Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Becoming a Big: Aaron’s Experience

Big Brothers Big Sisters believes that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. The mission of BBBS is to make meaningful, professionally supported matches between caring mentors and children ages 5 through 16.

The enrollment process of becoming a Big includes four steps. The first step is attending the informational session at BBBS and learning what becoming a Big is all about. After your informational session, you complete an online application, an in-person interview, and a background check.

Currently, Big Brothers Big Sisters is at 111 kids waiting to be matched with a big - an all-time high. Aaron Moore shares his experience as a Big in hopes that you can decrease the list of kids waiting for a mentor.

Aaron applied to become a Big in November 2015 and has been matched with his Little Brother since February 2016. He describes being a Big as “essentially being a positive role model for a child. It’s about providing input when they seek answers and about leading them down a positive path when they walk the wrong way.”

“When becoming a Big, you sit in an interview to discover your likes and dislikes. My Little and I were paired after the team at BBBS looked through all our information,” says Aaron.

Moore states, “We are both very active. We like to play tag, catch, and we even create our own games to play. We also enjoy participating in BBBS sponsored events like the one at AirMaxx.”

The mentoring program at BBBS provides support to its matches by offers monthly activities and supplying donated tickets to attend sporting events.

“It comes to be around 4 hours a month”, says Moore, “I see my Little once a week during the school year. We communicate and participate in events during the summer.” Spending time with his Little involves working around his own schedule and that of his Little to find a time that works for them both.

Aaron said his favorite part about being a Big is that “it allows me to witness how things may have been if I continued my pursuit of a career working with children. My first major was Elementary Education, but my plans changed. Luckily, I got involved with BBBS, and I get to experience what life may have been like.”

Through the BBBS program, Aaron said he has learned to have patience. It has also taught him, “Listening is important and you won’t always have the right answers. Yet, you do the best you can, and life will work itself out.”

If you are wondering whether becoming a Big is right for you, attend one of our Informational Sessions to learn what becoming a Big is all about. Aaron said if you are on the fence about become a Big you should, “Take time to decide if this is something you can commit to. These kids have been waiting months, sometimes years, to be matched with a Big. The time commitment is short, but the commitment you make to support your Little is so much greater.”

For more information on becoming a Big visit our website Big Brother Big Sisters of Central MN.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Helping Your Little Prepare for College and a Career

Is it ever too early to start thinking about college and a career? Most of us started when we were little with dreams of becoming firefighters, police officers, or even the President. As we grow up, we realize that finding the perfect career is much more difficult than our daydreams made it seem. There are a lot of factors that go into being accepted into college, paying for it, and finding a career that you love.

One of our goals is to help you help your Little transition from high school to college with ease. A big part of that transition is planning! Here are a few things to help your Little consider as they prepare for college:

1. Finances:
College is expensive; there is no doubt about that but is definitely worth the cost. The sooner a student starts making a plan the less overwhelming it will be when the time comes. Help your Little to understand the importance of making a plan for their future.

2. GPA:
Grade Point Average is a major influence toward which college a student can get into and it’s something that your Little should be paying attention to as soon as possible. Good study habits are formed early in life, and should be promoted when students are in middle school or sooner.

3. Classes
Maybe your Little isn’t quite at the age where he or she can pick their own classes, but when the time comes, help them to understand that colleges don’t just look at the grade they get, but the class they took to earn that grade. Help them understand that they should use high school as an exploratory tool. PSEO classes are a fantastic option to save money and start a college career as well. If your Little is open to it, research PSEO options with them.

4. Scholarships:
There are thousands and thousands of scholarships out there, you just have to search for them and put in the time and effort to fill them out. Scholarship acceptance comes from a student’s combined GPA, volunteer hours, community service, career choice and more. Help your Little research some scholarship options open to them and help them beef up their applications. We are also fortunate enough to be able to offer scholarships!

