Interview of Akwasi Oppong, BBBS Big Brother and
Member of the Board of Directors, BBBS of Central Mass/Metrowest
Big Brother Akwasi with Little Brother Danny
Lara: How long have you mentored a child through BBBS? How long have you stayed
with the same child? What kept you going?
Akwasi: I was first introduced to BBBS in 1997 when I heard a report on President Clinton’s Summit for America’s future which was championed by General Collin Powell and which dealt with the importance of making a positive difference in children’s lives. This was the very thing I had always wanted to be part of. In May 1998, I was matched with my little brother, Danny.
Even though my role in the organization changed over the years, I was always an active mentor to my little brother. I stayed with him for about 7 years which was longer than most, but this little brother deserved extra attention due to medical and family conditions. My motivation for staying so long with my little brother was knowing that a child’s life was being touched and the difference was very evident.
Lara: What difference did you see in your buddy as a result of your mentoring?
Akwasi: Danny had developed great social and people skills, his grades had gone up and the organization strongly recommended I stay with him to sustain the progress. One highlight was when I participated in Danny’s school on community reading day when professionals come in their uniform to read books to elementary school children. I kept it a total secret from Danny, so when I showed up in his classroom with a book and all I could see on his face was ―What are you doing here?‖ I made the class aware that I had come there to honor my little brother, Danny.
Lara: What difference did you see in yourself as a result of your mentoring?
Akwasi: My mentoring experience started when I was in college and I learned personal responsibility, leadership, and how to be a mentor, and I even believe I learned some parenting skills which I am using today with my own daughters. I like this question because it has always been my selling point in functions to recruit volunteers. I always emphasize the skills the volunteers will themselves acquire through being mentors.
Lara: How can the BBBS mentoring program be improved?
Akwasi: I believe building a greater community for the Big Brother and Big sisters through events where they can exchange ideas and also build camaraderie will help boost the confidence of many young people to continue mentoring. Online social networking sites are making this possible now in some way, however, creating many opportunities for the mentor to develop and have a sense of belonging will go a long way. Furthermore, having more activities for the children or buddies will offer them more opportunities to meet other children like them. I must say a lot is being done but, as with other things, there is always room for improvement.
100 Years of Big Brothers Big Sisters
Approximately half of the children were randomly
chosen to be matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister.
The others were assigned to a waiting list.
The matched children met with their Big Brothers or
Big Sisters about three times a month for an average
of one year.
Researchers surveyed both the matched
and unmatched children, and their parents on two
occasions: when they first applied for a Big Brother
or Big Sister, and again 18 months later.
Researchers found that after 18 months of spending time with their Bigs, the Little Brothers and Little Sisters, compared to those children not in the program, were:
• 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
• 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
• 52% less likely to skip school
• 37% less likely to skip a class
• 33% less likely to hit someone
For over a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been helping change kids’ perspectives and giving them the opportunity to reach their potential through pairing them up with adult mentors in a one-to-one relationship.
It all started in 1904, when a young New York City court clerk named Ernest Coulter was seeing more and more boys come through his courtroom. He recognized that caring adults could help many of these kids stay out of trouble, and he set out to find volunteers. That marked the beginning of the Big Brothers movement.
Today, Big Brothers Big Sisters operates in all 50 states of America—and in 12 countries around the world.
Public/Private Ventures, an independent Philadelphia-based national research organization, looked at over 950 boys and girls from eight Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies across the country in 1994 and 1995.