Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Chattanooga (BBBS) is a member of the largest youth mentoring organization in the United States. They serve 6 counties in the area including Hamilton, Marion, Bradley, Walker, Catoosa, and Dade counties. Executive Director Jessica Whatley says BBBS started with just a community-based program for decades where mentors (Bigs) hang out with their Littles, whether that is going to the park, the movie theater, or a game. This program is more about the time spent together and building the relationship from that bonding. If you are a part of the school-based program, Whatley says mentors can go see their Little at school. From there, they can do a lot of those similar activities, bring them lunch, read books in the school library, play board games. BBBS also has activity boxes at those schools that give Bigs ideas of how to spend time with their Littles. Recently, the non-profit started a school mentor program in partnership with Tyner High School, where Bigs and Littles meet virtually once a week and in person once a month.
Another program BBBS has is called Beyond School Walls. This work-based mentoring program partners with local companies so the Littles can interact with a working environment. Middle Schoolers will be able to go to companies like Unum and see the different job opportunities and learn about the workplace to see what's out there in the community.
With all of these wonderful programs, how do you volunteer? For the school-based and mentoring progams volunteers have to be over 18 years old. For the community-based program, you have to be over 21 years old. To participate in Beyond Schools Walls you have to be an employer with Unum, City of Chattanooga, Elliot Davis, or United Way. All volunteers will go through an orientation process online, where you can read about the programs, learn more about Bigs and Littles, and the benefits of mentoring. After that, you will go through training, background checks, and once you get through the interview process, you will meet with your Little and their guardian to get to know them and go through some rules and guidelines.
But don't worry if you are nervous, because each Big has a match support specialist. This is a person to communicate with to help you with any issues, if you need additional training, ideas, or if there are struggles. Your match support is there to help you know how to deal with things your Little may be going through and how to communicate with them. Another reason for the extra help is for child safety, so they check and make sure the kids are in safe relationships.
For more on other programs like Bigs in Blue or how UTC students can get involved check out the full interview listed below or by clicking here. For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Chattanooga, or to volunteer, click here.
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My name is Jess and I love telling other peoples stories and bringing awareness to the community.