Youth Mentors Find New Ways to Engage During COVID

Despite COVID, youth mentors have found new ways to connect to the children and youth served by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Berks County.

If asked to list who served as role models when growing up, most of us would probably share answers that include parents, siblings or extended family members who helped shape the person we are today. For many of us, it can be difficult to imagine what our lives would be without these individuals serving as trusted mentors. For children who don’t have a slate of figures to rely on, United Way agency partner, Big Brothers Big Sisters, provides mentoring programs to match youth with qualified volunteers to share support and guidance. The agency’s programs help over 200 youth across Berks County through a one-to-one program, their Club of Unmatched Littles (COUL) and school-based programs.

COVID has brought challenges to these programs since “Bigs” and “Littles” traditionally spend time together to establish and build the mentoring relationships, and group activities cannot easily be held at this time.

With the help of virtual platforms, a few matches are moving forward, including between Big Brother, Mike, and his “little”, Nick.  They recently met through a virtual match, and they are looking forward to when they can spend time together, in-person. Another new match for 2021 is between volunteer Melissa and her “little” Reeyana; they are initially meeting in-person while adhering to COVID guidelines.

Despite the challenges created by the pandemic, over 95% of the organization’s surveyed “littles” shared they have a sustained or improved sense of the future. Jim Smith, executive director of the agency, credits the committed volunteers, along with the support of United Way. Annual funding from United Way helps Big Brothers Big Sisters connect children to role models, as well as helps keep the waiting list of unmatched littles to a minimum. This collaboration gives youth a mentor, a coach and a cheerleader to build close and trusting relationships.

It’s all about building more confident, empowered and successful kids. THIS IS: Changing Lives.