An Arkansas Tech professor has been involved in the Russellville branch of Big Brothers Big Sisters for seven years.
Megan Toland, assistant professor of journalism, said that Big Brothers Big Sisters is designed to help children that are in need of a role model. The mentor is matched with a child that is considered “at risk.” Toland said that mentors (or bigs) are usually matched with children (or littles) that are not getting proper one-on-one time, home stability or attention.
There are two different ways to participate in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program—community-based or school-based. When acting as a community-based big, one interacts with the child outside of school one day a week. The big and their child can go watch a movie, go out to eat, go to the park, etc. A schoolbased big visits their child at the school for one hour each week.
Toland is a school-based big with her little. Every week on Thursdays, Toland goes to school to visit her little for 45 minutes. Toland said, “It’s crazy how much I’ve watched her grow up. We started when she was in fourth grade and coloring; now she’s in tenth grade and likes to talk about boys.”
Toland said the way that BBBS has impacted her is by challenging her not to be selfish and to think about others. She said it is always rewarding to see her little’s face light up when she walks into the room.
Nick Bradford, match support specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters, said that the program teaches people to be mindful of others who might be more disadvantaged.
“This program teaches our volunteers how to be a good role model, a good listener and, ultimately, to be consistent.” Bradford said.
Not only do the children take away from this program, but the mentors do as well.
Bradford said that volunteers are surprised at how much they learn and grow with their littles. Toland said that after the program ends, she will keep in contact with her little and continue to send her gifts throughout the year.
Although there is no longer a Russellville BBBS branch, students can still be involved in the Little Rock branch. There is a one year commitment, in order to give the child the most positive experience they can have.
Bradford said that if enough Arkansas Tech students were interested, there is a possibility the Russellville BBBS branch could be revived.