A United Way of Jackson County Funded Program That Is Making A Difference For Generations To Come.
Big Brothers Big Sisters matches children between the ages of 5 and 18 with caring adult mentors. BBBS studies show improvements in Jackson area youth in reduction of drug and alcohol use, improvements in attitudes about and commitment to education, as well as a reduction in violence. A facet of the Community Based Program, Children of Promise Excel (COPE) serves children of incarcerated parents. This program’s assessment process and training are consistent with the Community Based Programs evaluations and processing.
Big Brothers Big Sisters has been working in the community to form partnerships with businesses, groups, and other non-profits that help youth successfully reach goals of appropriate relationships, communication skills, and community involvement. Local colleges, community service agencies, and cooperative education programs are providing opportunities for Bigs and Littles to participate in community activities and increase the quality of their mentoring friendships.
The Outcomes Statements of 1. Building social and emotional competence and 2. Improving academic performance are goals that align well with the Big Brothers Big Sisters programs by addressing and meeting the youths’ most basic fundamental needs. The Community Based program allows for matches to eat out, play sports, attend sporting events, go to the movies, go sightseeing, participate in community service events, or just hang out. These meetings are out in the community, at the mentors home, at BBBS events. All of these things are important; but we see that primarily the youth involved in the program are impacted by having a caring adult consistently in their lives. By providing a consistent and positive role model, BBBS youth outcomes show improvement nationally and locally in positive behaviors, attitudes toward education and sense of future, and reduction in violence, drug, and alcohol use. BBBS utilizes a structured Individualized Mentoring Plan agreed upon by both Mentor and Mentee in hopes of progressing toward those goals effectively. They stay in contact with our match’s to monitor these goals by communicating with parent, youth, and mentor monthly for the first year and quarterly thereafter. These tools allow BBBS to monitor social, emotional, and educational gains and deficits. Annually they assess the relationship status and goal achievement; do an overall evaluation by utilizing national research tools (Program Outcome Evaluation (POE) and Strengths of Relationship survey (SoR)) and utilize the results to establish new goals for the coming year. Matches in the Community Based Program can be together for the minimum of one year, but most times extend into lasting relationships, some even into adulthood.
The best story to share the longevity and social impact not only our Little’s but our Bigs as well is one written by a Big herself. Helen has been matched with her Little since the beginning of August 2009 and their story follows here…
I first met my Little 4 1/2 yrs ago. I felt compelled to give back to the needs of my community, and what better way than to just spend some time with a kid! The match process was easy, I answered some questions about me and my likes, and the BBBS specialist then compared what they had for children waiting for a match and found someone with similar interests.
The first visit was with my Little’s mom and the match specialist. Boy was I surprised when the door to the home opened and I saw someone I went to high school with! That immediately put my Little’s mom more at ease, as it can be hard to let your child start spending time with a stranger. I don’t feel as though I have to spend money or make up things to do. My Little and I just hang out and do things we like to do. She is included in my family events, and my daughter enjoys being her 2nd big sister. In addition, BBBS sometimes will have events for us to participate in and those are always free or low cost.
I love how as the years go by, we just are comfortable with each other. I enjoy being able to share and expose her to new and different experiences. I am not a 2nd mom to her as that is not my role. I am just her friend. We don’t have a lot of deep thought provoking conversations, but she knows if she wanted to have one, I would listen and if she wanted, I would give her advice. I know there are so many other kids waiting for a match and a friend and if people only knew how much of a difference just a few hours a month could make, I think more people would do it. The big bonus is that you get to participate in the life of a really cool little kid and watching them grow-up and change and SMILE at the little things is so rewarding.
A word of advice to those who are thinking about being a big, sometimes there can be challenges because the home your Little comes from may be different than your own. Never go into something like this having pre-conceived notions about what it will be like. You have to just go with the flow and remember the focus is on the Little and you are just there to be a friend and to love them. Don’t force things that are not there either. If you try something and it doesn’t work, step back and try something else. And don’t ever go into a match or try to start a relationship if your heart is not in it. Your heart has to be there. Being a BIG is not for everyone, and that is ok. But if you see kids and you like kids and you have a few hours just to be with a kid then BBBS may be for you. Best, Helen