Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC Partners Bigs with Littles, Helping them reach their Dreams
Ask anyone at Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC their motto for pairing adult mentors with young students in the community and the answer will be a resounding ‘Longer and Stronger.’ Because strong relationships are about commitment and commitment requires the dedication of time, energy, and resources to successfully meet a young person, broaden their horizons, and help them meet their hopes and dreams. And since 1982, Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC has done just that, partnering thousands of volunteer Bigs with young elementary, middle, and high-school-aged Littles in our community. BBBS of WNC Assistant Director Jamye Davis shares how those connections are made, the three main programs they offer to facilitate relationships amongst Bigs and Littles, the challenges and needs, as well as what’s inspiring her and the rest of BBBS in the coming year.
As an affiliate of the national BBBS of America, BBBS of WNC has served over 14,000 children across 10 counties in Western North Carolina since it began its work in 1982. Between 2016-2017, almost 700 children benefited by having a one-on-one relationship with a Big.
They facilitate these relationships through three main programs:
- Community-Based Mentoring: Bigs are matched with a child from a single-parent family who shares their interests. From cooking, gardening, reading, hiking, fishing or basketball— scheduling simple, fun activities with their Little at least two times each month that meet their interests.
- School-Based Mentoring: Bigs are matched with an elementary-age youth for fun activities for one hour each week at the child’s school throughout a school-year. Activities include assisting their Little with his/her academic assignments and other relationship-building activities such as board games, arts and crafts, and recreational fun at the school.
- After-School Mentoring: Bigs offer consistency, role-modeling, and encouragement for their Little for one hour each week throughout the school year at his/her after-school program site. Activities can include assistance with homework, field games, basketball, cooking, board games, music, and more.
“What we’re promoting internally and externally, is friendships with a purpose,” shares Davis. “Basically, in every relationship, friendship is the foundation and core of everything we do as far as building that relationship. Then, once the relationship and trust are there, the purpose piece is helping the kids figure out their hopes and dreams, interests, strengths, and giving them the opportunities and resources to help them reach their hopes and dreams.”
Group Mentorship at Community Schools in Buncombe County
In addition to the three programs mentioned above, BBBS of WNC offers group mentoring at each of the four schools where United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, Asheville City Schools, Buncombe County Schools, and community nonprofits are employing the community school strategy. Born out of the Needs Assessments taken by United Way Community School Coordinators, the BBBS group mentorship lends student support and mentorship outside of the work counselors and teachers are able to offer. These are typically three-four mentors working with a group of ten or so students, addressing topics such as healthy relationships, conflict resolution, positive self-image, positive self-talk, goal setting, hopes and dreams, bullying, and other important areas for middle schoolers at that age. “A lot of different things come up in regards to something the students have been through that was really tough or something they’re going through now, and this creates a space where they can rally around and support each other,” says Davis.
Supporting Students Together with the Early Warning and Response System
An added support to the group mentorship is the support of the Early Warning and Response System, a student support software utilized by United Way in partnership with local schools, that pulls attendance, behavior, and academic data from the school into a database for teachers and after-school care providers to access and help track and support a student better. “We have kids in our program who are in schools all over the county, so the EWRS was only applicable to the students in those four middle schools, but now with so many schools on board with EWRS, it gives us the ability to see grades, attendance, and behavior. When we’re talking with a child or parent, we know what the real story is and can problem-solve,” says Davis. “How can we help? What’s going on with attendance? It’s really exciting because we’ve never had hard data like this that we can utilize to identify students’ strengths and address challenges.”
Become a Big Brother or Big Sister in Western North Carolina
Having enough Bigs to serve as mentors and meet the need for interested Littles in the community is always a challenge. Within that, Big Brothers are even more difficult to come by. The waiting list for boys to be matched with a Big Brother in the community is long. Their staff is always recruiting new volunteers to support students who need another positive role model in their life or extra support and encouragement. Volunteers can choose from three mentoring programs to find one that fits their interests and schedule.
"Big Brothers Big Sisters has provided me with not only an excellent mentor but also a great friend. Doug and I have been paired for a little over six years, and he has guided me throughout some of the toughest years of my life," shares Little Brother Marek. "He has taught me skills in animal care, farm work, vehicle operation, local government/politics, and so much more. He was even one of the Mentor Pin recipients at my Eagle Court of Honor. He has become not only a great mentor and friend but also a father figure. Doug has helped me mature into the man I am, with the help of my Mother of course. BBBS has been such a blessing in my life and I am forever grateful for their support in finding this life-long friendship."
- Learn more about how you can become a Big Brother or Big Sister through our volunteer center Hands On Asheville-Buncombe.
- Save the Date for the upcoming fundraiser Bowl for Kid’s Sake on March 7, 2020.