Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami’s (BBBSM) core one-to-one mentoring programs are designed to create and develop a strong relationship between a child/teen and a mentor. Professional staff carefully match each youth participant (Little) with an adult, volunteer mentor (Big) for a mentoring relationship intended to be long-lasting, engaging, and effective in developing the Little’s potential. All relationships are professionally supported by BBBSM staff to ensure relationships are sustained over time with productive results. Programs in the core one-to-one mentoring category include community-based mentoring, site-based mentoring, and School to Work.
The core of BBBSM programs is community-based mentoring. Littles in need of a mentor are matched with a volunteer Big who develops and maintains a relationship, serving as a positive role model and source of reliable support. Matches are based on common interests, backgrounds, and aspirations allowing for a strong connection to grow over time. Bigs and Littles explore the local community and share fun activities they both enjoy at least twice a month for a minimum of four hours each time. Some Bigs meet their Littles on the weekends, while others meet in the evenings. Each match is unique and develops a schedule that works for them.
Bigs and Littles create memories to last a lifetime. BBBSM staff works with the Big and the Little’s family to encourage a continuous relationship and provide opportunities to participate in fun and engaging activities throughout the year. Staff also provide support for Bigs who may not know how to handle certain situations that may arise.
Getting together enriches the lives of both the Little and the Big. Outings do not require a special occasion or an expensive activity – just a few hours of quality time each month to share experiences in our community. These include, but are not limited to:
- Taking a walk or throwing a ball in a park
- Going to a museum
- Listening to music
- Attending a sports event
- Going to the beach
- Getting ice cream
These simple experiences are important opportunities for Littles to be heard, supported, and guided in a positive manner.
Community-based mentoring accounts for 33% of BBBSM matches. The other 67% of matches are comprised of site-based mentoring and School to Work.
Similar to community-based mentoring, site-based mentoring creates one-on-one mentoring matches between Bigs and Littles. However, all mentoring activities take place at a designated site – either during the day at school, or at the Carnival Center for Excellence after school – for one hour each week. The match process and support, as well as the overall impact, is the same as that of community-based mentoring: each Little has a positive role model who offers support and guidance throughout the year. Mentoring activities can include reading, board games, sports, computer games, homework help, or a simple conversation.
Site-based mentoring is not a tutoring program; instead, mentors offer guidance. Research has shown children matched with a Big experience significant improvements in their academic lives. In fact, Littles who participate in the site-based mentoring program:
- Have improved academic performance
- Demonstrate higher levels of self-confidence
- Have a better attitude toward school
SCHOOL TO WORK
School to Work is a one-to-one mentoring program providing high school students with career readiness and job-shadowing experiences at the Bigs’ place of work. School to Work allows organizations to give back to the community by hosting youth from a nearby high school at their offices.
HOW IT WORKS
Working closely with the Miami-Dade County Public School District (MDCPS) and corporate partners, BBBSM transports Littles once a month from school to a designated corporate partner site where they are matched one-to-one with a mentor. In addition to job shadowing and mentoring, students are exposed to an actual workforce culture and a variety of job opportunities; they also participate in a formal curriculum to learn basic job preparation skills, such as appropriate dress and the necessity for an advanced degree for career growth. This helps motivate Littles toward an increased academic performance, high school graduation, and college or technical training.
The corporate partner sites provide an hour of workplace development programming for the group of School to Work Littles before the teens meet individually with their Bigs for one-on-one job shadowing and mentoring.
Through a strategy of Academy-Industry Alignment, School to Work allows corporate partners to develop the future workforce of their industries. Students who are in career-focused academies are matched with employees at companies that operate in the same or a similar industry to what they are studying. Students studying hospitality, for example, are matched with a personal and professional mentor who works at a local hotel or cruise line. Tying students’ academic work to their mentoring experience in a professional setting facilitates a deeper appreciation for their education and a taste of what their future could be; School to Work also opens the door to potential internship and future job opportunities.
WHAT IT TAKES
A Corporate Partner: In addition to a minimum of 15 employees to volunteer as Bigs, your company is required to provide opportunities for BBBSM to recruit Bigs, meeting space during the visits, breakfast and lunch, and a mentoring program liaison. We also ask that corporate partners sponsor the cost of transportation for students to get to the sites.
A Local High School: BBBSM works with MDCPS high school guidance counselors, teachers, principals, and parents to identify students who could benefit most from a mentor. This can include students at risk of dropping out of school, from single-parent households, and/or in challenging socioeconomic circumstances – all situations beyond the students’ control.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami: BBBSM collaborates with schools and corporate partners to customize the program, ensuring a good fit with the company’s needs. This includes accommodating schedules and ensuring Bigs get as much out of the mentoring relationship as Littles. In fact, studies show that individuals whose employers encourage mentoring are more satisfied with their careers and are more engaged at work. BBBSM applies a proven system to recruit, screen, and match Bigs and Littles and coach mentoring relationships leading up to the Little’s graduation.
Bigs in Blue & Bigs in Red
Bigs in Blue is a unique subset of BBBSM programs in which Littles are matched with Bigs who are law enforcement officials or first responders. Bigs in Blue operates throughout site-based mentoring and School to Work at various departments throughout Miami-Dade County. With 96% of BBBSM Littles being from families of African American or Hispanic descent, the Bigs in Blue program has the added benefit of establishing and strengthening trust between minority groups and law enforcement.
BBBSM also partners with local fire departments and first responders through our Bigs in Red program. Similar to Bigs in Blue, Bigs in Red operates like all the other one-to-one mentoring programs – in the community, at schools, and through School to Work at various departments throughout the county.