St. John’s University is known for its community service projects. The St. John’s school-based program of Big Brothers Big Sisters was created a few years ago to match college students up with a group of students in middle school who hope to be the first to go to college in their family.
The B.B.B.S. program is known for weekend activities between ‘bigs’ and ‘littles,’ but a site-based mentoring program helps already busy college students find time to spend with their “siblings” during the school week. In the mentoring program across Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Manhattan, supervised and structured sessions are set up once a week to accommodate both the bigs’ and littles’ schedules.
“I’m happy I’m getting involved with it,” said Kevin Thompson, 19, a junior communications major and creative writing minor. “I’m happy just to know that I’m influencing someone else to do something better for themselves and not just going to school and then going home.”
Thompson joins the B.B.B.S. chapter at SJU for the new semester sessions that begin October 25. In NYC and SJU, a lack of volunteering males to match up with Little Brothers remains an issue.
Each semester, Nicole Hernandez, the Program Manager with School Based Mentoring, makes her way to SJU to set up a recruitment table and talk with students about B.B.B.S. Ideally the group is looking to have 30 matches of bigs and littles to start this year. As of now, there are 10 matches including returning members from last year.
“It’s a great experience and you definitely reach out to the community,” said Latoya Phillips, 21, a senior accounting major and Big Sister. “Most importantly you learn how to connect with the younger generation. I’m used to having my own younger sister with me all the time, but this was a different experience.” Every Thursday, a bus leaves the St. John’s Queens campus and travels to a middle school to work with eighth graders for sessions lasting a little under an hour. At some sessions, lunch is provided.
B.B.B.S. plans vital topics to address during its sessions such as nutrition, diversity, study skills, high school prepping and future goals. The main objective is to provide each child who needs an adult mentor with a positive reinforcement that will benefit them in all aspects of their lives.
Some events this semester that the pairs can participate in include Halloween parties, a St. John’s Basketball game at Madison Square Garden and bringing the littles on a college tour of SJU. For middle school students, matching up with a Big Brother or Big Sister gives them the college exposure they might not receive first hand.
“We’re broadening their horizons to give them more experiences outside of their community,” said Hernandez. “This offers advantages they may not have had. Learning about college, career opportunities and just having another adult in their life that’s not there to tell them what to do – they have parents and teachers for that. It’s nice to have that extra undivided attention.”
This past weekend, Hernandez was involved in the Race for the Kids event in New York City. This huge B.B.B.S. opportunity is an agency-wide event in which all of the chapters participate, and is one of the biggest events to receive extensive coverage and raise money. SJU represented over 10 people out of the 3,000 who participated, and raised over $375. The 5K walk/run race is a perfect way to celebrate the volunteers and their little sisters or brothers.
The matches between bigs and littles are designed to last through one semester or an entire school year. However, some bigs and littles maintain a relationship longer than usual through phone and e-mail conversations. Of course, bigs and littles can still attend events together after their semester ends.To become involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters at SJU, look for Hernandez’s table one more time before October 25. You can also contact her by calling 646-274-6049 or at [email protected]