Big Brothers, Big Sisters works with local kids

UM students from all majors and backgrounds get together for the common good of mentoring and inspiring local youth through Big Brothers, Big Sisters [BBBS], a national mentoring program that has paired up with UM for the past five years.
Earlier this month, UM BBBS held a trip to Super Wheels of Kendall, where 12 “sibling” matches spent the afternoon roller-skating and playing arcade games.
Cristina Hale, a sophomore at UM majoring in accounting and a big sister since November, attended the Super Wheels trip with her 11-year-old “little sister” Veronica.
“Coming to Super Wheels today has taught us both to have patience,” Hale said. “Me with teaching Veronica how to skate, and Veronica with learning how to skate.”
Other outings this pair has gone on together include ice-skating, doing homework together and touring the UM campus.
Greg Barnett, a senior at UM majoring in communication studies and Spanish, was the only big brother to attend Super Wheels, along with his little brother, nine-year-old Alex.
“We had fun at Super Wheels,” Barnett said. “Alex got to laugh at me every time I fell down, but our favorite thing to do is hang out together and go to Boomers.”
Although Barnett is not the only big brother in the UM club, there are many more female mentors than male mentors.
Elizabeth Leon, BBBS social worker and college mentoring coordinator, oversaw the Super Wheels activity.
“I love the Super Wheels trip. The kids have a blast and the ‘bigs’ get to be kids again,” Leon said. “This is our second outing roller-skating and everyone has a lot of fun.”
Leon has worked for BBBS for almost three years, but has been working in the field since 1994. She has experience in family and adolescent therapy and has worked in group-homes for children.
As the college coordinator, Leon is involved in recruiting college students to become mentors at Miami area colleges, including FIU, Barry and Johnson and Wales, along with UM, which boasts the largest community-based program out of all the local colleges.
There are two kinds of mentoring programs in which to get involved. In the community program, the mentors pick up their “little” on weekends or weekday evenings and go on an outing at least twice each month. The school program has mentors meet their little at his or her school or after-school program for one hour each week to work together on a variety of activities.
“They’re there to talk, play, have lunch and become friends,” Leon said.
BBBS has a partnership with Miami-Dade public schools and works with 35 Miami-area elementary schools in their school-based program.
The UM club works with four of these schools: Tucker, West Lab, Coral Park and Coconut Grove.
The monthly activities organized for the UM BBBS Club are only for the community-based pairs.
BBBS is always in need of more volunteers.
For more information on how to get involved, contact the Volunteer Services Center at X8-GIVE.

Abigail Putnam can be contacted at