This month, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtneaw are excited to take a moment to highlight and celebrate a few of our Littles who are now 2022 high school graduates! Completing high school is always a major accomplishment, but the challenges that teens have faced during these last few pandemic years has made it an even more impressive feat.
While it was ultimately the hard work and dedication of these Littles that got them here, we also know that having a strong connection with a reliable adult mentor plays a significant part in helping youth achieve their goals. A landmark study conducted by the national Big Brothers Big Sisters of America organization showed that our matched Littles skipped less school than their peers and felt more competent when doing their schoolwork, and the majority of them agreed that having a Big in their lives helped them do better in their studies and kept them from dropping out of high school.
Our local agency is proud to be a part of helping our Littles make and nurture dependable connections with their Bigs, but we are even more proud of these Littles for never giving up on themselves and for achieving their goals!
Karon is a graduate of Pioneer high school and was first matched with his Big Brother Lamont in November of 2015. Over the last seven years, Lamont has provided Karon with the emotional support and academic encouragement he’s needed to accomplish his goals. Most recently, Lamont and the extended BBBS village have helped Karon prepare for college and dorm life at Concordia University, which he plans on attending starting in August of 2023.
Congratulations, Karon! We are so proud of you!
Logan first joined our program five years ago after being matched with his Big Brother Paul in January of 2017. Logan shared that Paul has been a great big brother and positive influence in his life over the last few years, and has helped him succeed in school. Logan is now officially a graduate of Lincoln High School’s Virtual Academy and is interested in pursuing a career in welding.
Congratulations, Logan! We are so proud of you!
Zaylah is half of one of our longest running matches, having been connected to her Big Sister Brittany over ten years ago in April of 2012! With Brittany’s help, Zaylah has grown into an accomplished and successful young woman who has already completed a Cosmetology program through the Huron Valley Beauty Academy. Now that Zaylah has graduated from Skyline High School, she plans to attend Washtenaw Community College and work towards a degree in Business.
Congratulations, Zaylah! We are so proud of you!
Regardless of what these Littles end up doing next, we are so happy to have been a part of their story and are rooting for them in all of their future endeavors!
March is of course both Women’s History Month and National Reading Month both, and one of the many ways women have made a tremendous impact on the world is through their contributions to children’s literature.
Some of the most beloved children’s books of all time were written by women. From cherished 20th century classics such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit to modern titles like Brown Girl Dreaming, women have contributed so many of the books we loved to read ourselves when we were young, and now love to read to the children in our lives.
Let’s take a more in depth look at five fantastic female children’s book authors who push past boundaries to transform children’s lit and add joy and happiness to so many of our lives!
1. Beatrix Potter
Born in rural England in 1866 to a long line of gifted artists, and encouraged from a young age to pursue her own passions for nature and art, Beatrix Potter’s most famous work-and her career as an author and illustrator in general-came about entirely by accident.
In 1893, Potter began sending very short illustrated stories to her former governess’ children and in 1900, she took the snippets she’d written to them about an adventurous little rabbit into the first draft of the book that would eventually become published as The Tale of Peter Rabbit in 1902. Potter would then go on to have an extensive and highly successful career, publishing two storybooks a year until about 1913, when she married and began focusing more on her love of farming and land conservation.
By the time of her death in 1942 at age 77, Potter had not only written 30 books, 23 of which comprised the beloved and best selling children’s book series that included the whimsical tales of Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, Squirrel Nutkin, and Mr Tod, she also left 14 farms and over 4,000 of preserved natural lands to the British National Trust.
2. Jaqueline Woodson
Brooklyn-based writer Jaqueline Woodson has made it her mission to transform literature for Black children, young adults, and adults in her 25+year career, and that passion has made her one of the most respected and awarded writers publishing today.
Beginning in 19995 with From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun, Woodson has penned over 30 powerful volumes of children’s literature, young adult fiction, and poetry dealing with everything from the history of slavery and segregation to interracial relationships, social class, and gender and sexual identity. In her renowned modern day classic Brown Girl Dreaming, Woodson uses beautiful prose to create a fictionalized, young adult memoir of her own family’s experience with segregation in the south and is a superb example of what Woodson herself has stated is her writing goal: “I (want) to say to my young self “You’re loved. You’re beautiful. You’re complicated. You matter.” I know that by saying this to myself with each book I write, I am saying it to every reader who has ever felt otherwise."
Woodson’s books have won multiple awards, including the Coretta Scott King Honor, The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a slot as a finalist for the National Book Award, and three Newberry Honors. Woodson has also served as a MacArthur Fellow, the Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017, and The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature from 2018-2019.
