Bigs are friends and mentors to students

By MICHELLE ADAMS/Community Columnist

Mentor, friend, confidante—such descriptors define the roles of a Big Brother or Big Sister to a student at Montevallo Elementary. Since the pilot program began in mid-October, students from the high school and university visit with a Little Brother or Sister each week.

Currently seven high school students volunteer 45 minutes to one hour each week to mentor a student. Children at the elementary school were selected based on recommendations by a counselor, teacher or parents who believe that the student would benefit from having an additional positive role model in his or her life.

Montevallo High School senior John Pate applied and interviewed in order to be named a Big Brother. Volunteer Bigs also attend a training session on how to be an effective mentor to their Littles.

“In the interview I had to explain why I could be a role model,” Pate said. “I also had to provide my ideas as to how I would spend time with my Little Brother.”

Activities with a Little may include coloring, playing basketball or other games and playing outside. Pate explained that he enjoys working with children.

“I feel like I’m still a child at heart,” Pate said. “My Little Brother is always happy to see me, and I know that I am helping to make his day better. But, he also makes my day better as well. Having someone look up to me makes me work harder to be a better student and a better person.”

Of utmost importance is the influence and conversation a Big has with his or her Little.

“Volunteers are expected to help the children be more productive, boost their self-esteem and encourage self-confidence,” BBBS Shelby County Program Director Kim Egan said. “Supporting these young students in their schoolwork and providing someone to talk to are expectations of Bigs.”

Pate emphasized the importance of trust and confidentiality as well.

“My Little has to know that he can confide in me about silly things or serious matters,” Pate said. “He knows that I am a best friend to him and that is a connection that is important to me.”