At their annual BIG Brunch, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington (BBBSSWWA) plans to open up the stage for the children they serve to share their experiences and the positive impacts that the mentorship program has had on their lives. The brunch’s agenda includes time to meet and talk with matches as well as time to hear success stories from adults who graduated from the program. The brunch is set for March 14 at Hotel RL in Olympia and it is an opportunity to learn more about what the Big Brothers Big Sisters programs do for kids and families in the local community.
Their work with children from underserved communities helps kids to reach their full potential, academically and beyond. The main way they do that is through one-on-one, professionally monitored mentorship. Adult volunteers, the Bigs, are matched with kids, the Littles, with the goal of providing the Littles with a positive role model and a continuing relationship. This type of mentorship can help the children do better in school, avoid risky behaviors and feel more included socially.
This type of individualized model is unique for the area, as it emphasizes personal relationships over a group setting. “Our mission is focused around mentoring in a one-to-one model,” explains Leslie Shahan, Vice President of Operations for BBBSSWWA. “There are many agencies that have mentoring programs but what separates us from the others that are doing group mentoring or tutoring mentoring or coaching mentoring is that we match youth one-to-one with an adult. And then we provide safety and monitoring for that relationship for its entirety, while you’re still enrolled in our program.”
The BIG Brunch is a way for the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization to share the work they do and this year, they will be doing that through the voices of the children and families they are serving. “The BIG Brunch is a fundraiser we do annually that highlights our programs,” says Shahan. “This year, we are incorporating more of the kids in our program. We really wanted to focus on getting the kids, mentors and families there in person for guests to interact with and learn from.”
In addition to the event’s new facet of interacting with actual program participants, there is also a time to learn more about the model itself and the importance of one on one mentorships. “There’s a video that highlights one of our matches and this year one of our guests we get to hear from is a former Little who’s now a Big,” says Shahan. “Someone who’s been in our program, has really benefited from that and is now giving back in the same way through the same program. We are excited to hear from him.”
This brunch will feature the importance of this program for children who might have a harder time finding a mentor within their own network. “I think the great thing about our mission, and it’s the thing that I fell in love with originally when I started working here, the idea that everyone has mentors in their lives and they come in all different shapes and forms, but there are a lot of underserved populations where mentors are maybe harder to come by,” explains Shahan. “Being able to advocate on behalf of those families and kids, to provide those friendships that are life changing, that maybe they didn’t know they needed, or it comes to them in a different way, is amazing. Being able to hear about that and share that with people is always my favorite part of this event.”
The BIG Brunch is also a call to action for community members. A time to come together and further the mission of helping to support children, help them to be more resilient and help them to accomplish their long-term goals. “The biggest reason to attend is because it’s the event that gives you the best snapshot of what we’re doing here locally in the community for hundreds of kids, families and mentors” explains Shahan.
For more information about the BIG Brunch and how to register, visit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington website.