Laura Jones – Development for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bucks County

Jeff then introduced our speaker, Laura Jones,

Director of Development for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bucks County.  A lifelong Big Sister, Laura gave us an overview of the organization’s Mission (to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth) and Vision (that all youth achieve their potential).  Their program is based on 1:1 relationships between an adult and a child where new experiences help the Little Brother or Sister become more self-confident, improve school performance and enjoy time with a new and caring friend.

She went on to describe that adult volunteer mentor typically spends time with their mentee 2-4 times a month, on weekend or after school to do things they both enjoy. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters offers several programs:

The Community Based mentoring program is what most consider to be the traditional mentoring program. Bigs and Littles meet twice a month to enjoy one-to-one outings and activities like:

  • Attending a sporting event
  • Going to get ice cream
  • Going fishing or hiking in a local park
  • Working on a school project
  • Just hanging out and talking

Some matches meet on the weekend while others meet during the week.  It all depends on what works best for everyone.  Children are initially matched at ages 6-16 for at least 15 months, though we often have matches that stay together for much longer.

Included in this program is the Hispanic Initiative. Children who are of a Hispanic background are matched with adults who may be bi-lingual or bi-cultural – or may just be open to exploring their Little’s culture with them. Our Bigs help their Littles learn to balance being a part of the community while embracing their cultural heritage.

STEM School Mentoring – Sometimes the best place to help a child realize his/her potential is at school. Kids enjoy having their Bigs meet with them weekly, so they can get help with school work, do a STEM activity, or just spend some time talking about life.

It’s teacher-approved!  Some of the biggest supporters of our STEM School Based Mentoring program are teachers. They see their students come back from time with their Big filled with confidence, big smiles, ready to learn and eager to succeed.

BBBSBC provides each school in our program with a bin filled with age appropriate STEM focused games and activities.  Our goal is to build their interest and skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics while they also build friendships.

They learn about life. Although it takes place at school, this mentoring program isn’t limited to the classroom. Of course, some Littles do talk with their Bigs about class, or do homework, or read together, but it’s perfectly fine to shoot hoops in the gym or play on the playground if it’s allowed at the school. Bigs offer Littles a judgement-free zone in which they can share both their feelings and their goals for the future.

Kids in grades K-8 can be referred and matched in our program. Bigs may come from one of their Corporate partners or may be retirees or volunteers who have flexible schedules.

Young adults can also get involved as mentors. High school students can mentor elementary students within their school district in the High School Bigs program.  The high school students receive leadership, education and training, and experience the value of community service. The younger students benefit from having role models who encourage and inspire them.

Developed by BBBSBC and launched during the 2015-2016 school year, the Bigs and Littles Autism Support Team (BLAST) is an extension of the High School Bigs program. Each match has two specially trained high school students matched with one elementary aged Little who has been diagnosed with having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Goals of this program include improving both the Littles’ social communication and interaction skills and their flexibility regarding interests and transitions.

Options Program – Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bucks County partners with Bucks County Juvenile Court, Youth Aid Panels and Children and Youth to provide more intensive professional guidance and support for higher risk youth.  The kids in the Options program are called “clients” and range from ages 7 – 17.

Building on our Community Based Mentoring program model, each youth meets with an assigned professional Case Manager who provides personalized one-to-one support. Meetings are goal oriented and may take place weekly or bi-weekly. Activities may include:

  • Individual or group life skills building
  • Learning from inspirational speakers
  • Going fishing, hiking or taking pictures in a local park
  • Working on school projects
  • Employment and career exploration
  • Individual and group mentoring activities through sports, arts and nature
  • Sharing a meal while discussing things that are going on with the client

If a client has community service or other probation requirements to complete, the case manager will aid him/her to ensure everything has been completed in timely manner. Each individual client has a program developed and tailored to meet his / her specific needs as well as their families, with the Case Manager serving as a guide, mentor and advocate.

