Worcester Area Community Mentoring Programs

Worcester College Area Mentoring Programs

“During National Mentoring Month, we honor all those who continuously strive to provide young people with the resources and support they need and deserve, and we recommit to building a society in which all mentors and mentees can thrive in mutual learning relationships.” -President Barack Obama

 

The largest mentoring program at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest is the Worcester Area College Mentoring Program (WACMP). It serves over 700 kids in Worcester County and recruits its mentors from six area colleges:  Holy Cross, WPI, Clark University, Becker College, Nichols College and Assumption College.  This program began 15 years ago with one sports team and one college, and has grown to be a central part of our strategy for reaching the children who need us most in Worcester County.

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Big Brother John & Little Brother Joel

15 years ago, John Price was a student athlete at Holy Cross playing lacrosse.  John understood the importance of giving back to his community and volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest as a Big.  He told his teammates about the amazing experience and tried to get them to join.  Unfortunately, John had a tragic accident and was taken away from his family and friends while he was far too young.  After Price’s funeral, the lacrosse team knew they needed to do something to continue John’s memory and honor his aspiration to make the community better.  They banded together to mentor youth in memory of him. One young man’s desire to give back and help youth succeed had led to the expansion of this program to reach over 6,000 children in 15 years.

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Big Sister Nicole & Little Sister Adriana

Similar to John Price’s vision to support young people by being their own personal champion, “I trust mentors to do the best job they can offer for these kids,” said Christina Fleury, Worcester Area College Mentoring Program Coordinator. A College of the Holy Cross Alum, Christina Fleury comes to BBBS CM/MW because she found a passion for serving her community. During her time at Holy Cross, Christina’s courses and overall college experience encouraged her to be responsible and passionate about the communities around her. “The Worcester Area College Mentoring Program at Big Brothers Big Sisters is still growing and expanding,” said Christina. “The agency opened up a new mentoring program in Dudley at Nichols College in August 2015.” Prior to her employment at BBBS CM/MW she was an educator in Texas through the Teach for America program and moved back to Worcester with her husband, also a Holy Cross Alum turned educator for their alma mater.

Christina Fleury
Christina Fleury, Worcester Area College Mentoring Programs Coordinator

The six area colleges support Big Brothers Big Sisters by giving the agency excellent mentors to serve at-risk youth. They allow program staff space for recruitment, to run mentoring programs, and support with transporting mentees and mentors to and from programs. This is especially notable because it allows mentees and mentors more opportunity and accessibility to meet each other every week. BBBS CM/MW’s WACMP can be found at Elm Park, Wawecus, Woodland, Canterbury, Belmont, Flagg, and Goddard Schools, the Plumley Village and Great Brook Valley Boys and Girls Clubs, Girl’s Inc. and local YMCA’s.

The value of WACMP is the varying and different programs that accommodate all different walks of youth coming from all different kinds of needs. “All of the WACMP programs are great and unique in their own ways,” said Christina. “They have different merits and different neighborhoods they attend to.”

“I’m always impressed by the mentors and the varying programs,” says Christina. “I’m looking forward to seeing how the Bigs and Littles grow together at the different sites and show how they all can be a great resource for each other.”

BBBS CM/MW’s Worcester Area College Mentoring Program will continue to provide an opportunity for young people to grow with their mentor and converse about different education expectations that may cross their minds during the tenure of their match.

For more information on how to become a volunteer mentor with BBBS CM/MW, check out: http://bbbscm.org/faqs.

 

 

 

 

Corporate Programs in Central Mass/Metrowest

COMMUNITY PROGRAMS (2)

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Aadhi and Brandon at EMC David Mindess Program.

“During National Mentoring Month, we honor all those who continuously strive to provide young people with the resources and support they need and deserve, and we recommit to building a society in which all mentors and mentees can thrive in mutual learning relationships.” -President Barack Obama

Mentees at TJX 770
Mentees at TJX 770 in Framingham.

At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest we are proud of the impact we are making with our corporate site-based mentoring programs. Site-based corporate programs give Littles a unique opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with working professionals in exciting corporations like TJX, Boston Scientific and EMC.  They also allow corporate partners the chance to give back by allowing their employees to spend time mentoring at-risk youth who can really benefit from the supportive, one-to-one mentoring relationships BBBS CM/ MW specializes in creating, and it gives the Littles the added benefits of experiencing new career and future options too.

Brittany and Jasmine TJX 770
Brittany and Jasmine at TJX 770 in Framingham.

