CINCINNATI -- University of Cincinnati Police Chief Anthony Carter looks back on his childhood mentor, Steve West, with fondness and a few tears.
They were an odd match, he admits -- a young African-American boy paired with a white man in his 20s through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati -- but West's influence on the young Carter created ripples that still resonate in his life today. West taught Carter how to swim, took him on his first plane ride and helped inspire him to be a role model for others.
"I can't say that I would've been a bad kid," Carter said. "I can't say that I would have been a negative influence in my community, but I know that he helped me be a positive influence."
That's why Carter is so excited for the University of Cincinnati Police Department to begin participating in Big Brothers Big Sisters, too. The new Bigs in Blue program will allow Carter and his colleagues to become mentors for local children just like West was for him.
"We have an opportunity to be impactful with youth who are our future, and we also have an opportunity to build bridges," he said.
At a time when police departments and the communities they serve can struggle to understand one another, programs like this can be especially valuable, according to Deb Haas of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
"It really establishes some long-term relationships connecting the community with the police officers," Haas said. "Establishing friends with these kids and these police officers that are trusting relationships has a ripple effect with families throughout the community."
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati serves more than 1,200 children each year, and there are still hundreds waiting to be connected to mentors.
If you think you could be a role model for a child in our community, you can apply online.