3. Beverly Cleary
Although we know Beverly Cleary as a children’s book author, she actually began her career as a children’s librarian. It was during her tenure at the Yakima Washington public library that she encountered a little boy who would ultimately change her life-and the course of children’s literary history. As Cleary stated in an interview later in her life, the young child “faced me rather ferociously…and said, ‘where are the books about kids like us?’ And it changed my whole attitude.” That change in attitude served her especially well when she began writing, and to this day her books are renowned for being some of the first to deal with the real life issues children often dealt with, as well as their complicated relationships with the most mysterious aspect of their lives-the adults around them.
Her innovative storytelling and clear and direct style of writing were apparent and appealing even in her first offering, Henry Higgins, published to great success in 1950. The book also introduced her most famous character, the lively, clever, and creative Ramona Quimby. Often unfairly pegged as a pest and a troublemaker by some critics and readers alike, Cleary herself defended Romona as a fierce lover of the world around her, describing her in Romona the Pest as ”... a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happened next.”
After those early successes, Cleary went on to become one of the most prolific and beloved children’s authors in the world, penning over 39 award winning books that have been translated into over 14 languages and adored by children in more than 20 countries before her passing in 2021 at the age of 109. Her influence continues even posthumously: after first appearing in the book Romona age 8, Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) Day is now celebrated in schools and homes across the country on April 12th, in honor of Cleary’s birthday.
4. Grace Lin
Born in upstate New York to Asian immigrants, Grace Lin burst onto the children’s literature scene in 1999 with the gorgeously written and illustrated The Ugly Vegetables, the story of a young Chinese-American girl who learns the beauty of community and the value of all things, regardless of their appearance.
Since then, Lin has written twenty additional acclaimed picture books, early readers, and young adult novels, including Dim Sum for Everyone, A Big Bed for Little Snow, Thanking the Moon, and the Ling & Ting series. Her YA book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon won the Newberry honor and she has also won a Caldecott Honor, a Geisel Honor, the Children’s Literature Legacy Award, and has also been a National Book Award Finalist. In 2016, the cover of Lin’s YA novel When the Sea Turned to Silver was displayed at the White House, where Lin was also recognized as a Champion of Change for Asian American and Pacific Islander Art and Storytelling by President Obama.
Lin, who now lives in Massachusetts with her family, is also a podcaster, occasional commentator for New England Public Radio, and a reviewer for the New York Times. Her first and most enduring love however remains writing and illustrating because, as she has said, “books erase bias, they make the uncommon, everyday, and the mundane exotic. A book makes all cultures universal."
5. Meg Medina
It was not until she was in her 20’s and came across Sandra Cisneros’ novel House on Mango Street that New York Times bestselling author Meg Medina found a book character with similar life experiences as hers, inspiring her to focus her picture book and young adult fiction writing career on writing the kinds of stories she would have loved to have read as a child.
Of Cuban descent herself, Medina infuses every book she writes with her desire to represent Latino culture and young people in a joyful and celebratory way. Titles such as Mango, Abuela, and Me, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind, Burn Baby Burn, Elelyn del Ray is Moving Away, and Tia Isa Wants a Car showcase her lyrical and at times heartbreaking writing style and have won her several awards, including a Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature, a Crystal Kite Award, and a Pura Belpré Author Award. Her Merci Suárez series of young adult novels have also been awarded a Newberry Medal and the most recent installment, Merci Suárez Can’t Dance, was named one of the 50 most anticipated YA novels of 2021 by Kirkus Reviews.
In addition to her successful writing career, Medina works on community projects that support literacy, young girls, and Latino youth and is also on the faculty of Hamline University’s Masters of Fine Arts in Children’s Literature. She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.
There are of course far too many wonderful women children’s book authors, past and present, for us to possibly list them all in one short blog, but these five are some of our favorites. Interested in learning more? Check out Brightly’s Authors Share Their Favorite Kids’ Books About Girls, Written by Women!
WANT TO IMPROVE EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE?
BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS CAN HELP!
When considering the benefits that Big Brothers Big Sisters involvement has to offer, odds are you immediately think of the advantageous effect our organization has on the lives of young people-and for very good reason! In our over 100 years of serving at-risk youth, we have seen time and again how much of a positive impact having a reliable mentor can have on our Littles’ lives, including expanding their communication, decision making, and social skills, giving them a greater sense of well-being, and increasing their confidence.
But having employees who are engaged in a BBBS match can benefit your business as well. Mentoring is a highly valuable experience to our Bigs, in both their personal and professional lives, and encouraging your employees to volunteer with us can also be of great benefit to your company, as the skills they must utilize to be a successful youth mentor can easily be applied to how they perform in the workplace.
