RUMFORD — After a few years’ hiatus due to transportation and funding, the Big Brother/Big Sister program is making a comeback in the River Valley. The program pairs Mountain Valley High School students, the “Bigs,” with younger students, the “Littles.” The Littles go to school at Rumford Elementary School, Meroby Elementary School and Mountain Valley Middle School.
The return of this important program is the result of collaboration between two community organizations: Community Concepts, Inc. and Western Foothills Kids Association.
Kristen Gilley, program manager of Big Brothers/Big Sisters at Community Concepts, said, “We are so excited to have programs in RSU10 this year. The response from high school students has been very encouraging. The biggest reward is witnessing the interactions between the Bigs and the Littles, and being able to see the impact they are making on the lives of kids within their community. The dedication and commitment of the mentors is what leads to the success.”
According to Barb Radmore, program director for Western Foothills Kids Association, “WFKA was instrumental in encouraging BB/BS to return to RSU 10 and is voluntarily coordinating the efforts both during and after school. WFKA has had mentoring programs in the past and we are pleased to be able to continue our efforts by teaming with BB/BS.”
Sophomore Karen Flaherty explains her interactions with her Little. “When I go to see my Little, she is in recess which is inside. We go on computers once a week, then do other small activities like coloring, puzzles, board games, card games or go for walks to talk about things. Then I eat lunch with my Little.”
Senior Katie Collette added, “I meet with my Little every other day during the last period of my day. We are together a little over an hour.”
Sophomore Brett Payne said he works with his Little at RES during Payne’s study hall. “It’s not enough time to get most of the activities and help I want to accomplish but it’s good enough for my Little.”
Freshman Logan Hamner has a different schedule. He meets with his Little two hours after school at Meroby Elementary School or his neighbor’s house.
He reported, “I think I am making progress with my Little by working with him on behavior control and being friendlier towards others. We build Legos and play board games, along with some enjoyable reading with my Little.”
The high school students joined the program to help younger children.
Collette said, “I became a Big Sister because it seemed like a great experience to help a younger kid and just be a part of their life. I’m extremely glad I did it.”
“I became a Big Brother because I felt like it would be a good experience for me to be around Littles,” Payne added. “It’s also a good experience for the Little to be around a Big so they can talk like a brother.”
Flaherty explained, “I became a Big Sister because I’ve always liked working with younger kids and I want to have an impact on someone’s life. I want my Little to know they have someone there for them and someone they can look up to.”
Due to a schedule change at the high school, Collette has seen her Little in two different time slots.
She explained, “At first when I went, it would be recess so we would play inside or outside. Now that my classes have changed, I go during my Little’s math time so I sit down with my Little and we do math and color.”
That personal attention during math time has already made a difference for Collette’s Little.
“Already her math skills and her attention span while learning have progressed since I’ve been there,” Collette said.
Flaherty is also making a difference for her Little and becoming a better person herself.
She explained, “I’ve helped her out when things are rough. I show her and tell her what’s right and I try to be my best when I’m around her so I impact her life positively. Also, she tells me how important I am to her and that she looks forward to seeing me.”
Payne works with his Little on social skills.
He said, “I’m helping him to be more outgoing and happy to meet friends and other Bigs who go to RES with me.”
Unfortunately, there are more Littles who want Bigs than there are Bigs to volunteer. The MVHS students urge others to become involved.
Payne said, “You make Littles happy and who doesn’t like that? It’s also a very enjoyable experience and I’m glad I can be a part of it.”
Flaherty said, “It’s a fun way to get away from school for a bit. You and your Little can do whatever you like. Each day is a new adventure. And as much of an impact you have on their life, you’d be surprised with how much they impact your life. It means the world to them, so get involved.”
Collette added, “Seeing their reaction every time you walk into the room, the progress you see them go through, and the bond you make with them is such a good feeling. I wish I could have been a Big Sister earlier.”
Any teenager who would like to be involved can get an application at the MVHS office.