Making Great Matches: Our Process

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At Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), a “match” refers to the pairing of a Big (mentor) with a Little (child). One of the most common things we hear from our matches is that they feel that they were perfectly paired. How does that happen?

In order to achieve that perfect match, BBBS’ match specialists spend a lot of time with potential Bigs and with potential Littles and their parents. In addition to reviewing child safety precautions, the specialists talk about a number of different subjects during the interview process. “We really want to know what everybody brings to the table and what that child wants and needs,” said Ellen Harsh, BBBS enrollment supervisor.

The process goes from initial interviews with all parties involved, to training, being approved for a match, having face-to-face meetings with match specialists, and finally, to being matched.

The most important factors in the match-making process are the preferences that a child and a parent have expressed regarding what they are looking for in a Big Brother or Sister, and also the preferences a Big has given about the kind of Little Brother or Sister he or she would like to have. BBBS’ staff aims to match Littles and Bigs who share common interests. “If I have a Big who is into kayaking and hiking, I’m not going to match them with a child who prefers playing video games and watching movies,” Ellen explained.

Matches are also organized by distance. The goal is to keep the driving distance between a Big and their Little to within 20 minutes, if possible.

Finally there’s the “X Factor,” that personality trait or life experience that comes through during the interview process that helps the match specialist determine the best possible fit for a Big and a Little.

“If a match happens quickly, that’s great, but it is not our first priority,” Ellen continued. “Our goal is a quality match.”

“If a child feels like they can connect with their Big, they’re much more likely to stick with the program, to enjoy their time together, to learn from their mentor, and to experience positive outcomes. We take a lot of different factors into account when we’re matching. Compatibility is huge.”

When you understand how matches are made and what makes them so successful, you begin to understand what makes BBBS so exceptional and why our program truly makes a lifetime of difference for the children and families we serve.

According to BBBS’ records, there are approximately 600 kids on the agency’s list waiting to be matched. There are also a number of volunteers who have signed up to be mentors. So what’s the holdup in the process?

“It really depends on having enough funding and staff,” said Ali Nichols, enrollment specialist. “We could make a million matches a month, but if the match doesn’t last past the first three months, it’s not good for the child or the volunteer. It’s actually worse for the child than not being matched at all.”

Consequently, making the right match is critical, and that requires time, a talented, professional staff, and dedicated resources. It costs approximately $1,250 to place and support a child in a mentoring relationship for a year.

Getting it right is well worth the time and investment. Ninety-eight percent of the children who participate in BBBS’ program maintain or improve their grades, 99% avoid early parenting, and 79% plan to pursue higher education – numbers that are far higher than the national averages for their peers.

Ernest and Ja'Marion

Ernest and Ja’Marion

Statistics, however, don’t tell the whole story, as one of our newest Little Brothers, Ja’Marion, knows. It is hard, after all, to quantify joy.

When they were recently introduced, Ja’Marion thought he was getting a real big brother to move in and live with him. His grandmother and his new Big Brother, Ernest, had to clarify that this was not the case!

This news didn’t dampen Ja’Marion’s excitement one bit. He happily went on to share his wall of honors with Ernest, explaining each honor roll and academic medal his grandmother has displayed. “I am honored to have a Little Brother that I can be so proud of already,” Ernest replied, “and I know that you will keep on making me proud.”

It is our privilege to help Bigs and Littles like Ernest and Ja’Marion begin their journey together. Theirs is, truly, the journey of a lifetime.

Making A Lifetime of Difference: The Gift of Inspiration

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“He pummels me with questions on all sorts of subjects – war, history, government, religion, dating – and he’s done so from the first time we met,” said Matt, Edwin’s Big Brother. “At first, I thought he was just humoring me since I work at a university and have a doctorate. But I asked him about it recently and he said, “Matt, you don’t get it. I can’t talk about any of this stuff with anyone else.’”

For Edwin, his time with his Big Brother is like having his own personal instructor, teacher, and mentor, combined. So while Matt and Edwin might go canoeing or zip lining, or see any number of different things, it’s the one-on-one time they have discussing new ideas that they both cherish. “It’s Edwin’s time to ask any and every question he’s ever wanted, but never had the chance, to ask. Our time together is enriching,” Matt said, “because it shows Edwin that there’s a world of ideas and experiences beyond the one he knows.”

Their outings also show Edwin that someone is there for him. “We might go see a cave he’s never seen and he may learn about spelunking, but I think what he gains from the experience is much more,” Matt continued. “In the process, he learns that there’s someone who cares for him, who plans for him, who looks forward to seeing him, and who is there to remind him of other ways of looking at things.”

