an ongoing effort to curb gang violence in Santa Monica.

According to a national study, children who are matched with caring mentors do better academically, are less likely to be involved with alcohol or drugs, are less likely to engage in gang violence, and have better relationships with their parents and peers compared with those who do not have mentors.

Interviews for potential mentors and mentees are ongoing.

Anyone interested in signing up may call Sheila Estaniel at (310) 393-9825 ext. 10.