For Maddie McFadden and her Little Sister, it can be about making cupcakes or simply hanging out at the playground.
“It’s about what they want to do,” said the fourth-year Kinesiology student. “She can chat to me about her teacher, her class and what’s going on in her life. We can talk about anything. It’s another outlet to share.”
McFadden’s involvement with the Big Brothers Big Sisters in-school mentoring program is just the latest in her championing of the local organization’s work in the London and surrounding communities. It began in her first year at Western when, through the encouragement of her employer, she was introduced to the many programs offered through Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“When you think of Big Brothers Big Sisters, the first thing you think of is the one-on-one aspect it is known for. But they offer a lot of great programs which are a perfect fit into the schedule of students at university,” said McFadden, noting programs can be as simple as one hour a week.
She began as part of the Go Girls program, a once-a-week mentoring program for Grade 8 girls. McFadden continued this through third year, but her class schedule this year did not allow for it, which led her to the in-school mentoring program.
“It just shows you there are programs that can fit into any schedule,” she said.
Her interest in Big Brothers Big Sisters got her to see what was being offered at Western. Finding nothing, she helped create Bigs on Campus, a student-run program that works to promote postsecondary education’s academic and extracurricular aspects.
The program matches youth aged 13 and over with Western students. Together, they take part in on-campus activities – everything from mock lectures and campus tours, to scavenger hunts and musical or sporting events.
McFadden added it is a great way for students to be part of their community by becoming positive role models and showing access to education is available to all young people.
“They are able to come to campus and see what it’s all about,” she said. “They can see the fun things on campus and how they can get involved in so many activities.”
Run through the Student Success Centre, Bigs on Campus is not a University Students’ Council-funded group, so they hold a variety of fundraisers throughout the year in order to bring the kids to campus. In addition, they offer small scholarships to selected mentees who participate in the campus events. Bigs on Campus members also offer free proof-reading of papers and assignments of mentees.
McFadden is also helping to promote Be 1 in 1,000, the latest Big Brothers Big Sisters initiative looking to match the almost 1,000 young children across southwestern Ontario with a mentor.
“There are 11 agencies taking part in this and the idea is to bring that number down as much as we can,” McFadden said. “Remember, it only has to be an hour a week, if that’s what you can offer.”
Planning to return for a fifth year at Western, McFadden will continue her involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“Being able to watch them grow, I really enjoy it – it’s not work. It’s really rewarding for me,” she said. “I’ve been able to see so many girls become more confident, build more self-esteem, perhaps become friends with others they may not have before.
“This is definitely a two-way street, though. It’s a nice feeling when you have someone who looks up to you and where you can make a difference in whatever they may be going through.”
To learn more about Bigs on Campus, visit facebook.com/BigsOnCampus or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about the Be 1 in 1000 initiative, visit bbbsBe1in1000challenge.com.