Worcester T&G sportswriter and friend of the agency, Jennifer Toland, devoted a section of her weekly column to Big Brothers Big Sisters this week. Here is the excerpt about college athletes participation with BBBS:
Athletes helping out
January is National Mentoring Month, so it is a good time to recognize the continued dedication of our area student-athletes who volunteer in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass./Metrowest school- and site-based mentoring programs.
Team members from Holy Cross, Assumption, WPI and Clark are making a difference in the lives of youngsters. Last year, the BBBS of Central Mass./Metrowest served 1,281 kids — about half, vice president of programs Melanie Perreault said, were matched with local college athletes.
“It’s great,” said Assumption junior basketball player Mike Baldarelli, who was matched with Little Brother Jason, a third-grader at Flagg Street School, three years ago. “It’s been great developing a relationship with him.”
The “Bigs” typically spend 1-2 hours a week with their “Littles” at their elementary school or the Boys & Girls Club doing homework, playing games and just talking.The involvement usually extends beyond that.
During winter break, the Assumption men’s basketball team invited its team of “Littles” to the campus for a pizza party. Holy Cross junior wide receiver Freddie Santana meets his “Little,” 7-year-old Josuan, 2-3 times a week at the Great Brook Valley Boys & Girls Club and also regularly visits Josuan’s home. Josuan’s mom speaks limited English, so Santana has helped her translate school notices and the like. He also sees to it that Josuan completes all of his homework.
“These kids really look up to us,” Santana said. “When I first met Josuan two years ago, he was pretty shy. But now he knows how much I care for him, that I want to be his friend. When I see him, it’s all smiles.”
Santana, an education/sociology major at HC, said he’s learned just as much from Josuan as Josuan has learned from him. It’s a win-win situation for all involved.
“The program definitely continues to grow and we are getting more and more teams every year,” Perreault said. “These athletes are full-time students, some of them do work-study, they practice so many hours a week, and they are so committed to this program. They are phenomenal.”