Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, one of the nation’s leading one-to-one mentoring programs for youth and the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate in New England, today announced a partnership with the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (UMassD), to expand the organization’s campus-based programs and specifically address the increased need for mentors in the New Bedford area. Twice a month, children will be bused from 190 Acushnet Avenue in New Bedford to the UMassD campus to spend time with their “Bigs” (mentors), who are students at the university.
The program officially launched in October 2018 with a total of 18 participating “Littles” (mentees). During the first Saturday of the program, Littles were greeted by their Bigs with homemade welcome signs, followed by a scavenger hunt that allowed them to explore the campus. As the program progresses, Littles will arrive on campus and partake in a group activity, followed by one-on-one time with their Bigs.
“Research tells us that mentoring is one of the best things college students can do to help our youth, making this partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay even more important to our university,” said Deirdre Healy, director of the office of community service and partnerships at UMassD. “Children with mentors are less likely to skip school and/or engage in high-risk behaviors, and they develop positive attitudes toward learning. In addition, these activities have a profound impact on UMassD students who get a chance to give back to their communities and learn important life skills.”
“The New Bedford Housing Authority is excited about our partnership with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Our goal is to expose our children to opportunities that will enrich their experiences beyond what they already know,” said Esperanza Alejandro-Berubé, resident services manager at the New Bedford Housing Authority. “The BBBS Program has engaged our families and provided our young residents with connections to students at the UMass Dartmouth campus. Their ‘Bigs’ serve as role models and share their educational and campus experiences in fun, engaging and relatable activities. We are looking forward to seeing the program grow throughout the New Bedford Housing Authority developments.”
With the addition of UMassD, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay totals its college partnerships in its campus-based model to six. The nonprofit designed its campus-based programs to better serve youth who were waiting excess amounts of time to be matched with a mentor, because they lived in harder-to-reach communities that lacked access to public transportation. By partnering with local colleges and offering transportation for children to and from the campuses, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay has solved this challenge and increased service to reach more children on its waiting list. The program also uniquely offers participating youth the opportunity to experience college life firsthand while providing college students the ability to make a difference in the life of a child.
“Our hope is that this program shows local youth of New Bedford that college is fun, accessible and can be a part of all of their futures. Bigs can help shape their vision of the college experience and give them something to strive for,” said Wendy Foster, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay. “This is a great opportunity for students to connect with their local community in a really special and impactful way, and we envision the program growing year-after-year and becoming a big part of the culture at UMassD. Right now, we are hoping to add more matches in the spring semester and are especially in need of more male volunteers.”