Federated Challenge Scholarship
WWBD Memorial Scholarship
Big Brothers Big Sisters Nursing Scholarship

5. ACT
Students everywhere dread the awful 4-hour prerequisite test for college. It isn’t fun, but it’s something college applicants have to do and it is something that should be taken seriously. There are tons of ACT practice sites and study aids that can help out. It might not be the most fun, but your Little will thank you for the help when their score comes in the mail.

It is important to take these factors into consideration to help your Little start saving money, have an idea of classes they’d like to take, and start high school with the mentality to study hard and keep their GPA up all 4 years.

If you are looking for more ways to get your Little thinking about the future, we invite you and your Little to attend the Career Exploration Night at St. Cloud Community and Technical College on June 21st. There, your Little can learn all about many different career opportunities right on campus. BBBS will also be taking a bus up to Brainerd for the Central Lakes College Tour and Safari North Wildlife Park on June 28th. This will be a fun way for your Little to learn about the college, visit Central Lakes college campus, eat some pizza - even visit the wildlife park!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Even More Rainy Day Activities For You and Your Little

There are few things more fulfilling in life than witnessing the positive impact you can have on others - especially on kids. Whether you just signed up or you have been a mentor for years, it can still be difficult to find new, fun activities for you and your little - especially on days when you are stuck indoors. In the past, we’ve written about how you and your Little can make the most out of a rainy day. These activities are fun and easy for younger kids, but as they get older, it can be hard to pull a kid off the couch and away from their devices. This time, let’s focus our rainy day activity ideas toward the older kids:

A Day at the Movies

Your Little has most likely seen all the newest blockbusters (maybe some more than a few times), but have they ever watched Singin’ In the Rain or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? How about Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music? Find your favorite childhood movies and have your own film festival - complete with popcorn, pop, and candies.

Pamper Yourselves

Set up a foot spa (or two tubs of hot water) and start your own salon and spa with your little. Check out this recipe for a homemade skin scrub that you can make together. Give yourselves manicures, pedicures, and face masks, and enjoy a nice cup of tea or cocoa. You Little will enjoy feeling like an adult for an afternoon!

Make Something Together

Everyone likes to create. Just because your Little is a tween, doesn’t mean they won’t get plenty of enjoyment out of an afternoon filled with marshmallow shooters, paper airplanes, or your own t-shirts! Need help finding more ideas? Tinkercrate mails fun experiments and projects to your doorstep every month.

Learn Something New

Science experiments are always fun - who doesn’t enjoy the classic baking soda/vinegar volcano? As kids get older, they want to know why thing react the way they do. Take some time to develop a few science experiments with your Little and learn something new. Some experiments to try out include:

Kids are getting hard to entertain. It can be so much easier to plop them in front of a television, video game console, or electronic device, but hopefully, you’ve had some inspiration from this list. There are tons more activities on Pinterest that you and your Little can explore together.

For more tips on activities you can do with your Little, check out our Facebook page.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Magic Moments Gala and Man-Up 2016 Recap

At Big Brother Big Sisters of Central Minnesota, all great things never come to an end- rather, they continue working to build a better community for the future. As the Magic Moments Gala and the Man-Up campaign come to an end, we couldn’t be more thrilled with the success! Members of our community stepped up and worked together to find a match for our Littles. Here is a recap of our recent success:

The 2016 Magic Moments Gala turned out to be a huge success for the Big Brothers Big Sisters team once again. Over the last few years, we have learned that people value an experience more than items, so we teamed up with Black Diamond Auctions to create a fun and engaging auctioning experience.
Shari Wahlin was thrilled to share her take on the success:
The evening was a BIG success for children facing adversity in our community. The positive energy and purposeful unity of our guests and supporters were inspiring. With the help of sponsors, volunteers, and attendees who support our kids through the Magic Moments Gala, we grossed $200,000 for our program in addition to sparking the interest of several new potential mentors. Big Brothers Big Sisters would not exist without the support of our caring community members. Together, we can lead children on a path towards a brighter, more promising future.

