‘Big’ Men Needed at DU

By Elisa Juliano

February 13, 2013

A new on-site mentoring program at Dominican for at-risk children lacks male sponsors.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago in collaboration with the University Ministry matched seven “littles” with seven “bigs” from Dominican for a one-year commitment to mentor fifth and sixth -grade “littles.” The participants meet every other Wednesday for about two hours over in the Coughlin Common Multi-Purpose Room.

Junior Jonathan Salamanca recently volunteered in the program to gain experience from children.

“I like helping out anyway I can. I like being a role model for my nieces, nephews, and even my peers. I’ve never worked directly with kids, but I think kids are in the biggest need for role models,  ” Salamanca said.

Salamanca is partnered with a 10 year-old student from Emerson Elementary located in Maywood. During their sessions together, Salamanca and his “little” work on homework, play games, share stories and just “hang-out” for a few hours.

“We need more men in the program, there is not a lot of that kind of leadership around here [in the program],” Salamanca said.

Currently, the group has only two male mentors; the other five mentors are women. University Minister Matthew Palkert also agrees that the program could use more male students from Dominican. Palkert serves as the facilitator between the university and the Big Brothers Big Sister organization.   

Patlkert hopes the “little’s” presence on campus, along with some deliberative outreach, will increase the number of participants for the following sessions. He also hopes the mentors’ participation will encourage more men to volunteer.

“I think the mentors are going to have great things to tell, and if they just tell the stories of their work with their littles’ and how it’s changed them then more students will come up,” Palkert said.

The program meets every other Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The participants will take spring break off, but the program will extend into some summer months and onto the following fall semester.

The program offers set time for the participants to engage in activities and conversation, but the program also limits communication between the “big” and “little” for safety reasons. “Bigs” aren’t allowed to friend their “little” on Facebook or any other social media website.  Phone conversations are allowed at the “bigs’” convenience and only with the permission of the “littles’” parent.

According to the Big Brothers Big Sisters website, 70% of children waiting for a sponsor are boys. In addition, for every 10 volunteer inquiries only 3 of them are males.

Big Brothers Big Sisters was founded in 1902. Today they operate in all 50 states and in 12 countries around the world with both on-site program locations and off site opportunities. Their main office for the Chicago area is located downtown at 560 W. Lake Street.

For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters visit www.bbbs.org/site/c.9iILI3NGKhK6F/b.5961309/k.5573/Be_a_Big_Brother8212give_a_Little_something_back.htm.