Every Friday, 25 young children from Greenfield and Turners Falls arrive on campus, eager to greet their “big brothers” and “big sisters.” Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) helps children build relationships with positive role models in 330 communities across the Unites States.
According to the BBBS’s Marketing and Development Coordinator Ericka Almeida, the BBBS program has been partnered with Deerfield for 36 years. Its other local partnerships include relationships with Northfield Mount Hermon School and teenagers in Greenfield.
“I think [BBBS is] the greatest partnership with a community organization that we have at Deerfield,” mentioned Mr. Jan Flaska, Deerfield’s Director of Community Service. According to Mr. Flaska, many children are recommended for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program because they do not have a mentor in their lives.
Almeida also explained, “some of the kids don’t have any continuity in their homes, so spending time with their Bigs on Friday nights is something that they can look forward to every week.”
Deerfield students who serve as big brothers and sisters are also known as “Bigs,” while the children they are paired with are commonly referred to as “Littles.”
“The Bigs are so important… [and] the Littles are so enamored with them, and love spending time with them,” Mr. Flaska commented.
The Bigs certainly recognize the importance of the relationships they establish with their Littles.
“I know that my Little’s family life has been turbulent,” commented Maddie Thies ’17, a Big participating in the program. “Since our bond has grown stronger… I’ve gotten her to open up to me more. She used to not answer any of my questions, but now she understands that… she can confide in me,” Thies added.
Bigs believe that they are able to learn about leadership, patience, and responsibility from the younger children through BBBS. At the same time, the children in the program learn many important skills from their mentors.
“I am the youngest brother in my family,” said another Big, Patrick Han ’17, “but my Little helped me realize what it’s like to be an older brother.”
Both Thies and Han see improvement in their Littles every week.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with kids, and it’s a really rewarding experience seeing [their] growth from week to week,” said Thies.
Although both Bigs admit the relationships have been difficult at times, they say the improvement that they see makes it worthwhile.
“My Little definitely behaves better than he used to,” commented Han. For example, his Little now uses better language and eats a good dinner, without wasting any food.
Han also described a system that he devised for his Little in which he would begin each Friday night with three points. Every time he misbehaved, one point would be taken away. If he ended the night with all three points, he could get an extra treat from the Greer.
“[My Little] ended last Friday with all three points,” Han said. “I told him if he keeps up his good behavior we can have a movie night.”
While Han enjoys seeing his Little’s growth, Thies finds pleasure in small, seemingly insignificant moments.
“My favorite thing about my relationship with my little is when she gets really excited to tell me about something new that she’s learned, and seeing her joy because she’s getting the attention she deserves,” mentioned Thies. Moments like this show Deerfield Bigs that they are making worthwhile contributions to their Littles’ lives.
As Han said, “I love when my little gets off the bus and he comes running to hug me every week… It reminds me that he really cares about me and the relationship we have formed.”