Our programs focus on building self-confidence and social acceptance for the youth in our programs.  Improving academic performance is also a big goal for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Each week at the EMC lunchtime program, Bigs and Littles meet and work on homework assignments. Bigs also get a chance to speak with their Little’s teacher and other school officials regarding their academic progress. “We believe this program has a great impact on a young person’s academics because the setting is academic-centric,” says Dawne Dragonetti, Corporate & Site-Based Interview Match Support Specialist. The young people from David Mindess Elementary spend one hour with their EMC mentors each week. “It is especially inspiring because the mentors at EMC have similar upbringings as their littles,” said Dawne. “Mentors know kids are resilient and they’re going to feed off that energy to empower them to participate in greater things.”

Reiniris and Nevaeh from the new Fuller program
Reiniris and Nevaeh from the new Fuller program.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has another corporate program in Framingham at TJX. This program is particularly impactful and inspiring for young people because they’re mentored in a corporate building.  Each week buses transport students from Cameron Middle School to the TJX corporate building. The young people are immersed in an environment of professionals, both young and advanced. This kind of environment allows Bigs and Littles to begin the conversation on what a career would look like for them. “We had a mentee whose goal was to be a cleaning lady when she was older because that’s all she knew,” said Dawne, “And then over time, the mentee realized there are other possibilities for her future.” This is important to note because the corporate program encourages kids to interact with adults they wouldn’t otherwise meet and see a world that is new for them. Similar to Big Brothers Big Sister’s other site-based and community-based programs, it allows for both the Big and Little to inspire each other and be the best self they can be.

Peter and Luis from TJX 770 Framingham
Peter and Luis at the TJX 770 in Framingham.

“Some of the mentees we encounter talk about possibly working at TJX in the future,” said Dawne. “This is exciting because the education expectation conversation is beginning to take root in their minds.”

Dawne Dragonetti came to BBBS CM/MW almost two years ago as a retired teacher who taught special education for grades three through five.  Dawne, who is always full of energy and excitement, was not retired for long. She volunteered with the agency and was quickly hired on to become part of the team. Dawne has been at the forefront of creating partnerships and seeking funding to support our site-based programs in Metrowest and she has been instrumental in the creation of a new program this year with Framingham State and Massachusetts Bay Community College where college students mentor children at Fuller Middle School.

Ashley at EMC_David Mindess program
Ashley at EMC/David Mindess Program

“I’m always impressed by the mentors and mentees,” says Dawne. “It’s inspiring to see the pairs grow. With that, I’m always looking for new ways to integrate new opportunities for kids to reach their goals or goals that were explored with their Bigs.”

BBBS CM/MW’s corporate programs will continue to provide an opportunity for young people to envision themselves in a career that may have never crossed their minds prior to meeting their Big.

For more information on how to become a volunteer mentor with BBBS CM/MW, check out: http://bbbscm.org/faqs.

 

 

 

Community Programs

“During National Mentoring Month, we honor all those who continuously strive to provide young people with the resources and support they need and deserve, and we recommit to building a society in which all mentors and mentees can thrive in mutual learning relationships.” -President Barack Obama

Community Programs

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest began its journey with community programs. In our community programs children are referred to us by a parent or guardian and we match them with a caring adult who can meet with them once a week.

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Big Brother, Andrew, and his Little Brother, Miguel’s first meeting.

The pair choose activities to do together out in the community and form a strong relationship with the support of our awesome staff.   It is amazing the impact that having a reliable, caring adult who consistently listens and supports, can have on a low-income child who is facing adversity.  Community-based programs are a significant and positive part of BBBS CM/MW. Typically, they deliver the longest average match length, longer than any of our other programs, and much longer than the national average for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Some matches have reached upwards of 15 years and our longest match still stays in touch.  They have been matched for over 50 years.

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Big Sister, Diane, and her Little Sister, Mmanuele’s first meeting.

Mentees in our community programs are able to experience new things outside of school and their mentors help them to feel confident to try new opportunities without limitations or fear of failure. Positive development opportunities are essential to creating the meaningful impact we have on children’s lives and in their engagement and success in school and in life.  We have the numbers to prove how successful our programs are.  75% of the children in our programs improve their confidence and academic grades, 65% feel more social acceptance and 40% of them reduce their risk attitudes.  But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Angela Martano, who manages our community programs, has first-hand experience with the value of mentoring.

 

“My Little Sister and I volunteered together at a local nonprofit where we made customizable care-packages for each kid who needed outfits and school supplies,” said Angela. “It was a wonderful and rewarding experience to share this with my Little Sister.” Angela Martano, Community Relations & Community Programs Coordinator. “It’s also nice knowing we can get manicures and pedicures together.”

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Angela Martano, Community Relations & Community Programs Coordinator.

