‘Littles' And ‘Bigs' Do Well Together

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Bzzst. Bzzst.

It is the sound the game "Operation" makes when the player touches the sides with his tweezers while removing a bone. In this case it is followed by the giggles of a second-grade pupil.

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Amanda Mason and her ‘little sister' Kailey, interrupted their lunch to mug for the camera.

"Try again," Tasha Rivas encourages her ‘little' in the Big Brothers Big Sisters lunch program at Frontier Elementary School. Rivas is a ‘big' and a student at Payson Center for Success High School (C4S).

Each Thursday at lunchtime 10 ‘littles' at FES get together with their teenage friends to eat, then play outside or hang out indoors with a game or get a bit of homework help.

"I'm good at "Operation." I only make it buzz one or two times," another child is quick to say. (Several children's name have been withheld to keep their privacy.) Even though this little's teen mentor is sick, the other bigs take time to make sure he is not alone.

What do you like about your big brother or sister?

"We just have a lot of fun," Kailey, a little in fifth grade said.

"We play ball together," another little said.

"Everything," a second-grade little sister, intent on coloring, said.

The matching process began before the holiday break, so the FES/C4S program has only been under way a few weeks, but the bonds are visible, evident by smiles, conversation and eye-contact.

When littles speak, bigs listen. When bigs ask questions, little answer. It is a nice feeling when someone pays attention.

They tell stories of what happened in the classroom (an aced math test), how many times they crossed the monkey bars (three), who their favorite characters are (Hannah Montana), what lunches they like (pizza).

"I do what (my little) wants to do. I like that I'm helping someone else out," Geneva Eckstein, a C4S high school student said.

She is the youngest sibling in her family, but in the BBBS program she is the elder.

What has been the most fun lately?

"We swung on the swings. I hadn't done that in a while," she said.

While it is too soon at FES to see how mentoring will impact the second-through-fifth-grade pupils, Robert Henley, local BBBS director said nationwide this type of program sees positive changes 90 percent of the time. Teens and children in the program find that by sharing their lives with each other they have greater self-esteem, improved grades. Good behavior is another result of someone taking time to care.

C4S students do receive community service credit.

"The hours they are putting into this program are far greater than the number of credits they receive," Henley said.

"I joined because in junior high I knew people in Big Brothers Big Sisters. It seemed like a fun program and and I wanted to be a part of it," Amanda Mason, C4K high school student said.

Evaluation forms for staff and youths participating in the program are used to track successes and areas that need improvement.

The Peer Counseling class at Payson High School also mentors a group of littles at Julia Randall Elementary School.

"Tasha and the other high school students came to our BBBS party last week. They got the kids dancing and playing limbo. One of the little sisters, about 7 or 8 years old, came up to me and said this was the best fun she had ever had. Maybe it is hyperbole, but it was nice to hear," Henley said.

There are a few teen bigs waiting for littles in the program at FES.

Several bigs have inquired how to continue as a big beyond high school and this lunch program.

"It's neat that they are looking that far ahead," Henley said.

A parent who wants their 6-year-old or older child to participate needs to contact Ginger Sparks, BBBS program specialist at (928) 468-8375 or e-mail gsparks@bbbsaz.org for a permission form.

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