Am I the right person to be a Big?
If you are 18 years of age and older, reside or work in Cumberland or Salem County, and would like to spend time with a child who will benefit from having your friendship and your positive influence, then you have the potential to be a great Big!
Students in 9th – 11th grade can be Bigs in our High School Mentoring Programs across Cumberland & Salem Counties.
Do I need special training or experience to be a Big?
Not at all! The most important qualification for a Big to have is a genuine desire to enrich the life of a child by sharing everyday activities and experiences with them. We do require that our Bigs be prepared to make a 1-year commitment to their Little, and have a vehicle with current auto insurance. In addition, our highly qualified staff provides Bigs with a mandatory training session as part of our application process.
How Do I Become A Big?
The process to become a mentor begins as soon as you let us know that you are interested in applying to become a Big through our website, email, or phone. Your contact information will be collected so that a member of our program management staff can call you to discuss volunteer eligibility, explain the intake process, and to answer any questions that you may have. After that initial contact, we will send you an application or you can apply online. Once your application is received, we will call you to schedule an interview. After you are interviewed, the remaining steps will be completed including additional reference checks, home assessment, background checks, fingerprinting, and mandatory mentor training. Once all steps are completed, your completed file will be assessed for acceptance or non-acceptance, and you will receive a letter indicating this decision. Our enrollment process is designed to ensure the safety of the children in our program and prepare our mentors for a healthy and successful match.
How will I be matched with a child?
Our enrollment process is designed not only to ensure the safety of our youth, but also to help us select the right Big for each child. We get to know you first, so our program staff can properly match you with a child that we feel will be a compatible and successful match. We take into account your life experiences, personality, interests, experience with youth, preferences, and location. We then look at the children in our program waiting to be matched and recommend a match based on all information gathered from the volunteer, child, and parent.
Who are our Littles?
Our Littles are generally between 7 and 16 years old at their time of enrollment, and they come from different ethnic, economic, educational, and family backgrounds. Some may be facing social, emotional, or academic challenges. Their parent(s)/guardian(s) recognize that they have a need for a positive role model, and they come to us directly or through a professional referral by a teacher, guidance counselor, therapist, social worker, etc. On any given day, we typically have approximately 50 children who are waiting to be matched. This why our need for volunteers is so urgent.
Do the parents and youth want to be in the program?
Parents that enroll their children in our program want the very best for their children. They see the benefits of introducing another role model in the life of their child. Our agency only enrolls children who want and need the program and whose parents specifically want them to be in the program.
When can I see my Little?
As a team, you decide together what you want to do, and then your Little must get parent or guardian approval. We recommend that you keep a consistent schedule of outings and get together on a regular basis (2-4 hours, 2-4 times per month).
Please note that specific programs may have other guidelines.
Can I bring my partner/friend/family member on outings?
It is important for Bigs and Littles to really get to know each other. This can happen best on a one-to-one basis and for that reason, we recommend that Bigs not include others in activities with their Littles, certainly not before a good rapport has been established. We understand that over time, it is also valuable for Littles to get to know the people who are important to their Bigs, and we support that, as long as the main focus is the bond between the Big and Little. We also have an option called Couples Mentoring where two married adults can mentor a male child.
How much will it cost me to be a Big?
Being a mentor costs nothing, although there may be costs associated with the activities Bigs and Littles choose to engage in. We encourage Bigs and Littles to plan activities that involve low or no cost so that the focus remains on the friendship that is being built. For example, it costs nothing to go hiking, jogging, or to spend time in the park, yet these are activities that can lead to special moments for both Big and Littles. Keep in mind that the Big Brothers Big Sisters agency has several events and outings that you can attend, and we often offer free tickets to sporting and cultural events.
What happens if I have questions after I am matched?
One of the things that makes our mentoring program unique is that matches are supported by highly-trained, professional staff. Each match is assigned their own match support specialist that will provide ongoing support, guidance, problem solving, feedback, and information as needed Match Support Specialist speak monthly (and certainly more often as needed) with the Big, Little, and parent to ensure child safety and healthy positive relationship development.
Are there other ways that I can be a Big?
Absolutely! In addition to our traditional Community Based program, we offer School Based, Workplace programs. We also have our High School Mentoring and Mentor2.0 programs. Click Here to learn more! We are always looking to create new partnerships if you are interested in working with our agency to establish a mentoring program.