Tuesdays cannot get here fast enough as our “littles” eagerly await the arrival of the “bigs” for the day. Once those bigs walk through the door, our littles run to greet them and tell them about their school day. The Bigs and Littles Program is a partnership between Fremont Elementary School and Fowler High School, which connects “littles,”the elementary students to be mentored by “bigs,”our high school students.
Currently, we have 20 littles who are matched with 20 bigs and meet at Fremont once a week for 90 minutes. In this time, the magic begins to unfold as a focus on mentorship strengthens relationships and builds confidence in our bigs as they use their communication skills to help and guide their littles.
The day begins with a focus on a module for the week. This module is directly tied to the interests of the littles, who range is third through fifth grades. The modules are designed to foster speaking and listening skills, as well as creativity, character development and problem-solving. The bigs are our littles “biggest” cheerleaders.
For our bigs, it is a chance for them to personally make a positive impact in our world and demonstrate their civic duties and responsibilities.
“The program has definitely taught me to be more responsible,” says Fowler High School Senior, Zachary Smith, the school’s Big Brother of the Year. “I have someone to think about more than myself and my mom really likes that I am working in the community and helping others.”
Zach’s little, Nickolas Mendoza, has never missed a day of the program and says, “He has been my role model for the past two years. He has helped steer me in the right direction too.”
Part of our civic responsibility is to promote the general welfare of our community and citizens.
Our high school students have returned to their former elementary school and made a commitment to their peers, a commitment of service to being a mentor and following through on the civic duty to attend school to learn the skills needed to be a productive and meaningful member of our society.
“We can really help change some of our youths’ reality and help shape their futures,” says Beatriz Lopez, a former Bigs and Littles coordinator.
We will really never know the long-term impact this partnership – one that first started with a handful of high school students who wanted to volunteer their time as “buddies” – will have in the future.
But we do know that it has provided opportunities and a platform for our bigs to serve and be a part of something good in our community. In turn, our littles get the chance to see how they, too, can answer that call to service, to the challenge made by President Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
For our parents, this program has provided the support many of their “littles” need in a big brother or big sister.
Margie Valle, a parent, speaks for many involved in the program:
“This partnership inspires and builds. Although the bigs are young students, they understand the importance of giving back.”
Monica Sigala is principal of Fremont Elementary School in Fowler Unified School District. This was written in collaboration with the Fresno County Civic Education Partnership, which aims to support and highlight outstanding civic education projects in Fresno County schools. For more information or to get involved go to http://www.fresnociviclearning.com.