“My Little comes down the stairs every week saying, ‘Oh girl! I’ve been waiting for you to come all week, I have to tell you a secret,’ and then she hugs me,” said Isabel Sefton, the Vice President of Big Brothers Big Sisters at Temple. “That’s my favorite part of my week, it’s when I am with her.”
For many members of this organization, being a Big is more than just being a mentor. Once they become mentors, they are reliable role models that their Little can trust.
The mission statement, according to Big Brothers and Sisters of America’s website, is to “provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters is the nation’s largest volunteer mentoring network with matches between Bigs (adult volunteers) and Littles (children), from the ages of 6 through 18 to help the children realize their full potential and shape their lives.
The Temple chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters is dedicated to help mentor local children from the Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region. After each college student is matched with a local elementary student, they are required to meet their Little every week for an hour and bond with them.
The Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence area serves the Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties in Pa., and Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties in NJ. According to the 2016 Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Fact Sheet, the organization has served 3,781 children from Southeastern PA. and Southern NJ.
They have also significantly helped children from the program as mentors or Bigs. Their fact sheet shows that 99% of children avoid using alcohol and tobacco; 97% advance to the next grade, 100% avoid using drugs and 98% have not become a teen parent since being part of this program.
“The main purpose is to provide children with mentors who might not have access to one otherwise,” Sefton said, “We, as an organization, stress that the Bigs are people for their Littles to rely on and not necessarily be seen as a tutor or babysitter.”
President of Temple BBBS, Berk Atillasoy, a risk management and insurance major, can attest to the importance of mentorship today. He joined as a Big during the fall semester of his freshman year and has since been part of the growth of the organization on campus.
“The reach of your influence as a mentor expands beyond your Little,” said Atillasoy, “Once you make a positive impact in someone’s life, they become a better version of themselves, which spills into many facets of life. They become better leaders, employees, family members, and community members.”
Not only do Bigs make a difference in the lives of their Littles by becoming a role model they can look up to, but they’re also benefiting as Bigs as well.
Atillasoy mentions that he learns the most from his Little and that it’s refreshing to hear from a younger perspective on life. He has been matched with his Little since October of 2015, and they are still matched to this day.
Members like Morgan Kolakowski, who is a journalism major with a minor in business and part of the Temple BBBS recruitment team, also agrees that being part of this organization is important because they’re improving the lives of these children but also theirs.
“My Little has given me the opportunity to have a little sister for the first time in my life,” said Kolakowski.
Since being part of Temple BBBS, Kolakowski advocates for mentorship to be taken seriously since it is important to take time to give back to others and help shape the future generation.
While many might give little importance to organizations such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, it is indeed making a difference by having these relationships established between children and college students like the ones from Temple University.
“I just know that each time I’m coming to visit my Little, she looks forward to it,” Sefton said, “I appreciate the fact she trusts me and considers me to be someone she counts on, which makes all the hard work pay off.”
Written by: Gail Vivar
Photos by: Isaiah Spicer