PRINCESS ANNE, MD – Nia Davis has a new little sister. Together they play basketball, watch movies or sometimes just hang out. Davis’ “Little” is, of course, not an infant; but that doesn’t mean their relationship isn’t remarkable.
The two met when Davis, a student at UMES, volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters, a non-profit youth development organization that strives to provide the influence of positive adult role models and the friendship of caring adult mentors to children whose education, health and safety are threatened. The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters is to help boys and girls grow up to be confident, competent and caring young adults.
Volunteers at UMES have two options for participating as a Big Brother or Big Sister. A Big Brother can visit his Little Brother at the child’s school for a program that is both structured and supervised. For an hour each week, they can work on homework together, play kickball, have lunch, do arts and crafts or any one of a number of activities. The Big Brother is not there to tutor his Little Brother; however, the school-based program does help the Little Brother do better in school. Research has shown that of all children matched with a “Big” in school: 58 percent improved their school performance, 65 percent showed higher levels of self-confidence and 55 percent had a better attitude toward school.
Davis and her Little participate in less formal community programs. In this program, Bigs and Littles get together when their schedules allow (for example, nights, weekends or after school), usually two to four times each month. When she signed up in September to become a Big Sister, Davis imagined she’d visit her Little twice a month. For her part, Davis’s Little was very shy. Within 30 minutes, the child was asking her new Big Sister to play basketball. Davis has set aside her original expectations and visits with her Little every week. With each visit, the two have become closer; and Davis says she is coming to think of her Little as a natural sister. Davis looks out for her, wanting to make sure she’s always okay.
It is probably this kind of devotion that has made Big Brothers Big Sisters so successful, and so rewarding to volunteers and participants alike. Statistics show that of all children who have a Big in the community program: 91.7 percent avoid substance abuse, 89.9 percent develop respect for other cultures and 83.1 percent grow in their abilities to express their feelings.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is currently accepting applications for volunteers who would like to make a difference in the lives of children. For more information, call the organization at (443) 366-2471.
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Maureen McNeill, UMES Office of Public Relations, 410-651-7580, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact: Julie Ignasias, Big Brothers Big Sisters, (410) 543-2447.