Who are the Big Brothers and Big Sisters in the program? What are the qualifications?
Our Bigs come from diverse backgrounds, just like our Littles. Just about anyone can be a mentor. You don’t need any special degrees or job skills, simply a caring heart, a good head on your shoulders, and the willingness to be a reliable mentor for a Little or group of Littles. Current Bigs are teachers, business executives, police officers, healthcare workers, college students, and more.
In order to participate in community-based mentoring, you must be 18 years or older. However, if you are younger, you can still mentor in a site-based mentoring programs, which includes after-school and Saturday mentoring at the Carnival Center for Excellence. We have several high school students, aged 16 and older, who mentor younger children at the organization’s headquarters after school, which allows for a strong bond to develop between two young people. In relationships that have a high school student as a Big, not only does the Little thrive under the mentor’s positive influence, but the Big is also empowered by taking on the responsibility of serving as a mentor and a role model for someone else.
What are the expectations of being a Big Brother/Big Sister?
Depending on the program in which you are a Big, you will meet with your Little once a month to once a week. The frequency, time, location, duration, and activities done during a mentoring session will vary based on the program. For Bigs in Schools, Bigs visit the Littles’ school at a time that does not disrupt the Littles’ education. For community-based mentoring, the details are flexible, and it is the Big’s responsibility to coordinate mentoring sessions with the Little’s parent(s) or guardian(s). For School to Work, Bigs are expected to be at work with job shadowing opportunities and mentoring plans on the day they know their Littles will be visiting. The minimum meeting requirements for each program are:
- Community-based: twice a month, for at least four hours each time, in the community
- Site-based: once a week, for at least one hour, on school property or at the Carnival Center for Excellence
- School to Work: one morning per month at your place of work
- Group Engagement & Mentoring: depends on the schedule you set with BBBSM staff, but generally once a week at the Carnival Center for Excellence
These are just the minimum requirements, and we encourage more frequent meetings when available. For the programs that meet less frequently, Bigs are expected to keep in touch with their Littles in between meetings – essential for developing a bond.
How long do I need to commit to being a Big Brother/Big Sister?
There is no defined minimum commitment requirement for being a Big. However, we ensure that all Bigs know that the lasting impact of a mentoring relationship takes place at the 12-month mark, and positive effects increase the longer the relationship lasts. The average match at BBBSM lasts about two years, but again – the longer the match, the greater the impact.
I don’t have time outside of work hours but still want to be a Big Brother/Big Sister. Can I still get involved?
With our Bigs in Schools program, we will match you with a Little who you will visit in school once a week. This takes place during the school day, so you need to make sure you can leave the office for enough time to allow for travel to and from the school with at least an hour of mentoring.
Another option is through our School to Work program. High school students are transported to your place of work once a month for a morning of career readiness programming, job shadowing, and one-to-one mentoring. The corporate partners hosting our Littles are required to provide the programming, so your employer needs to be on board with the program; we also require a minimum of 15 Bigs per worksite, so get your co-workers involved, too! Have your employer contact Shakira Francis from our Site-Based Programs Team to determine the viability of this program at your place of work.
A third option for program participation is through Group Engagement & Mentoring (GEM) at the Carnival Center for Excellence. BBBSM staff and community partners implement curricula for groups of Littles who either are trying out BBBSM or who are waiting to be matched with a one-to-one Big. GEM programs include tutoring and homework help, songwriting, sports, and more. All GEM programming is focused on at least one of five key pillars: Academic Success, Health & Wellness, Digital Literacy and Learning, Music & Arts, and Workforce Development. If you are part of an organization that offers programming that could benefit our GEM Littles, please contact Dionne Richardson.
If your time won’t allow any of these options, but you would still like to support our mission, you may consider a donation to our Sponsor a Match program to help cover the costs of a match between a Little and a Big for an entire year.
Can I choose if I get a Little Brother or a Little Sister?
Bigs and Littles are matched based on specific criteria, gender being one of them. What is more important, though, is life experiences, personalities, and interests. A relationship is built on outings and activities, so we conduct in-depth interviews with all program participants (Bigs and Littles) to make effective matches that are likely to be long-lasting.
If a Little Brother is less than nine years old when enrolled, he can be matched with a Big Sister. Little Sisters are not matched with Big Brothers. Littles who are enrolled at the age of 10 or older will be matched with a Big of the same gender.
