Growing up, we all had a role model we looked up to, be it our mom, dad, older sibling, uncle, or a family friend. We idolized them, and they guided us with the wisdom they gained from their own life experiences. We have these awesome people around us, but what about today’s elementary students who don’t have anyone to guide them, even to help them through homework? High School Bigs Program, an after school mentoring program, is hoping to change that. It was created for younger kids (Littles) and high school students (Bigs) to have a one-on-one relationship and gain a fun, life-changing experience. Our own high school has a Big Brother Big Sister club (BBBS) with members like BBBS president, Paola Velazquez (12), and myself, with our personal experiences meeting, guiding, and helping our Littles from Wakeham Elementary School.
Paola Velazquez found out about the program during her junior year at Grove, when a nice enrollment specialist, Ms. Kimberly, asked if Paola and her friends were interested in joining BBBS.Though not knowing much about it at first, Paola and her friends ultimately signed up because it looked really good on college applications and gave them 20 hours of community service.
The process to become a Big is like any other application, you fill out your basic information along with two recommendation forms: one from anyone of your choice and the other from a parent. Once you sign up and fill out the application to become a Big Brother or Big Sister, you are responsible for contacting the enrollment specialist to set up your interview date. This interview is about you and who you are as a person in order to see which Little you are compatible with. From there, the specialist and the elementary school decide whether or not you will be a good Big to a Little.
However, instead of having a Little preselected for her through the interview, Paola had a Little personally choose her on her first day at Wakeham (the site). He kept insisting to work with her until they were eventually paired up.
My setup was completely different. I told the enrollment specialist that I would like a timid Little because, being shy as a kid, I felt that I could relate to her. My first day with BBBS was nerve-racking, but I was also genuinely excited; it’s a different and new experience mentoring an elementary school student.
These elementary kids are in the program for a reason– they don’t have an older person at home, such as a big brother or sister, to guide them. They might not understand how to behave in certain situations or towards other people, and they may end up bottling themselves up, like my Little. On the first day of site, my Little didn’t talk at all, which was what I had expected. I decided to ask her questions about herself to get to know her better and to show her I was interested in her — that way, she could open up to me more.
Paola impacted her Little’s life in another way: by helping him learn to respect other people’s personal space. After she explained how people didn’t like their personal space being invaded, he began to understand how his actions could make someone feel uncomfortable and learned to respect others, especially his superiors. This year, Paola hopes he maintains that understanding and that one day, he can be a role model to another Little like she was to him. The impact you can make on your Little’s life is ultimately up to how much you care about him or her, and the actions you take to help them improve in character.
Although the majority of those who join BBBS initially do so for their college apps, they all leave with a completely different experience from what they expected. Paola was one of these people who later discovered a passion to mentor younger students after an amazing experience her first year. She shares that “it’s the most stressful experience you’ll ever have in your life, but it’s worth it.”
Getting involved with the Big Brother Big Sister club is a great way to bond with someone younger than you and to hear that they genuinely look up to you. One of the best feelings is knowing that there’s someone out there who waits for you, hoping you will share with them your wisdom.
And it’s not just you making an impact on your Little’s life – your Little influences you as well. You leave the program knowing that you’ve impacted a young person’s life for the better. Not many people can say that they’ve positively changed a life by spending 30 minutes once a week with someone. Take advantage of this golden opportunity and join BBBS, and live this beautiful experience just as Paola Velazquez and myself did.