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Big Brothers Big Sisters program grows into Coupeville Elementary School
There is a lot of “big” excitement going on at Coupeville Elementary School as a number of young students were matched with their new Big Brothers and Sisters through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County mentoring program.
They are the first elementary-aged students in Coupeville schools to get Bigs. The Big Brothers Big Sisters school-based program is expanding into the Coupeville Elementary School -– a step that was needed to address the rising need for support for the youngest students.
“Our new Bigs and Littles have just met twice but I can tell you that both the Bigs and Littles are very happy to be matched,” said Dana Stone, elementary school counselor. “I have seen our students’ eyes light up and become very excited on the days they are going to see their Bigs.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County began a school-based mentoring program in 2009 after the school district’s Learning Partners program was lost. Big Brothers Big Sisters match coordinator Mary Johnson has since brought together middle schoolers with mostly high school-aged mentors to help them academically and to be a friend. She also introduced a number of community-based matches in Coupeville.
“When life hands us bumps, bruises, or uncertainties it’s always nice to know that there is someone rooting for you outside of your immediate family,” Johnson said. “Big Brothers and Big Sisters are cheerleaders, supporters, homework helpers, confidantes; in other words, friends and role models that help nurture young people through a special bond.”
Middle school students and staff embraced the program. Recently, teachers and counselors from the elementary school approached Johnson stating that there was a need for extra support within their classrooms as well. Big Brothers Big Sisters designed a strategy and is starting to match a small group of elementary school students with mentors; the program may expand at a later point.
“I am excited to be working with the Coupeville Elementary School staff to initiate these special relationships between high school and community member Bigs and the students,” Johnson said.
To serve as many children in need as possible within the nonprofit’s limited staff resources, Johnson has been working with Stone, the Coupeville School District administration, teachers and the National Honor Society, which provides a number of the dedicated mentors who meet once a week to connect with their Little Brothers and Sisters.
“I am so pleased we’ve gotten this program going at Coupeville Elementary School and I think both the Bigs and Littles will gain a lot from the experience,” Stone said.
Coupeville teacher Jon Gabelein also welcomes the new addition.
“This program gives our high school students a cool way to help our elementary students by being a positive resource for them in regard to their academic and social skills,” Gabelein said. “Aside from academic support, just having that additional positive connection with an older student can generate stronger efforts to make positive choices in all areas of their life. Not only do the younger students benefit, the experience of being a mentor motivates the older students towards more positive adventures as well.”
While the school-based program is an integral part of the work Big Brothers Big Sisters does, it’s not limited to it. The agency also offers community-based matches consisting of a Little Brother or Sister and an adult mentor.
Big Brothers Big Sisters has been matching children on Whidbey since 1999.
In the past year alone, the agency served more than 235 students islandwide and the need is rising. Big Brothers Big Sisters executive director Peggy Dyer said the partnership with school districts is invaluable to the success of the program.
“In our history on the island, the schools have always been our partners. It’s a natural partnership as we have the common goal of having every child on Whidbey Island achieve to their fullest potential,” Dyer said.
Superintendent of Coupville Schools Patty Page is also a supporter of the partnership between the agency and the district and also enjoys observing the partnership between the different age groups.
“The partnership benefits children and students of Coupeville and Central Whidbey. By blending services, we are better able to support and staff without duplication,” Page said. “Moving to the elementary increases the options for our students to have support.”
For information or to join BBBS, call 279-0644, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bbbsislandcounty.org.