When and where will I first meet my Little Brother/Little Sister?
For one-to-one matching, your Program Specialist will set up a time and place for you to meet your Little. It is critical for the relationship that you arrive on time for the initial meeting to ensure the relationship gets off on the right foot.
For community-based mentoring, your Little’s parent or parents will be present, so you have a chance to meet them, as well – and so they have a chance to meet you. For site-based mentoring, you will meet your Little at an introduction event to get to know each other. For Group Engagement & Mentoring, you will meet your group of Littles during programming hours at the Carnival Center for Excellence. If applicable, we recommend reading the file on your Little and his or her family ahead of time to ensure you are fully aware of your Little’s life situation.
When can I see my Little Brother/Little Sister?
Depending on the program in which you are a Big, you may have designated times established to meet with your Little; this is the case for site-based mentoring, School to Work, and Group Engagement & Mentoring. In community-based mentoring, you decide as a Big-Little together what you want to do. It is your responsibility to communicate with your Little’s parent(s) or guardian(s) for approval. Until your relationship is established, the outings will also depend on your comfort level, as well as that of your Little’s parent(s) or guardian(s) and your Little.
How much money should I spend on my Little Brother/Little Sister?
The quality of time with your Little is more important than the amount of money you spend, which is why we don’t encourage spending a lot of money on gifts or outings. The goal of the relationship is to help your Little see the world through a different lens, so he/she can understand the potential that he/she has and join you in defending it. If you are going to spend money, we encourage you to seek out low-cost activities, especially in the beginning. You can:
- Shoot hoops or have a catch at a local park
- Play a board game or card game together
- Fly a kite at the beach (for community-based mentoring)
- Go for a hike in an open area (for community-based mentoring)
- Share a pizza that you were going to have for lunch anyway (for community-based mentoring)
- Go out for ice cream (for community-based mentoring)
BBBSM also offers group activities that are a great way to meet other Bigs and Littles, as well as occasionally has free (donated) tickets to cultural and sports activities for you both to enjoy.
What are some the types of activities I should do with my Little Brother/Little Sister?
Share an activity that gives you something to talk about. Buy a comic book to read together. Play a board game. Hit a bucket of golf balls at the local driving range (for community-based mentoring)>. Take a ride in the car with the radio on and talk about the music you like (for community-based mentoring). You want to select activities that give each of you a chance to learn more about one another. For children, playing can be learning. Most important: keep it simple and enjoy yourselves!
Can I bring my spouse, a friend, or family member on community-based mentoring outings?
In the beginning, it’s important that you and your Little get to know each other. This happens best on a one-to-one basis. Over time, it is also valuable for your Little to get to know the people who are important to you. Just keep in mind that if you are focusing on others during what is supposed to be a mentoring session, your Little may begin to feel jealous or neglected. The priority needs to be the friendship you develop with your Little and the impact you have on his or her life.
What kind of support can I expect from Big Brothers Big Sisters once I get matched?
Once you are matched with your Little in one-to-one mentoring, a Program Specialist from the agency will be in regular contact with you to provide assistance and to give feedback. Any time you are unsure about what to do or how to handle a situation, your Program Specialist will be able to help. Your Program Specialist can help you come up with ideas for activities, provide guidance for handling difficult situations, and give feedback on how you are making a difference. Please also feel free to reach out to your Program Specialist with stories of successes and other milestones that your Little reaches! For Group Engagement & Mentoring, BBBSM staff will always be on site while you are volunteering, so feel free to reach out to them at any time.
Will I become a replacement parent?
No, all Littles have a parent or guardian in their life already. What they need is a Big who will spend quality time with them – either one-on-one or in a group mentoring setting – have fun with and confide in. Someone like you!
Can I provide you with an existing background check?
Child safety is our first priority. Therefore, a comprehensive, current criminal history record check is required of all individuals who come into meaningful contact with children. We require this search for consistency and to ensure accuracy; therefore,we do not accept existing background checks. This includes all volunteers – both Bigs and non-mentoring volunteers – BBBS staff, and other programmatic individuals. BBBSM utilizes a global background screening company with 40+ years of expertise.
I want to be a Big! What do I do?
Thank you! We’re happy to welcome you into the BBBSM family! Fill out this application form to get started; remember to select whether you want to mentor a Little one-to-one or a group of Littles in Group Engagement & Mentoring. You can expect an email with next steps in a few days. Please review the full process here to know what to expect.