Disclosure: This post is part of a sponsored campaign with Big Brothers Big Sisters South Texas (BBBSST). I was compensated to participate but all opinions are mine.
January is National Mentoring Month. Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas is looking for more volunteers to participate in their InspireU mentoring program, and they asked several bloggers, including me, to help spread the word. I hope you will take a moment to learn more about InspireU and consider talking your co-workers into signing up.
First, a vocabulary lesson. When I visited BBBSST’s holiday retail store (see this earlier post), I learned that the adult mentors are called “Bigs” and their young friends are called “Littles.”
The InpireU program matches a group of Bigs who are co-workers with a group of Littles who are classmates at a middle or high school. This pdf flyer has more details about the program, including how to join.
Once a month, the Littles ride a bus from their school to visit their Bigs at work over their lunch hour. This video shows Bigs at local corporations, including Rackspace and Spurs Sports and Entertainment, spending time with their Littles:
What I’ve learned from writing this blog is that there is no such thing as a sudden change. My blog changes minds one person at a time: for example, when a parent reads a blog post and decides to choose a better school for her child. Similarly, InspireU is about the relationship between one Big and one Little; when a Big spends time with her Little, even if they are just playing cards or going for a walk, she is introducing her to a new set of expectations. Littles start to ask questions like, “What did you have to do in school to get this job?”
My friend Annie Vu, currently Senior Director of Community Engagement with Choose to Succeed, is a former Racker and Big Sister. Annie and her Little, Trisha, appear in this video:
I shared the link with Annie, and all the memories of being a Big Sister came rushing back. Here are Annie’s reflections about her experience:
Watching the Littles’ faces light up when they step into the office for the first time and every time after that is truly inspirational. Sometimes school might feel irrelevant or college debt doesn’t seem worth it, but the exposure to careers and opportunities they didn’t even know existed makes the reward for their educational investment tangible. It’s like a light bulb goes off and they realize, “This is what I’m working towards.” But more importantly, it becomes so much more than a “workplace” relationship.
As a mentor, I think the impact we’ve had our Littles is even greater than we could have imagined. Not only did my Little find the confidence to dream big, but her passion and motivation trickled down to the rest of her family. Over time, she inspired her mother to continue her education. And when she walks across the stage this May at graduation, she’ll show her siblings what their future can look like too. She is single-handedly changing the trajectory of her entire family. I take zero credit for that. She had it in her the whole time, she just needed a little push to realize her potential.
Annie had an impact on Trisha and her family. The impact adds up even more when a group of co-workers team up. In 2010-11, when local Chase employees participated in a workplace mentoring program, data showed that Littles got better test scores and were more likely to advance to the next grade, and surveys showed improvements in classroom participation and attitude. There are over 500 students participating in InspireU already, out of over 2,500 young people helped by BBBSST every year. BBBSST is an SA2020 partner organization, so it makes sense that they would look for measurable results and work together with a group of local partners.
Next month, I am planning to tag along as a group of KIPP: San Antonio 6th graders visit their Bigs at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), and I look forward to sharing that story with you.
Are you ready to sign up? Get your business involved in InspireU by visiting BigMentor.org, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling 210-225-6322. This flyer has more details about the process of getting started.
Related posts and articles:
- My earlier post about From Me To You, BBBSST’s holiday retail store
- “InspireU: How workplace mentors help shape the future for San Antonio children”, Colleen Pence, San Antonio Mom Blogs, January 23, 2014
- “Big Brothers Big Sisters Take Middle and High School Students to Work”, Joey Palacios, Texas Public Radio, October 11, 2012
- “School Competition – The Rising Tide That Lifts All Boats”, Annie Vu, Rivard Report, December 2, 2013