Longwood’s Big Siblings Program benefits local youth

Published 6:27 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A joint effort between Longwood University and Prince Edward County Public Schools is providing college students the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of local youth.

Sponsored by Longwood’s Department of Leadership and Service Learning, the Big Siblings program currently serves Prince Edward County elementary and middle schools in an effort to provide guidance to little “siblings.”

Tammy Hurt, principal at the middle school, said the students look forward to spending time with their big siblings.

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The program offers positive guidance and promotes higher education by showing students that they can achieve goals such as going to college. The program also provides little siblings with a listening ear that their peers may not provide, she said.

“For some of our students, it’s their way of giving back to students who are in the same place that they were in at their age,” said Jordan Bynum, program coordinator of citizen leadership and social justice education at Longwood. “Big Siblings is dedicated to touching the lives of children who may need encouragement and support otherwise offered by older siblings. We strive to offer support to students in both the elementary school and middle school of Prince Edward County by coming alongside the … school administration in efforts to promote positive and healthy mentoring relationships between Longwood Students and Prince Edward students,” she said.

According to the organization’s website, students interested in becoming a Big Sibling must apply during the spring semester for the upcoming academic year. “Our Big Sibling program matches accepted applicants with Little Siblings, who have been referred to us as needing support, guidance or just a little encouragement from a Big Sibling,” the organization’s website stated.

Kate Bridges, secretary of Longwood’s Big Sibling program, said big siblings are required to be a student of Longwood University and fill out an online and written application. Big Siblings must also interview with an executive board member of the organization.

Chosen applicants receive training prior to beginning as a big sibling and a handbook with useful tips and troubleshooting to encourage a successful experience within the program.

Bynum said that the mission and purpose of the Big Siblings program is “to empower youth in the local community to make positive life choices and to encourage our college students to make positive contributions to society.”

Big Siblings are encouraged to see their Little Siblings as much as possible. At least one weekly hour-long meeting is mandatory, according to Bridges.

“They personally get to see the changes they are making in a child’s life and that can be very rewarding. The program not only gives personal role models to children who need them but also a chance to make a positive change, and I think that is very important,” she said.