Site-based programs growing, offer flexibility to Bigs
When people think about Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentoring, most often our community-based model comes to mind. They picture a Big picking a Little up at their home and heading out to take in a ball game, go to a museum, or enjoy a meal out. For many of our matches this is the case, but this vision of a “typical” match is changing.
A growing proportion of our Big/Little matches are site-based, meaning they meet at the Big’s workplace or at the Little’s school. The most popular site-based programs are Bigs in Business and High School Bigs which were both introduced in 2005.
The popularity of the Bigs in Business program is due to the ease it offers the Big. Many volunteers find it more convenient than community-based mentoring because there is a set schedule for seeing their Little; the Little is brought right to their workplace; and quite often activities are planned for the matches. Many find it to be a less intimidating way to form a friendship with a young person.
The High School Bigs program is an amazing way for high school students to volunteer and help change the life of a younger student. The High School Bigs see their Littles weekly during the school year at the Littles’ school and the positive impact isn’t limited to the Littles: Our research shows that 82 percent of High School Bigs say they learned about the challenges of being a leader and 75 percent say they learned to better organize their time. Learning these “soft skills” while still in high school gives these Bigs a leg up when they continue their education or enter the job market after high school.
Adults can also mentor at schools. The Bigs in Schools program is popular with businesses that are unable to host a Bigs in Business site and with community members who like the program’s more structured approach.
There are now 38 participating schools in our five-county service area and 12 Bigs in Business sites. I expect these numbers will continue to grow; however, it’s important to remember that site-based programming is just a piece of what we offer. Big Brothers Big Sisters is committed to offering a number of flexible mentoring options so we can help as many children as possible change their lives for the better, forever.