The mission of Big Brothers and Big Sisters is to help children reach their potential through professionally supported one-to-one relationships with measurable impact. The organization has set out to serve one million children by the year 2010. Around 40 Washburn students are helping BBBS toward that goal.
Julie Bond, a sophomore anthropology and Spanish major, has been a Big Sister for a year. After going through an application process, an interview and a personality test, she was matched with a Little Sister, who is in the fourth grade. When the “sisters” get together, they spend from three to four hours cooking, watching movies, scrapbooking and watching SpongeBob Squarepants, among other activities. Bond helps her Little Sister with everything from schoolwork to fashion decisions. Bond sometimes takes her Little Sister out with another volunteer and his Little Brother. They plan activities like going out to dinner and playing video games. Bond hadn’t had experience with BBBS previously, but had some free time and wanted to get involved.
“It’s not actually a big time commitment,” said Bond. “It’s not hard to find three hours a week where you can’t set your other stuff aside and do something else for someone else. A lot of people think that it takes a lot of time and they also think it takes a lot of money and that’s not true at all.”
Brothers and Sisters can stay matched until the Littles are 18 years old.
“There are 100 kids in the Topeka area waiting to be matched,” said Bond.
Nick Woolery, a sophomore public administration major, was also looking to get involved and heard someone mention BBBS. He also went through the process and has been a Big Brother for eight months. He and his Little Brother play catch, Woolery attends his Little Brother’s football or baseball games and they attend activities produced by the BBBS agency. Some of the activities include making ornaments at the end of November and “Breakfast with Santa.”
“There are a lot of little boys that are looking for big brothers,” said Woolery. “It’s not a big time commitment and you get to see the kids grow. [My little brother] was kind of shy, he didn’t have much confidence, just seeing him get more confidence has been really cool.”
Both Washburn students noticed that their Littles were more confident and had seen many positive changes. They also stressed the small time commitment and a desire to continue in the program.
A little brother or sister can sign up from the ages six to 14. The only requirement is that the child come from a single-parent household. BBBS requires that mentors meet with their Littles at least three times a month. The agency schedules regular meetings to check up and make sure the match is still working.
More Washburn volunteers are being added. Beth Dale, a freshman elementary education and early childhood major, recently began the process to become a Big Sister. She had heard about it in high school and saw what an impact it made.
“I’m an education major, so I love kids. It’s such a rewarding experience to see how much they gain from mentoring,” said Dale. “I saw a Big Brother and his Little and loved their interaction. I signed up that day.”