Nearly 70% of the children on our waiting list are boys, yet only 1 out of 5 new volunteers are men, which is why the 2016 Man-Up Campaign was created. Boys in the program wait an average of 304 days before receiving a Big Brother. This year, we teamed up with the local community to make a change! BBBS started with the goal of partnering 100 men in 100 days. Rachel Johnson, a recruiter and one of the leads on this campaign, explains:
We are incredibly grateful for a community that steps up to the plate to help their youth thrive. In 100 days we were able to find 77 men and countless women who wanted to become a mentor. We have signed up several couples and families to participate as well. Not only does this strengthen our community, but it changes the lives and direction of our youth.
As we reflect on these memorable moments and achievements within the community, we can’t help but look forward to all the memories that will be made, lives that will be changed, and friendships that will last a lifetime. Thank you to all of our sponsors and community volunteers for making it all possible, and for investing your time and energy into giving back to the youth of our community.

It is never too late to become a mentor and make an impact not only in the lives of the youth but also to the community as a whole! Learn more about becoming a mentor on our website!

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Benefits of Charitable Giving

As soon as we think about making a donation - whether it be dropping loose change in a jar or writing a check to a charity of your choosing - it is natural to get reservations. You might feel that money is too tight at home, or like your donation won’t make a difference - which is a completely unwarranted fear. Whether you’re interested in tax benefits or have selfless motives, you can end up getting back a lot more than you give when you donate valuable items, cash, or even your time. The emotional, psychological, and financial benefits of charitable giving offer much more satisfaction than splurging on yourself or your family. Here are the top 4 benefits you can receive from charitable giving:

Greater Life Satisfaction:

Making a real impact on a cause you truly care about will add more meaning to your everyday life. If you are feeling stuck in life, sometimes all it takes is a simple act of giving to the community to get you back on track. Whether you are giving or receiving, a gift of any kind evokes a sense of happiness and gratitude. Robert Emmons shares the science behind how charitable giving can help to create a meaningful life. 

Increase Community Standing

 Being part of a local community organization gives you the opportunity to bring the community together to help with specific causes. If you are looking to give but are unable to spare any money, the best thing you can share is your time. Help to create community awareness and bring people together to solve local issues and create a happier place to live.
Image by Pete via Flickr

Promote Generosity to Your Kids

Giving is contagious. The best thing you can do as a parent, role model, or public figure in your community is to give back and teach kids the importance of giving. When your kids see you donating money and time, they're much more likely to adopt a giving mindset as they grow up. 

Tax Deduction

Finally, as many already know, charitable contributions can reduce your tax burden at the end of the year. If you give to an IRS-approved charity, you can write off donations on your tax return.

If you are still feeling unsure about donating valuable items, cash, or even your time, start with the little things. Learn more about local causes and find ways that you can make a difference. Start showing up to local organization meetings and learn what they are currently doing to make a difference in the community - and don’t be afraid to share your own ideas. If you are ready to take the next step in charitable giving, check out bbbscentralmn.org to see our different volunteer options.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Top 10 One-Hour Spring Activities in Central Minnesota

With spring break right around the corner, it is important to have some ideas as to how you can keep kids busy. Luckily, Central Minnesota has a wide variety of spring activities to keep the kids learning, exploring, and having fun! Here are some ideas to give you a little inspiration:

Get Creative!

A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement. Art As You Like It offers a variety of fun classes from pottery to painting. Have fun and let your Little express themselves through an art project.

Build Something

Finishing a building project can cause a great sense of achievement for a Little. On the first Saturday of every month, the Home Depot offers FREE building classes. These classes will give your Little the opportunity to build tool boxes, fire trucks, mail organizers, birdhouses, Mother’s Day gifts, or any number of other cool projects.

Visit a Local Farm

Spring time is the perfect opportunity for your Little to see baby animals on the farm. Erickson's Petting Zoo offers a chance to feed the animal, ride the ponies, and see the goat treehouse.