The Options program is also evaluated under the Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP) through the Pennsylvania State University EpisCenter. SPEP is a scoring system used to estimate the impact of juvenile justice programs on reducing recidivism. Case Managers utilize motivational interviewing and behavioral contracting to guide youth to improve attitudes, behaviors and peer relationships.

Laura described the positive impacts the Big Brothers Big Sisters programs have had on the children that have been mentored.

Their program are about doing fun stuff together, but it’s also about achieving goals and helping children succeed in life.

Each time Big Brothers Big Sisters pairs a child with a role model, we start something incredible: a one-to-one relationship built on trust and friendship that can blossom into a future of unlimited potential. Thanks to the following studies conducted by independent research groups, we have the facts to prove it!

In a study funded by the Lilly Endowment, the Commonwealth Fund, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and an anonymous donor, researchers found that after 18 months of spending time with their Bigs, the Little Brothers and Little Sisters, compared to those children not in our program, were:

According to the study, Big Brothers Big Sisters programs were found to “focus less on specific problems after they occur, and more on meeting youths’ most basic developmental needs” – our one-to-one matches are the driving force behind making an impact on children.

A Big Brothers Big Sisters’ match is carefully administered and held to the strictest standards. Agency staff strives for matches that are not only safe and well suited to each child’s needs, but also harmonious and built to last. The entire matching process, from the initial screening to the final pairing—and beyond—is made possible by corporate sponsors and individual donors.

Don’t just think of us as simply matchmakers. We provide ongoing support and supervision to the Big, the Little, and the Little’s family. We offer training and advice to help ensure that the match is working for everyone involved. It is this web of support that helps maximize the likelihood that a Big Brothers Big Sisters relationship will thrive.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bucks County measures the impact of services for at-risk youth through a survey known as the Youth Outcomes Survey. This survey shows us that our mentoring programs result in proven, positive short-term and long-term outcomes for youth in three main areas: educational success, avoidance of risky behaviors, and increased social and emotional well-being.

  • Educationally, youth in our mentoring programs have higher grades, better scholastic competence, and a greater desire to graduate from high school and attend a four-year college.
  • Socially, youth in our programs feel more accepted by their peers and more connected to their family. They are also more likely to say no to drugs, alcohol, skipping school, or getting into fights.
  • Emotionally, youth in our mentoring programs have greater feelings of self-worth, and therefore more hope and higher aspirations for the future.

She then presented some extremely interesting statistics for 2018.

  • Community Mentoring Program:  232 Bucks County youth were served (140 females and 92 males) – Average time for Matches:  38 months
  • STEM School Mentoring:  69 students served – Average time for Matches:  44 months
  • High School Bigs Program:  140 students served – Average time for Matches:  12 months
  • BLAST Mentoring:  10 students serves (2 females and 8 males) – Average time for Matches:  23 months

Success Metrics of the youth served:

  • 92% improved their self confidence
  • 82% improved their relationship with their families and peers
  • 88% less likely to use illegal drugs
  • 86% improved their outlook on the future

For people interested in becoming a “Big” mentor; he first step to getting involved is to attend “Intro to Mentoring”. The Intro to Mentoring serves as both an orientation to our program and a training session. It is after this session that you will leave informed to make a decision for yourself if this opportunity sounds like a good fit for you.

The Intro to Mentoring session focuses as an overview of the program and the different opportunities available to get involved in our agency. It prepares you for what a mentor is, what a mentor does, and how to build a good mentoring relationship. It will help you become aware of personal expectations while exploring the roles and responsibilities of a mentor, the match life-cycle and steps to successful volunteering.

Volunteers must attend this mandatory training before beginning the process. An application will be given out at the end of this orientation. We ask that you take what you have learned in the session and decide if this is the right time for you to begin a life changing journey! Return the application at your convenience when you are ready to begin. Once we receive the application, you will be contacted to begin the enrollment process!