Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has always concentrated its efforts on assisting at-risk youth in reaching their full potential. Now, to further that goal, the organization has joined with United Way Worldwide to implement evidence-based one-on-one mentorship programs in elementary and middle schools that serve the most underprivileged students. The two groups have a history of successful informal collaborations on both local and national level and their new partnership will focus on three specific goals:
Targeting elementary and middle schools that feed into America's lowest-performing high schools, using data to drive results and accountability, and mobilizing communities to give time, talent or money to support students' educational success.
United Way hopes that the new nationwide program will also help it to achieve its mission to reduce the number of students dropping out of high school by 50% and to increase the ranks of its volunteers by one million.
Max Miller, Big Brothers Big Sisters co-CEO, cited communities in which this new partnership is active and where innovative methods of working together are showing results, including Winston-Salem, NC; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Austin, TX; and Louisville, KY. (See attached background document for details.) "In these communities, Big Brothers Big Sisters, United Way and the schools are working so closely together that if a mentee skips school, acts out or fails a test, that child's Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor is part of the team – with the teacher and family – that jumps into action to get the child back on track," he said. "Our mentors are also there to celebrate their mentees' successes."
Over the coming months, the two partners hope to utilize their entire network of local chapters, which include 1,200 local United Way offices and 255 BB/BS community affiliates and solicit their suggestions and feedback in order to improve the outcomes of the programs already underway. In addition to harnessing their own volunteers, the organizations hope to work directly with teachers, parents and community leaders in order to involve them in the work of keeping students in school.
The one-to-one mentoring partnership, customized by each United Way-Big Brothers Big Sisters alliance in partnership with local school superintendents, galvanizes parents as well as public, private and nonprofit partners to support struggling students.