Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America
Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America is a nonprofit, non-governmental, youth mentoring organization that helps children reach their full potential by mentoring them one-on-one, nurturing them and strengthening them in order to make them capable of building their own future. It is the largest, oldest, and most effective organization in the United States that mentors young people, from 6 to 18 years old. They are present in many communities across the country and many research studies have shown the program's effectiveness in impacting the youth through their one-on-one mentoring practices.
Big Brothers Big and Sisters has core programs like community-based and school-based mentoring as well as special programs for military children and children of different races. What usually happens is that a "Little" (children aged 6 to 18) are paired up with a "Big" children. The Big Brother or Big Sister mentors the Little by meeting a few hours every month and doing activities that they enjoy, which include, but are not limited to reading books, playing catch, going to a museum, eating together, and providing advice and inspiration.
Studies have shown that the Little who were mentored by Big were seen to be less likely to skip school, hit someone, or indulge in illegal drugs or alcohol. They were also seen to be more confident in their schoolwork and they also were seen to get along better with their families and communities. A number of strong friendships were also formed with Bigs and Littles programs, having a continued connection even in adulthood.
Big Brothers Big and Sisters of America currently operates in all 50 states in the U.S. as well as in 12 countries around the world. Big Brothers Big and Sisters International has presence in countries such as Canada, Australia, Poland, Israel, United Kingdom, and New Zealand. Their headquarters is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA headed by its current CEO, Karen J. Mathis.
The mission of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America is to provide professional, one-to-one relationships with mentors that would heave a measurable impact on the youth and helping the children reach their full potential. According to the organization's website (www.bbbs.org), they have outlined the following set of vision, mission, and accountability statements that further shows their organization's purpose and goals.
The vision of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America is that all children accomplish success in life. Their mission is to provide children facing adversity with professionally supported, strong and enduring, one-to-one relationships with someone that they resemble to, which changes their lives for the better, forever.
The organization holds itself accountable for each child in their program by partnering with parents or guardians, volunteers and others in the community. The program aims to instill better relationships, higher aspirations, greater confidence and avoidance of risky behaviors.
An independent national research organization based in Philadelphia called Public/Private Ventures carried out a study between 1994 and 1995 to see the effects of Big Brothers Big Sisters. 950 boys and girls were monitored by the study; half of them met their Big Brother or Sister for about thrice a month for a whole year while the other half were put on the waiting list. After the study, it was found that the Littles who met their Big Brother or Sister had a positive change in them compared to the children who were on the waiting list. They were seen to be more confident at school and had better relationships with their families and friends. They were also found to be less likely to use illegal drugs or alcohol, skip class, or hit someone. This study confirms the belief that Big Brothers Big Sisters' mentoring has a positive and long-lasting effect on the children.
Karen J. Mathis is currently the organization's President and Chief Executive Officer and has a dedicated team of individuals that are willing to go an extra mile in helping change the lives of children for the better.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America traces its roots back to 1904 with a young court clerk from New York City named Ernest Kent Coulter laying the foundations. He was noticing that many young boys were coming to his courtroom with small criminal charges, which was when he realized that if only there were adults who could care for these boys and mentor them, then there would be fewer boys in his courtroom since they would stay out of trouble. He then set out to find volunteers for these boys which marked the start of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters in New York City. This also marked the beginning of the Big Brothers movement and by 1916 the movement has spread out to 96 cities all over the country.
Around that same time, some members of another group called the Ladies of Charity were also befriending girls who came from the Children's Court of New York. They did similar work as the Big Brothers movement, mentoring your girls and keeping them out of trouble. Their group later became known as the Catholic Big Sisters of New York. Until 1977, both groups worked independently, but later on the Big Sisters International joined forces with the Big Brothers Association and hence became known as the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America.
The Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America with its more than 100 years of history has always believed that every child has the inherent ability to be successful in life. The positive relationships developed between the "Bigs" and the "Littles" were proven to have a direct and lasting effect to the young people (ages 6-8), nurturing them to succeed later in life. Even former "Littles" would agree that their "Bigs" have instilled them with principles and values that helped guide them in life. Currently, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America operates in all 50 US states and in 12 countries around the world.
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