Big Pride: Celebrating 5 Years!
Over the past five years, BBBS has proudly partnered with OutFront Kalamazoo to make Big Pride a reality for dozens of youth.
In the Big Pride program, LGBTQIATS+ youth (who we call Littles) ages 6-16 are paired with LGBTQIATS+ mentors (who we call Bigs) to form supportive friendships. Because of the mentor’s lived experience, they are able to help the Little celebrate the beauty and richness of LGBTQIATS+ life. They may also support their mentee in navigating obstacles unique to the LGBTQIATS+ community.
Littles in the Big Pride program can see themselves reflected in the world, sometimes for the very first time. Through the Big Pride program, LGBTQIATS+ youth have an additional person in their corner to cheer them on and ignite their potential.
In 2022, 45% of surveyed LGBTQIATS+ youth seriously considered suicide. According to research by The Trevor Project, “Access to LGBTQ or LGBTQ-supportive role models improves mental well-being among LGBTQ youth.” Mentorship creates space for youth to not just celebrate their unique identities, but thrive in a world that doesn’t always look like them.
Big Pride History
“The Big Pride program was a direct response to a community need,” shares Amy Kuchta, Chief Executive Officer of BBBSMI. “We started seeing more LGBTQIATS+ youth enrolling in the program, and took action.”
Inspired by the work of other Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies across the nation, Kuchta teamed up with other BBBSMI staff and OutFront Kalamazoo. Together they formed a mentoring program specifically focused on LGBTQIATS+ youth. They called it Big Pride.
“There’s something about the Big Pride matches,” Kuchta reflects. “The kids really feel seen by their Bigs, and the parents/guardians feel excited that they’re able to provide their child with an additional role model.”
I knew the program was going to offer Levi something that was really important. I wanted to get him some support that made him feel that he was made the way he was supposed to be made.Sonja, whose son, Levi, has been matched in the Big Pride program since 2018
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the youth have to be out to their parent/guardian to be in the program?
Yes, they do. Big Brothers Big Sisters builds a relationship with each match participant (mentor, mentee, and parent/guardian). Throughout the match friendship, matches participate in regular check-ins with their Mentoring Relationship Specialist (MRS). The MRS provides coaching and support for all match participants. Because the relationship is focused on the youth, being forthright about the intent and purpose of the match relationship is necessary. This helps ensure that the youth gets the best possible experience from the program.
Does the youth need to be out publicly?
Not necessarily. The MRS supporting the match is aware that the mentor/mentee are a part of the LGBTQIATS+ community. However, each Big Pride match decides whether they’re comfortable with their match type being shared publicly. For example, each match is asked if they’re comfortable being highlighted as a Big Pride feature on social media, our blog, etc. Match participants are welcome to abstain from being highlighted to protect the wishes of each match participant.
Do Big Pride matches receive support?
Yes. All BBBSMI staff complete several hours of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice training throughout the year. This includes training on working with the LGBTQIATS+ community.
Big Pride matches are also invited to participate in Big Pride cohort activities in addition to free monthly match activities. Through these activities, matches in the program are invited to come together and build community with one another.
What is the commitment?
At least two hours, twice per month, for a minimum of one year. Though it’s not a requirement, many matches continue to meet long past the one-year mark! You can read more about the enrollment process on our blog.