Angela Martano comes to BBBS CM/MW from Boston, MA where she worked in corporate engagement. Prior to that, she was an AmeriCorps member in Denver, CO. working in many different youth serving nonprofit organizations. She has been a Big Sister for three years, sings in a gospel choir and enjoys cooking, baking, and entertaining others. After attending Assumption College in Worcester, MA, Angela found her confidence in becoming the person who she is today.

Sarah & Gelianni 4-2-2015
Big Sister, Sarah, and her Little Sister, Gelianni, at Girl’s C.H.O.I.C.E..

“My path continues to solidify my love for people and my service to them,” Angela said. “Having a Little Sister is a rewarding experience on both ends. It’s also a good feeling to know you have someone during the good and bad times.” Angela is excited to bring all of these experiences to her work managing our community programs.

Community programs provide an opportunity for youth and their Big Brothers or Big Sisters to develop strong, life-changing relationships.  BBBS CM/MW is proud to be creating these connections and improving our communities and neighborhoods throughout Central Massachusetts and Metrowest Boston.

For more information on how to become a volunteer mentor with BBBS CM/MW, check out: http://bbbscm.org/faqs.

 

 

Erica K.nows how to MentorIRL

Big Sister Erica and Little Sister Cecilia have been matched for 7 years.  Cecilia will be a senior in High School next year, and Erica cannot wait to see how bright her future will be!

Erica K.nows how to MentorIRL

Big Sister, Erica Kelly, is from Queens, New York, born and raised. She also has family in both the Bronx and Long Island. Erica is a stay-at-home mother with a pleasant, bright personality. She’s always had a soft spot for mentoring. Growing up Erica could have used someone as a mentor. “My parents separated when I was young,” Erica said, “I needed someone. So now I am the person who I needed back then.” Erica’s father worked a lot. She finds him to be very fascinating as a father and as her best friend. She recalls her mother being overwhelmed with her and her sisters. “I may have been a pain, even more than my sisters,” said Erica.

Erica is a quiet and a self-proclaimed introvert. When she was younger, she didn’t stand up for herself or had her own voice. She is the type of person who maintained a tight knit, small group of friends because this is what she was comfortable with. “I hope I can give a voice to someone who may not have one,” Erica said.  Today as a mentor she is doing that for Cecilia.

Erica met her little sister, Cecilia, seven years ago. Erica remembers meeting in the Worcester Big Brothers Big Sisters office with Cecilia and her mom and how awkward and nervous she felt at first. Then they went out for ice cream and Erica realized her little sister was a chatter box. “Cecilia couldn’t stop talking,” Erica said, “what an experience that was!”

Seven years down the line, Erica is looking forward to seeing what is in store for her little sister. “She’ll be a senior in high school next year,” Erica said. “I can’t believe how time has flown by…I still remember when my son and she were playing in the kiddie pool.” Their relationship has been a good and solid one for years. At times, Erica found herself leaning on Cecilia, without knowing. Erica welcomed it when Cecilia needed a shoulder, too, especially when dealing with family and trust issues. Erica claims this experience has made her into a better person. “I feel more confident and empathetic,” Erica said. “I take pride knowing both of our lives have been impacted in positive ways because of each other.”

 

For more information on how to become a volunteer mentor with BBBS CM/MW, check out: http://bbbscm.org/faqs

MySTEM

“During National Mentoring Month, we honor all those who continuously strive to provide young people with the resources and support they need and deserve, and we recommit to building a society in which all mentors and mentees can thrive in mutual learning relationships.” -President Barack Obama

NAtional Mentoring Month

STEM–Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math–fields are growing at a faster rate than other occupations. From 2008 to 2018, they are projected to increase by 17% compared to 9.8% for non-STEM jobs.  Unfortunately science and math students in the U.S. are lagging behind those in other countries.  Very few U.S. high school graduates are college-ready in science (29%) or math (43%).  At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest we strive to provide the children we serve with opportunities to explore possibilities and create bright futures.  Many of the children in our programs don’t know anyone who has gone to college and they have never thought about a career in a STEM field, so we are excited to announce our new MySTEM initiative to help bridge this gap and bring STEM to life for the children we serve.

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Big Brother, Len Conte, and his Little Brother, Joey, work on a SLIME! project.

MySTEM stands for Mentoring Youth in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  The goal of MySTEM is to introduce kids to STEM and build their self-esteem and confidence around science. “I want kids to use their curiosities and observations to figure out what science is,” said MySTEM Institute Director, Jessica Haggett, “…kids do it all the time.” Jessica is committed to the principle that science, as a whole, should be seen as exploration and encourage curiosity, questioning, observation and discovery.

