Anyone who grew up with an older sibling knows how formative it was to have someone looking out for us, bossing us, playing with us, showing us how to do something new, and setting a good example. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Flint is a program that not only gives children a role model to emulate, but to spend time with and learn from in a one-on-one mentoring format. The result is a generation of kids who are growing up with big dreams and bright futures.
Begun locally in 1944, Big Brothers and Big Sisters were separate Flint programs until they merged in 1982. Last year, BBBS boasted 309 pairs of “Littles” and “Bigs.” Matches are made based on interest profiles they complete upon entering the program, and a case manager is assigned to each match to provide support and ensure safety. This well-run program is making an indelible impact in children’s lives, says Reta Stanley, the program’s president, who adds that local children’s need for mentors is overwhelming. “Many of the Littles in our program come from single parent families, and they need support and friendship,” she said. Without responsible adult role models to take an active interest in these children, risky behavior and poor academic performance is common. This is where the right Big can make a difference: they volunteer to spend 4-6 hours a month with their Little to influence them in a positive way through loving friendship. “Our number of matches looks like a lot until you see that there are 355 children currently waiting for a Big,” Reta added. While some girls wait three or more months for a big sister, boys often wait much longer for a brother. “We need men in our community to step up and take these boys under their wings, to show them how they can grow up well,” said Reta.