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We are family: Big Brothers Big Sisters exists to serve at-risk children 

Big Brothers Big Sisters provides the mentoring connection between big and little, whether that “big” is in high school or is 88 years old and that “little” is a 6- or 18-year-old. 

“Our vision is that all children achieve success in life,” Anna Boyd-Bucy, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters in SLO, said. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters does this through two different programs: a community-based program and a school-based program. The community-based program pairs community members between 18 and 88 years old with school kids aged 6 through 18 based on common interests as well as geographic location within the county. These volunteers meet with the children for a minimum of three hours every other week for at least a year. Currently, there are 172 active matches. 

“They meet one-on-one in the community doing activities they both enjoy,” Boyd-Bucy said.

The school-based program pairs high school students with elementary schools and typically serves about 105 elementary students every year. San Luis Obispo High School, Nipomo High School, and Morro Bay High School pair with Sinsheimer Elementary School in SLO, Nipomo Elementary School, and Del Mar Elementary School in Morro Bay. Both Cal Poly and Cuesta students are involved with the school-based program as well. During the school year, high school students travel to the elementary school once a week after school and spend an hour with their little buddies. 

Throughout the summer, they send postcards “to keep in touch and keep the relationship going,” Boyd-Bucy said.

Financial support from the Harold J. Miossi Charitable Trust helped foster the connection between Morro Bay High and Del Mar Elementary. The organization just awarded Big Brothers a fourth $20,000 grant for the Morro Bay connection. The grants started during the 2012-2013 school year and total $80,000 so far and helped establish the third such school-based program in the county. 

The purpose of this program is to serve children who are considered vulnerable or at risk, coming from low-income and/or incarcerated families and helping them succeed, Boyd-Bucy said. According to the nationwide Harris Interactive survey of Alumni Littles, 90 percent of once “little” siblings said that their relationship with their “big” sibling helped them make better choices throughout their childhood and throughout their adult life as well. 

The school-based program serves both sides well, as national survey results find that students—high school and elementary—in the matches benefit from such a relationship. 

During the 2012-2013 school year, a Big Brothers Big Sisters staff-conducted Local Youth Outcome Survey reported that 70 percent of participating elementary students experienced improved feelings of social acceptance, and 89 percent noted improved academic confidence. At the same time, 50 percent of high school students experienced the same improved feelings of social acceptance and improved academic confidence. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters has been around nationally for more than 100 years, and the San Luis Obispo office is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Throughout November, the organization is conducting its year-end community support fundraising campaign to support the general budget with a goal of $112,000 this year. 

“The funds raised will provide for targeted and careful volunteer recruiting, screening, and matching, as well as ongoing support for volunteers, children, and families,” Boyd-Bucy said.

To either donate or get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters, call 781-3226 or go to slobigs.org.

Fast fact 

CenCal Health launched a new website with tools to help Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo county members improve their well-being and connectedness to the health care community. Find more information at www.cencalhealth.org

Intern Rebecca Lucas wrote this week’s Strokes and Plugs. Send your business and nonprofit news to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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