FOUR WAYS ENCOURAGING YOUR EMPLOYEES TO MENTOR WILL HELP:
1. Increased Active Listening in Employees. Our Bigs spend a significant amount of their volunteer time simply attentively listening to their Littles. Focusing on what they have to say for the sake of truly hearing them, rather than just listening to respond, helps make the Little feel valued and important. Having employees who can use this same active listening skill with coworkers and clients can increase staff and customer satisfaction, which in turn will help you grow your business.
2. Strengthened Employee Communication Skills. In addition to actively listening to their Little, our Bigs also learn how to communicate in ways that take the experiences and backgrounds of who they’re speaking to into greater consideration. When communicating with Littles and their families, Bigs must stay committed to inclusivity, cognizant and respectful of differences, and open to hearing the voices of people who may be coming from a very dissimilar background to theirs. These stronger communication skills will then lead to an increase in the awareness, thoughtfulness, and tact your employees need to interact more constructively with each other and your clients as well.
3. Employee Leadership Skill Development. While our program is ultimately based in equal partnership between the mentor and mentee, to be successful in their mentoring role our Bigs must also feel comfortable with taking the lead and guiding their Littles as necessary. Our Littles need to feel confident that their Bigs can take the initiative needed to give them clear cut instructions and advice and also to solve any problems that may arise when they are together, which are all skills that are necessary in business as well. A Big who is confident in her or his ability to lead a child is also an employee who feels confident in their ability to lead a team.
4. Increased Employee Engagement and Improved Customer Relations. By regularly interacting with their Littles, their Littles’ families, and the businesses and organizations they visit on match outings, our Bigs can’t help but become more connected to and engaged with their communities and the people in them. This adds to increased engagement in other areas of their lives as well, including their jobs, and more engaged employees leads to employees who are more capable of meeting their clients’ emotional needs, which then leads to happier customers. According to a 2016 study conducted by Harvard Business Review, engaging and connecting with customers on an emotional level is a far more effective way to maximize customer relations than merely focusing on their satisfaction is.
If you are interested in learning more about getting your individual employees or your company as a whole involved in youth mentoring through Big Brothers Big Sisters, please do not hesitate to reach out to us! We will be more than happy to provide you with more in depth information and answer any questions you may have.
ig Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County is excited to announce that we are bringing our school base program back. Our school base program is called Lunch Buddies. Lunch Buddies will be held at Estabrook Elementary School in Ypsilanti. The Little’s will be 2nd to 4th graders and the Bigs will be individuals in the community who are willing to center youth, be a role model, and will help us ignite the power and promise of youth to reach their full potential. Bigs & Littles will meet once a week during lunch in the gym. During Lunch Buddies, Bigs & Littles will eat lunch with one another, do an icebreaker, then with their remaining time have free time to explore the playground, do a craft, or play a fun game in the gym. Like our community based program, we are asking Bigs & Littles to be matched for a minimum of a year, and to get together once or twice a month during the summer at a BBBS event. We are hoping that programming will begin in January 2022. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity you can sign up for an informational session by clicking here.
Our goal with school based mentoring is to increase youth matched in developmental mentoring relationships. The Search Institute shares developmental relationships are marked by five elements: express care, share power, expand possibilities, challenge growth, and provide support. These 5 elements make a powerful impact in the lives of young people..The long lasting mentoring relationships created during programming have a tremendous impact. They increase the strength of the relationship, which leads to positive longer term outcomes, and provide ongoing relationship development and learning opportunities for all parties.
We recognized the majority of the kids that are currently on the waiting list for our Community Based Mentoring program were from Ypsilanti. We needed to find another way in which to serve them with a trusted adult to support them socially, emotionally and academically. We wanted to find new opportunities for connections between young people and the adults that were eager and willing to support them.
It is an important time to bring school based mentoring back to the program. Students are facing another hard school year with COVID-19 still very prominent, along with a whole new set of challenges being back in the school building. Some students have reported issues with self-esteem, bullying, and heightened emotions. An article from NBC found other challenges including, feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and having a hard time focusing. Issuelab highlighted the impact a school based program has on youth, benefits included: increased academic performance, improved attitude toward school, stronger peer relationships and interactions, improved attitudes and connectedness toward parents, and higher self esteem. The school base program is also impactful for youth to have another adult to hang out with and talk to.
