Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) is the oldest and largest youth mentoring organization in the United States. It has provided one-on-one youth services for more than a century for children ages 6 through 18.
BBBS was started in 1904 when New York City court clerk Ernest Coulter noticed an increased number of boys coming through the courtroom. Coulter believed that the guidance of caring adults could help kids stay out of trouble, so he began seeking volunteer mentors. At about the same time, a group called the Ladies of Charity began to assist girls in the New York Children’s Court. This organization later became known as Catholic Big Sisters. Both groups worked independently until 1977, when they merged to become Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. The organization now operates in all 50 states and in 12 countries through its global associate, Big Brothers Big Sisters International–Australia, Bermuda, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, and South Africa.
Students are carefully matched with a trained adult. Whenever possible, BBBS pairs youth with mentees who are the same sex and same ethnicity. Volunteers are screened and undergo training before they are assigned a youth mentee. Mentors may meet with their mentees in school or in the community, with a commitment to do so at least once per week. These sessions are supposed to be fun, not necessarily academic. Mentors and mentees might get together to play games, walk outside, attend events, share food, or engage in a number of other activities. BBBS treats parents or guardians as partners, ensuring that mentees are positive role models for children but not replacements for family.
Evaluation results have shown BBBS to have a positive impact in the lives of youth. A study conducted in1992-1993 found that, after spending 18 months with their mentors, young people in the program were:
- 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
- 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
- 52% less likely to skip school
- 37% less likely to skip a class
- More confident of their performance in schoolwork
- One-third less likely to hit someone
- Getting along better with their families
In addition to providing information about ways to get involved (as a mentor or a mentee), the history of the organization, and its programs, the BBBS website features specific information on African American, Hispanic, Native American, faith-based, and military mentoring.
- Big Brothers Big Sisters: http://www.bbbs.org/
- Big Brothers Big Sisters International: http://www.bbbsi.org/