Volunteers serve as ‘siblings’ at Big Brothers Big Sisters

By Maria Ahmad

Some volunteers serve as mentors, friends and role models to the youth in the community through Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS).

BBBS is housed in the Family Services Agency, 14 Health Services Drive in DeKalb. Communities across the nation have hosted BBBS through schools or community agencies since 1904.

“It is important for every community to have this program especially with the youth today,” said Sandy Maskell, director for Affiliate Relations of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. “Programs like this help kids do better in school, have higher aspirations and help avoid at risk behaviors.”

Parents who have children between the ages of five to 14 years old are encouraged to enroll their children in the program. These children are referred to as the “little” sibling and the adult volunteer is referred to as the “big” sibling. Once a child is registered, the agency goes through the volunteers and then matches “siblings” according to similar interests or backgrounds. The parent, child and volunteer are required to sign up for a whole year.

“It is a very impactful program that really includes everyone in the community,” said Samreen Sufi, a junior, family and child studies major. “I used to volunteer in high school and hope I can make some time in college to do it again.”

Volunteers and their little sibling do a range of activities together including studying, reading, arts and crafts, movies and recreational sports. An average of three to five hours per week is spent together.

“It is important for NIU students who made it to this level of higher education to be a role model to the youth that is in the process of making life goals and future decisions,” said Liz McAllister, graduate assistant for community service in Student Involvement and Leadership Development. “It will also help students get experience with working with different populations and building long lasting relationships.”