Issuelab also highlighted the benefits for an individual volunteering for a school based mentoring program. They noted that with a school based program there is a less intensive time commitment than community based programs, which may be appealing to individuals such as students, those with families, or full-time jobs. Being a mentor has so many benefits. According to youth.gov, mentors can benefit from mentoring youth by gaining insight into childhood and adolescence, have a sense of accomplishment, and increase self-esteem. Mentoring youth is a great way to be the mentor you felt like you needed growing up. There is no better time than right now to get involved and be back in the school to make an impact in the community.
A Fall Evening with Big Brothers Big Sisters is a casually elegant event that brings together the best and brightest of the business and philanthropic communities in Washtenaw County in support of one-to-one youth mentoring. Individuals and corporate partners who believe in the power and promise of youth, gather in support of the proven methods used by Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies across the globe to defend the potential of kids right here in our community.
A Fall Evening with Big Brothers Big Sisters
Sunday, September 12, 2021
5:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Hosted by Wayne and Shelly Jones at The Boathouse at Lakefields
There are Many Ways to Participate
Whether you’ve attended A Fall Evening with BBBS in the past or you’re considering making this your first appearance, you are invited to attend. Expect sensational surroundings in an open-air, all-outdoor setting: a serene lake, lush gardens and nearby vineyards. Look forward to delectable food, elegant music, an exciting live auction of a select number of exceptional experiences and inspiring words from a former Big and Little on the impact BBBS has made on their lives.
Inspired by the mission, but can’t attend A Fall Evening with BBBS? Your donation is appreciated and will help BBBS continue it’s important work in the Washtenaw County community for years to come.
Businesses and/or individuals that sponsor BBBS events demonstrate their belief in the inherent potential of kids in this community. Guests at A Fall Evening are loyal to businesses that support the BBBS mission.
Money raised at A Fall Evening with BBBS is critical to the success of our mentoring work with youth in Washtenaw County. Thank you in advance for your support.
Learn more about A Fall Evening with BBBS today!
SOCIAL MEDIA SHARE: A Fall Evening with Big Brothers Big Sisters is a casually elegant event that brings together the best and brightest of the business and philanthropic communities in Washtenaw County in support of one-to-one youth mentoring. Individuals and corporate partners who believe in the power and promise of youth, gather in support of the proven methods used by Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies across the globe to defend the potential of kids right here in our community. Get your tickets today!
ARTICLE SUMMARY: A Fall Evening with Big Brothers Big Sisters is a casually elegant event that brings together the best and brightest of the business and philanthropic communities in Washtenaw County in support of one-to-one youth mentoring. Individuals and corporate partners who believe in the power and promise of youth, gather in support of the proven methods used by Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies across the globe to defend the potential of kids right here in our community. Money raised at A Fall Evening with BBBS is critical to the success of our mentoring work with youth in Washtenaw County. You can support A Fall Evening with BBBS by purchasing tickets, donating or becoming an event sponsor.
June is Pride month, a time to celebrate diversity and support our LGBTQ+ community. Big Brothers Big Sisters believes in the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is something we try to think about in everything we do. We are guided by the following principle, "We are a safe space for all youth, families, and volunteers to feel accepted and welcomed. At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County, we believe in the dignity and worth of all individuals. We believe that each young person deserves unconditional support and acceptance, no matter their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. We encourage any and all interested young people and potential mentors to inquire and learn more about being in a supportive, developmental mentoring relationship."
Inclusion is a lifelong process, and it is crucial for youth to learn from a young age how to be a friend and inclusive with their peers. Teaching, and practicing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with youth, whether in the home or in the classroom, can help reduce anxiety, raise confidence, and combat prejudice. Here are a few ways that adults can help teach youth by example how to be an inclusive friend:
8 Ways to Encourage Youth Inclusivity and Diversity
1. Investigate your own biases and privileges. These words can be uncomfortable, but they don't have to be, the reality is we all end up with some level of unconscious bias. Learn what your personal "blind spots" are. If you catch yourself acting or speaking out of ignorance, prejudice, or unacknowledged privilege, apologize and learn what you can do to change and be better in the future. Here is a great tool to help you explore your own biases.
2. Get curious! Create opportunities for children to meet other children and adults from various cultures and backgrounds. Offer to share a story about your culture and tradition, and listen to them share one back. Explore museums, festivals, and restaurants of different cultures with youth to expand their horizons! This article has examples of activities for children to learn about other cultures and backgrounds.
3. Keep it simple. Use language and stories that are appropriate for children. Answer their questions and curiosities with straightforward and direct answers for them to easily understand what you are saying.
4. Be open to not knowing. It's ok if you don't know the answer to every question that youth may ask! Let them know you also don't know (and that it's ok to not know and be curious), and that you can explore finding the answer together!
