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.
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.