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Calling all 'Bigs'; grown-up volunteers sought in area for Big Brothers/Sisters

Aug 14, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Riverton school officials are looking for "Bigs" in the community as they partner with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Wyoming to offer mentoring services for children in the city.

In an informational meeting at Riverton Middle School, the Worland-based organization met with Fremont County School District 25 staff to relay how the programs help pair young adult or adult volunteers with children who also sign up as "Littles."

By pairing them up, Bigs visit with the Littles once a week for an hour at their school or a specific location in the community to build a relationship through which they can get involved in positive activities and encourage self improvement.

The volunteer is meant to act as a role model and mentor and help the younger people handle drug or alcohol abuse problems they may be facing at home, academic problems in school, or difficulty socializing.

"Children deal with a lot more than they should at their age," said Lisa Beamer, the chief executive officer of BBBS of Northwest Wyoming. "These are kids that face adversity of some kind."

Many other kids, Beamer added, also just need someone to have fun with and look up to.

Choosing a Big

Beamer said Bigs and Littles are paired up depending on interests they share, and the volunteers must undergo a series of home interviews and background checks before they can be selected.

Bigs fill out applications that tell the organization more about their interests or past life events. Evaluators also consider employment references.

The whole process can take about a month but is meant to ensure the appropriate Big is chosen and ready to commit to at least a year of mentoring services.

Anyone who is a freshman in high school or older can apply. Either a community-based or school-based mentoring service is chosen for them. If they agree to a school-based program, the schools in Riverton will accommodate the visits and plan accordingly with teachers.

In the community-based program, volunteers and youths spend an average of eight hours a month together.

Beamer said mostly boys sign up to be Littles, but not enough male Bigs apply -- often creating a long waiting list and delaying the process.

BBBS also gives the option of doing a faith-based match or a match with a couple.

Littles receive home visits from BBBS case managers before they're accepted.

Benefits for Littles

Beamer also said studies show that having a Big has proven to improve the Little's grades or behavior in school. The Littles, Beamer said, also benefit from extra attention and fun activities such as fishing, painting or attending a sports event.

According to the organization, a 2009 study by Harris Interactive on behalf of BBBS found that children improve their self-esteem and self-confidence and feel encouraged to set higher goals.

School officials encourage community members to get involved and apply.

New Riverton High School principal John Griffith agreed that children are always at risk. Anyone can be a Little.

Contact among Bigs, Littles and case managers is consistent, and community members can help in other ways than being a Big. The organization accepts donations or can schedule a presentation at a workplace, social group or place of worship.

Roughly 176 children in 2012 were served throughout the Big Horn Basin and last year 280 more Littles were paired with Bigs.

More information is available at bbbsnwwy.com.

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