Defending the Potential in Youth

Impact Partner Spotlight 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Racine and Kenosha Counties - 

A Black adult and child sit beside each other on a bench, talking.June 15, 2021

Big Brothers Big Sisters' littles face greater adverse childhood experiences than their peers. Social isolation, domestic violence, abuse and neglect are common in many households. BBBS' mentoring relationships protect children from the experiences of childhood trauma.

What first drew you into the work of BBBS?

I was drawn to the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters. As the only evidence-based mentorship in the country we take a Jedi approach in defending the potential in youth.

How has BBBS adapted over time — whether that's in the last year due to the pandemic, or since its start as an organization?

The organization continues to adapt to meet the needs of the youth that we serve. Sixty years ago, we offered one-to-one individual mentor opportunities. Today, we are working closely with schools to offer after-school programs in order to meet children where they are. For example, after-school offerings range from college readiness programs for senior high students to topics that focus on social and emotional learning for elementary primary school youth.

When COVID closed our school and individual spaces for one-to-one mentoring, we quickly adapted to virtual mentoring. Here, we created opportunities for our Bigs and Littles to meet in fun learning environments. Matches texted, cooked together on Zoom, read books together and more. Some Bigs even stepped in to retrieve food, school work and assignments when the parent or guardian could not make it to school due because they had to work.

Can you share a story about a moment you saw your work leave a positive impact in someone's life?

When COVID-19 surfaced, BBBS created a survey to ask parents how the pandemic was impacting their family. Some said they were getting by. Others, explained that having children home 24/7 created hardship because utilities and food bills had increased. One parent revealed that she had 5 children who were all attempting online learning and therapy with one computer.

The survey allowed us to use funds from a WalMart grant to purchase computers and gift cards, some of which were used to pay for families' food and utilities. A local business, CCB Technologies, also donated two used laptops to help families. COVID-19 bought the community together rather than divided us with this project.

We also made a call to action to area seamstress for masks to help children returning to school. They came through, donating more than 3,500 masks. With help from Sew N’ Save and Tyler Family GMC dealerships, we distributed the masks to hundreds of local families, free of charge.

What is some of the impact BBBS has brought to the community in its lifespan?

For more 60 years, we have changed the lives of children facing adversity for the better, forever. As a result, we build better communities.

Sonya Thomas is the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has experienced great hardship due to COVID-19. Please consider donating and participating in its upcoming events: its September 11 Bike for Kids Sake and its October 2 An Evening with Big Brothers Big Sisters.