Exploring new things has allowed Edwin to develop a variety of interests, from street art, to reading, to writing extremely well. Having someone to talk to about these interests and about the different things he might do in these fields has also helped Edwin consider different vocational choices. He is now focused on going to college to pursue a degree in psychology, an area he would not have been aware of without input from his Big Brother. “Edwin has always been a peacemaker and a diplomat. He is someone who likes to be an intermediary and to fix things,” Matt acknowledged, “so psychology would be a good fit for him.”

Many Bigs worry about whether their Littles will like and accept them. “I think Littles respond best when you are being authentically who you are,” Matt added. “Looking after them while having a burger at Wendy’s, and asking about what is going on in their lives, is much more than just an outing. It’s about forming a personal bond… one that creates opportunities and life lessons for Bigs and Littles alike.”

Children enrolled in our program regularly report that their mentoring relationships have allowed them to experience new things and to discover ideas, interests and academic and career opportunities they had never imagined.

There are 600 children on our waiting list who are longing for a mentoring relationship that will provide them with new opportunities for the future.

Your gift to Big Brothers Big Sisters has the power to change a child’s life for the better, forever.

Whose life will you change?

Give.

From now through the end of the year, all donations will be matched!  Please make your gift today to make TWICE the difference.

Making A Lifetime of Difference: The Gift of Motivation

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image1 copysmEvery Wednesday for the past three years, Brandon, a Big Brother, has picked his Little Brother, Connor, up from school to play basketball, go fishing, hit golf balls or just hang out. During these times, the two have discussed the importance of living with integrity and talked about Connor’s future.

Their time together has made a difference.

“Connor recently told me about two boys who got into a fight at his school,” Brandon explained, “And then he said ‘Don’t worry, those aren’t the guys I associate with.” It was confirmation that Connor was listening when Brandon told him that he could achieve whatever he desired in life and that he was in charge of his own future, but that the people he chose to associate with and the decisions he made would define him.

Today Connor is not only staying out of trouble and avoiding negative people and behaviors, he is making proactive choices to help himself and those around him…. choices that will have a big impact on his future.

“Connor is intentionally doing good things for other people and being more generous toward others,” Brandon acknowledged. “His attitude toward his school work and his academic performance have also changed.  When we first met, Connor didn’t see college as a possibility. After my wife and I offered to help him, he began to take his studies more seriously. He is now completing all of his assignments and turning in all of his homework.” With the help of his Big Brother, Connor is spending much more time thinking about, and working towards, a positive future.

“I know Connor is working hard to make good choices, and the more good choices he makes, the more opportunities he’ll have. His behavior and the way he handles himself have changed a lot since we were first matched,” Brandon explained. “He has really grown. I’m proud of him.”

Connor’s mom agrees that he’s had a stronger focus on his future as a result of his match. “Connor is consciously making the right choices now to set himself up for whatever he decides to do,” Lori said. “His relationship with Brandon has had a big impact.”

Children who participate in mentoring relationships through BBBS do better in school, adopt healthier behaviors, and plan to attend college at rates that are far higher than the national averages for their peers.

There are 600 children on our waiting list who are longing for a mentoring relationship that will help them succeed in life.

Your gift to Big Brothers Big Sisters has the power to change a child’s life for the better, forever.

Whose life will you change?

Give.

From now through the end of the year, all donations will be matched!  Please make your gift today to make TWICE the difference!

 

Making a Lifetime of Difference: The Gift of Ambition

 

Susan photo crop smAspen entered the BBBS program as a ten-year-old. In the words of her Big Sister, she was “a quiet and reserved seed waiting to flower.” And bloom she did, as her relationship with her Big Sister Susan expanded her world and fostered an educational hunger.

“We attended concerts and theater performances, created jewelry and gardened, attended movies and festivals,” Susan said. “With each activity, Aspen blossomed a bit more.”

Now, seven years into her match, Aspen has quite a history of academic and personal achievements, including four years as a member of Health Occupation Students of America, seven years in her school band program, being a member of the student council, serving as Senior Class Treasurer, completing an internship at Dell Children’s Medical Center and working as a cashier throughout high school, all while maintaining an excellent GPA and completing 21 hours of college-level course credit at ACC.

Aspen plans to obtain her college degree and attend medical school to study neonatology. “I will continue to support her in reaching her goals. I am excited to watch her grow into the successful pro­fessional and leader she has made so much progress in becoming. She is truly flourishing,” Susan added.

Ninety-eight percent of the children enrolled in our program maintain or improve their grades, and seventy-nine percent intend to attend college; rates that are far higher than the national averages for their peers.

There are 600 children on our waiting list who are longing for a mentoring relationship that will take them to new heights, in school and in life.

Your gift to Big Brothers Big Sisters has the power to change a child’s life for the better, forever.

Whose life will you change?

Give.

From now through the end of the year, all donations will be matched!  Please make your gift today to make TWICE the difference!