Big Brothers seeks littles to join older mentors at area high schools
A new program at Kasson-Mantorville Schools is reaping big benefits for children around Dodge County.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Minnesota started a new program last year of training high school students to mentor younger children. Michelle Redman, executive director of BBBS, is thrilled to see that 50 K-M high school students want to be bigs in hope of being matched with littles. They showed up for a training session Aug. 2 in Kasson.
The school-site mentoring program through BBBS is available for students K-7 in K-M Schools.
With a large contingency of bigs ready to go in Kasson, Redman now needs to find littles to be matched with them. So far she has only 13 middle school and elementary students signed up for the program.
There is no cost for children to participate in the program. Children will have the opportunity to spend time with a high school big once a week at school.
“Anybody can benefit from having a role model,” Redman says. “We’re looking for parents to sign up children to benefit from this program.”
The mentoring program between bigs and littles, Redman said, allows children to have a good friend and someone to talk to on a frequent basis. “The bigs know how to make math or reading fun,” she said.
Redman said bigs and littles are matched based on compatibility of hobbies and personalities. “We want to make sure it is a benefit opportunity not only for the child, but also the volunteer,” she noted.
Mentoring through BBBS helps reduce truancy issues, according to Redman. “When they know their big is coming, they are in school,” she said.
Children with a mentor are more likely to achieve academic success, social competence and self confidence, according to Redman.
Activities between bigs and littles through the mentoring program only take place at school, Redman said. “They are not allowed to leave school,” she said.
Last year was the first year Kasson-Mantorville participated in the mentoring program. Triton and Hayfield have also taken part in the program. “We had a tremendous response,” Redman said. “All three schools participated, and they have been great to work with.”
Redman said she is amazed with the stories she hears about the impact of mentoring between bigs and littles. “The stories we hear of the life changing effects of a big are amazing,” she said, noting it may take years for some people to fully understand the impact they have in the lives of other people.
She related a story about Natalie Morrow, a 22-year-old who was matched last year with Sophie and will continue that relationship this year. Morrow spoke at the recent training session stressing how important it is for showing up because littles will be waiting.
“Natalie shared that being a big has been a good experience not only for Sophie but for her as well,” Redman said. She noted Morrow was the recipient of having a big come to her when she was in elementary school. The big changed her by providing her with more self-esteem and self-confidence.
“The impact the high school can make on middle school or elementary is endless,” Redman said.
In addition to the Dodge County schools, the mentoring program is available in Owatonna, Faribault and Medford. Redman said K-M has the highest number of mentors out of all the schools.
The criteria for littles to be involved in the mentoring program are that they live in the service area of BBBS and be between the ages of 5-14. There is no other criteria related to family dynamics, Redman stressed.
Anyone interested in becoming involved with the mentoring program can contact BBBS at 507-634-4595 or check out the website at bbbsofsouthernmn.org.