5. Seek out multicultural media. What music do you listen to, books do you read, and food do you eat? Does it cross cultures, or stay in one lane? Having media sources from multiple backgrounds is an easy way to expose children and youth to new cultures!
6. Talk about differences and similarities. There are so many things to celebrate about ourselves and others, both similarities and differences!
7. Get cultured. Learn about your own heritage and talk about it with those around you!
8. Stop and intervene. When you see or hear prejudice, discrimination, or harsh language being used, step in and shut it down. This helps teach youth early that language that puts others down will not be tolerated or accepted. There are many great resources out there about how to talk to children about these difficult topics, this article goes into helpful detail about addressing harmful words directly.
Big Brothers Big Sisters help create meaningful relationships that can impact a child’s life for the better. A story was shared with our staff about how a small thing can make a huge difference in the life of a Little. A Little was so excited to explain to one of our staff members that they had “one of the best times of their lives” kicking around a soccer ball with their Big. When the staff person disclosed to the Big that the Little was excited about this interaction, the Big was very shocked! To the Big they were just playing an ordinary game of soccer, but to the Little it was an experience that they probably won’t forget. You may not always realize the difference you’re making when participating in small activities like this, but to a Little just being a friend can mean the world.
If you’re struggling with ways to connect, try incorporating the 5 Healing Gestures:
Big Brothers Big Sisters ensures that our volunteers are well equipped with the proper tools and support to start and maintain a positive relationship with their Little. A Big will be introduced to their Little by a Match Support Specialist, and they will help assist the volunteer and family with ideas for activities, or give support if any issues arise. Here are some helpful resources provided by BBBS to contribute to a purposeful relationship, specifically included are some useful tips and tricks to mentoring. For other helpful mentoring tips and resources specifically for teens, click here.
There’s always curiosity surrounding what a positive mentoring relationship looks like. When mentoring youth, the little things can go a long way and make a significant impact. Things like trying new experiences together, asking about their day, or just being a shoulder to lean on when they’re going through a rough time can make a beneficial difference to a young person. When thinking about a positive relationship, I’m sure a few good friends come to mind, and that is what a mentoring relationship should be as well.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County is grateful to our partners in the corporate and small business community for their support. Not only do they sponsor events, like our upcoming Golf Fore Kids’ Sake fundraiser, they spread the word about our mission to employees, their families and the people they do business with in our area. This helps BBBS recruit more volunteers (otherwise known as Bigs) and make more matches for kids (otherwise known as Littles) seeking a positive adult role model in their lives.
But what do companies get out of this deal? Placement of company logos on print, website and social media campaigns, signage at events and complimentary tickets are all customary in terms of immediate recognition and gratitude. However, we believe the real benefits of partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters may be more long term...and meaningful.
Consider the framework of developmental relationships, as defined by the Search Institute:
Now, think about the ideal relationship a company might want to share with its employees and read that framework again. The skills our Bigs and Littles learn to cultivate in the BBBS program are research-based skills that create the foundation for productive employees and satisfied employers, not to mention wonderful human beings! Don’t just take our word for it - top worldwide employment website, Indeed, recently listed the Top 9 Qualities of a Good Employee. Look familiar? BBBS is helping create self-assured business and community leaders that can communicate, collaborate and achieve, right here in our own backyard.
The Washtenaw County business community is an integral partner in our mission to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Please consider how you can get involved. Check out our Golf Fore Kids’ Sake website to learn more about becoming a sponsor or sending a foursome to golf with us at Barton Hill Country Club on Monday, May 24th. There’s many other ways to partner with BBBS, one we’re sure will fit your business and community service goals. Contact Anne Marie Venereoni for more information.
As we begin the last leg of this crazy school year. Many students are returning to in-person learning, while others will close out the school year virtually. We know that it has already been a strange and stressful year and that this transition means more change. If your child is returning to in-person we know your family may be experiencing many adjustments this week such as new bus schedules, anxiety about being around other kids again, adjusting to new schedules, and more. The youth that are remaining virtual may continue to experience social isolation and virtual burnout. No matter how your child is ending the school year, we will continue to be here to support your family and our mentors.
As part of that support we wanted to offer a few helpful tips to ease the anxiety of returning to the classroom, and the fatigue of the virtual learning process. Many of these tips apply to both in person and virtual students, but it is essential to remember that every child is different. Any effective coping strategy must begin with meeting a person where they are, regardless of their age.
3 TIPS FOR HELPING YOUR CHILD COPE WITH ANXIETY
3 TIPS FOR MANAGING SCREEN FATIGUE AND ISOLATION
We hope you found these tips helpful. Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out for support, we are here to help. Remember, at BBBS we are Bigger Together!