Start a Garden

Spring is the perfect time to start planning out your garden. Let your Little join in the fun and create a beautiful garden this year.

Explore Local Museums

Museums are a great place to learn something new with your Little. Central Minnesota has museums for learning local facts, presidential facts, fishing facts and so much more! The Works Museum is a place that every kid should visit at least once. Your little will get to experience stacking blocks, building airplanes out of wood slats, figuring out K’Nex and pulleys and sound refraction.

Volunteer at a Local Animal Shelter

Visiting the local Tri-County Humane Society can teach your Little about the importance of caring for pets. You can pet and play with the animals as well as take a tour. Shelter tours focus on humane education, and cover topics such as pet care tips, dog bite prevention and safety with animals, and pet overpopulation statistics in our community.

Get Active!

Central Minnesota offers so many great places to enjoy the nice spring weather while walking, running, biking, or rollerblading! Take a look at some of the best trails in the area.

Explore The Great Outdoors

Nothing feels better than the warm spring breeze after a cold winter. Get out and explore the new life sprouting this year. St. Cloud State University's Outdoor Endeavors can help facilitate activities for you and your Little. You can rent canoes or kayaks to paddle in the Mississippi River or bicycles to explore the nearby parks.

Check out Local Produce at a Farmers Market

Local farmers markets are a great way to show your Little the impact that farms have in the community. Farmers markets are also a great place to connect with the community and offer a chance to see where your food comes from. Bring your little to check out the St.Joe farmers market and try fresh, local food.

Let Out All Your Energy at an Indoor Park

Spring weather is unpredictable. If it’s too cold to spend the day outside exploring, try going to an indoor park! Indoor parks are a great way to release energy and have fun! Climbing High: Edinborough Indoor Park is a great way to spend time with your Little and let them get out all their energy!

There are so many fun things to do this time of year to keep your Little engaged and having fun. Find more fun ideas, visit the Fun For Kids website and don’t forget to share with us your pictures of how you spent your free time this spring!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

“You Get A Lot More Than You Give”

Bill Riner, a Big Brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for 7 years, says “you get a lot more than you give” when referring to his experience with mentoring. He continues “I have had the opportunity to watch a little boy grow into a very fine, accomplished young man.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota is encouraging men in Minnesota to “Man Up” to meet the rising need for Big Brothers. The goal of the Man Up campaign is to recruit 100 male mentors in 100 days.

There is a critical need for men to volunteer. Boys comprise over 70% of the waiting list for mentors, yet only 20% of new volunteers are men. Boys in our community are waiting an average of 304 days before being matched with a Big Brother.

Being a mentor is about enjoying simple activities with your mentee. “How many senior citizens get to navigate through a straw maze, enjoy a haunted house, or spend an afternoon at a water park,” asks Riner.

“We play catch with a football and laugh about the times we’ve had together, such as when we could not get a kite to fly or the fishing trip where all we caught was cold feet,” states Riner.

The mentoring program provides ongoing guidance and support to its mentoring matches, including offering monthly activities and supplying matches with donated tickets to attend sporting events.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is currently looking for community partners to join them in the Man Up campaign. Several state and local leaders such as Senator Al Franken, St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, St. Cloud State President Earl H. Potter III, St. John’s University President Michael Hemesath, and Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, have created promotional videos for the agency offering their words of support and encouraging males to help meet the need.

Rachel Johnson, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Recruiter, says they’re hoping local businesses will also consider partnering with them to help match some of their male employees with boys looking for a Big Brother.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is available to make presentations to organizations, companies, and clubs regarding its mentoring programs and evidenced-based outcomes with children in need.

For more information about becoming a mentor, or referring a male to provide friendship and inspiration to a child, visit ManUpMN.com or contact Rachel at 320-258-4537.

Photo 1: Big Brother Bill Riner with Little Brother Skyler Figallo in 2014

Photo 2: Big Brother Bill Riner with Little Brother Skyler Figallo in 2010