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Bigs partner with Coupeville schools

To keep a popular after-school program afloat, the Coupeville School District is partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County.

The Oak Harbor-based group is starting a partnership and mentorship program in the Central Whidbey school district. It will replace Learning Partners, which school officials eliminated last spring to resolve a budget shortfall.

Forty-seven honor students at the high school have applied to mentor students at the middle school.

“Fundamentally, we want them to show interest in this youth’s life,” Big Brothers Big Sisters Executive Director Peggy Dyer said. Students are expected to spend one hour a day, one day a week with a middle-schooler.

While the mentor program will have an academic aspect, the Big Brothers Big Sisters program focuses on mentorship and friendship. Assisting a student with their homework can happen, but activities can be as simple as hanging on the playground.

Dyer said having mentors available to middle schoolers first was the easiest way to get the program off the ground. The two schools share the same campus. Once the middle school portion of the program is running, then it will expand to the elementary school.

The students who have applied to be a mentor will go through an in-depth interview process, a background check and group training. Dyer said she estimates approximately 95 percent of the prospective mentors will be matched with a student.

Organizers are taking into account the matchups created during the Learning Partners programs. Those pairings will carry over to the Bigs program. The mentors and students will start meeting sometime in the middle of October.

Big Brothers Big Sisters already has school-based programs in the Oak Harbor and South Whidbey school districts, but never started one in Coupeville because of the Learning Partners program already in place.

“One of the goals of Big Brothers Big Sisters is not to duplicate services,” Dyer said.

Eventually, Dyer said the adults that participated in the former Learning Partners program will also be worked into the new program. She just wants the student mentorships up and running first.

She also expressed appreciation for the support she’s received from Coupeville school officials. The school district provided space and the athletic teams agreed not to hold practices until after the Wednesday meetings.

Superintendent Patty Page said staff first discovered Big Brothers Big Sisters earlier in the year when both entities applied for the same federal grant and the partnership developed from there.

“It’s just another partnership where the community is working together to meet the needs of the students,” Page said.

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