Children and teens, aged 5-18, in need of a mentor (Littles) are matched with an adult volunteer (Big), who develops and maintains a trusted relationship, serving as a positive role model and source of reliable support. Matches are based on common interests, backgrounds, personalities, 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. BBBSM staff works with Bigs, Littles, and Littles’ families 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.
Bigs in Schools creates one-to-one mentoring matches between at-risk youth (Littles) and volunteer mentors (Bigs). Mentoring takes place during the school day on a weekly basis, allowing for each Little to have a positive role model who offers support and guidance throughout the year.
School to Work is a one-to-one mentoring program that provides high school students (Littles) with career readiness and job-shadowing experiences at an actual place of work. Littles are transported once a month from school to a designated corporate partner site where they are matched one-to-one with a volunteer mentor (Big). In addition to job shadowing and mentoring, students 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 motivates Littles toward increased academic performance, high school graduation, and college or technical training – ultimately qualifying them to meet the needs of our community’s employers. School to Work also opens the door to potential internship and job opportunities in the future.
Bigs in Blue & Bigs in Red
Bigs in Blue is a unique subset of BBBSM programs in which at-risk youth (Littles) are matched with volunteer mentors (Bigs) who are local police officers and other law enforcement employees. Similarly, Bigs in Red matches Littles with Bigs who are local fire department employees and other first responders. These programs operate 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. With 98% of BBBSM Littles being from families of African American, Hispanic, or mixed descent, the Bigs in Blue program has the added benefit of establishing and strengthening trust between communities of color and law enforcement. Bigs in Red has the added benefit of educating Littles about the importance of risk prevention measures and emergency preparedness.
The Graduate Program provides at-risk youth (Littles) who have graduated with a mentor (Big) with continued resources as they transition into adulthood. Whether a Little pursues higher education, trade school, or a career immediately after high school, the ongoing professional match support allows for the critically important Big-Little relationship to continue to thrive as the Little begins to navigate adult life.
Group Engagement & Mentoring
Group Engagement and Mentoring (GEM) takes place after school and on Saturdays (Big Saturdays) at the BBBSM headquarters, the Carnival Center for Excellence. Carefully-designed activities follow set curricula that are evidenced through research to have a positive impact on program participants. At-risk youth (Littles) – whether or not they are waiting to be matched with a one-to-one mentor (Big) – engage in activities with a set cohort and a designated GEM Big – a BBBSM staff member, an AmeriCorps Members, or a community volunteer – who guides the group through activities that surround five key pillars: Academic Enrichment, Workforce Development, Music & Arts, Digital Literacy, and Health & Wellness.