Big Brothers Big Sisters look to teachers

Published 10:25 am Thursday, July 9, 2009

Niles Daily Star

The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters has always been to target those children in need of mentoring and support.
Now, in an effort to continue their success with that mission, Big Brothers Big Sisters is taking new aim.
The organization announced this week that the Lunch Buddy program conducted at Eastside Elementary School would be enhanced during the 2009-2010 school year by a special group of Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
The organization is targeting retired teachers and school administration to be their new army of lunch buddies.
“It came about as a result of the fact that we have quite a few retired teachers in the area,” said Kathryn Rossow, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
For the teachers, Rossow said, the schools will serve as a familiar and comfortable option where they can still use their skills to mentor children and to help them succeed.
She hopes that teachers working with the students at Eastside and the retired teachers serving as mentors will be able to work together in helping students in areas they might be struggling.
The retired teachers and staff would only serve as lunch buddies. Rossow said the decision would be up to them if they wanted to approach the organization about becoming mentors through the standard program.
Although retired teachers will be the targeted volunteer group, all adults in the community, Rossow said, are welcome to join the program.
Volunteer mentors are then matched with one child at the school between the ages of 6 and 11 whose parents give permission for involvement.
How the program works:
The Lunch Buddy Big Brothers or Big Sisters will spend one lunch hour per week with their Little Brother or Little Sister, sometimes coming in early or staying after lunch to work on academic subjects with the child. The mentors may come to the school any day of the week that works with theirs and the school’s schedule. Lunch Buddies are not parent substitutes or counselors, they become a friend to the child, serve as good listeners and can help begin to frame ideas about the child’s future.
“Our children need good life examples,” said Larry Sehy, a Niles resident and key community partner in the project. “And what better ones than those who served the community in educating our youth?”
Eastside was chosen, Rossow said, because of a good relationship that already exists between the school and Big Brothers Big Sisters. The school also has the highest number of students taking part in free or reduced lunches. Though that fact is not a direct correlation to a need for mentoring, Rossow said that it does indicate families that may already have other pressures or concerns weighing on their minds each day.
“These are children who I think would particularly welcome,” a mentor figure, she said, adding that additional mentors in a child’s life are “always a positive.”
According to Big Brothers Big Sisters a recent 2009 Harris Poll conducted on behalf of the national organization, concluded adults mentored as children through Big Brothers Big Sisters programs are more likely than peers with similar backgrounds but not involved in the program to have college degrees; to have incomes of $75,000 or more; and to have stronger relationships with spouses, children and friends. Also according to the poll, adult alumni of Big Brothers Big Sisters programs are 17 percent more likely to be engaged in their communities as volunteers themselves.
The program starts Monday, Sept. 21 at the school.
“We want to get them (volunteers) signed up this summer,” Rossow said.
That gives those retired teachers, school administrators or other interested members of the community time to get ready to be matched with their young buddies when school begins.
Interested prospective volunteers may call the Big Brothers Big Sisters office in Niles at 684-1100 of have materials e-mailed by contacting BBBS at