Jessica comes from a science research background where she worked in an ecology lab and taught outdoor education in Western Massachusetts. She always enjoyed working with kids–especially kids who don’t normally experience the science around them. During her outdoor education outings, Jessica would bring her students out to a wooded area and meditate under the night sky. “During this exercise, a kid asked me what was above us,” Jessica said. “I couldn’t believe what I had heard him say. I didn’t know there were kids who didn’t know what stars were or what the Milky Way looked like.” This brought Jessica to a big realization:  children were not getting enough exposure to science.  “I know science is perceived as something to be difficult and daunting,” said Jessica, “but it really isn’t.”

Cataputls Marlboro B&G Dec2015
Big Sister, Kathy Marrion, and her Little Sister, Jenny, work on marshmallow catapults.

Now Jessica has joined with BBBS CM/MW to bring science activities to all of our Big and Littles.  She offers STEM activities and kits to all Matches and is bringing STEM to all of our events.  For Matches that show a real dedication to exploring STEM, Jessica is working with Corporations like MathWorks, Bose and Boston Scientific to provide comprehensive STEM programming and opportunities.

BBBS CM/MW serves over 44 communities. “Everyone in the communities is interested in implementing STEM activities into the mentoring relationship.” said Jessica. MySTEM hopes to engage students in all 44 communities BBBS CM/MW serves in the science and engineering practices that goes beyond understanding the natural world. For the kids BBBS CM/MW serves the science activities they participate in is all play. MySTEM is not an educational institute where Little Brothers and Little Sisters will leave with copious amounts of memorized materials. They will leave with the desire to wonder, question, and push their curiosities to discover and try new ways in running an experiment.

Day of Code 2015
Big Brother, Jeff Swanberg, and his Little Brother, Sean, work on a day of code.

MySTEM’s desire is to spark the desire of kids BBBS CM/MW serves and to encourage further development in our Littles who are interested, but don’t feel confident enough, to practice and participate. “It’s an exciting time and I feel humbled to be a part of this process,” Jessica said. “The institute is poised for success.”

For more information on how to become a volunteer mentor with BBBS CM/MW, check out: http://bbbscm.org/faqs. Or, if you’re interested in supporting the MySTEM initiative, contact Jessica Haggett at Jessica.Haggett@bbbscm.org.

 

Jenna & Natalie: Living in the Moment

Twitter Jenna and NatalieJenna and Natalie have spent three years building a strong relationship at our partner site, Girls, Inc.

When Natalie first met Jenna in January of 2013 she was an extremely shy kindergartener.   Jenna comes from a single-parent, low-income home and her mother, Rene, was concerned that she was not confident and had trouble making friends. Natalie, a senior at The College of the Holy Cross, studying English, had a very different upbringing.  She has a twin brother and an older brother.  They grew up together in Long Island, New York.  Natalie says that she has learned a great deal from watching Jenna.  Natalie’s mom did not have to work while she was growing up and Natalie didn’t have to navigate things like after school programs the way Jenna does.

Despite coming from different places, Natalie and Jenna have built a strong relationship.  Over the past three years Natalie has worked with Jenna to help her become a confident, happy child. Natalie says that Jenna has become a bright, bubbly little girl and she cannot believe how much she has matured with age. “Our conversations used to consist of me asking her questions, but now she isn’t afraid to be the one to start and maintain a conversation.  She is so much more confident.”  Each week at Girls, Inc. Natalie and Jenna play sports and work on math homework.  Natalie is proud to see Jenna’s interests in subjects and careers that are often male dominated.  Natalie also likes that Jenna is interested in sports because Natalie has always loved to be in the gym.  Natalie says that mentoring with BBBS CM/MW has meant a great deal to her.  “Sometimes you get wrapped up in your selfish college life.  Being with Jenna each week helps me focus on what’s really important.  I’ve learned as much from her as she has from me.”

Jenna’s mother, Rene, cannot believe the changes she has seen in Jenna.  Rene wanted Jenna to make friends and overcome her social anxiety.  Jenna has experience huge social expansion.  Rene says Jenna will never miss a day at Girls, Inc. because she enjoys being there so much and wants to see Natalie.  Natalie has also encouraged Jenna to think bigger about her life.  Jenna talks all the time about going to Holy Cross like Natalie and being a college student.  “BBBS CM/MW and Natalie are the best things that could have happened to Jenna.  I had no idea the bond between them would be so strong.  They truly are what sisters should be.”

“Jenna shows me the importance of living in the moment and finding happiness in simple things.  She teaches me the value of one hour and how spending time with others can be empowering for everyone.   Spending time with others for service is a service for volunteers too, and it’s essential to our own growth.”  -Natalie