UNH students help local, at- risk youths out in “big” way
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 15:03
The average person smiles 50 times a day. But these smiles may be concealing the adversity that some experience while growing up in harsh communities. Many of these individuals face hardships and are considered to be at-risk youth.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Seacoast Area is a nonprofit organization with the aim of providing kids with positive role models.
The group helps the Rockingham and Strafford counties, a total of 39 towns.
As stated on its website, the organization’s mission is to “provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.”
“I really love working with the children, the family and the volunteers,” said Enrollment Matching Advisor Lauren Bradshaw. “I make matches, so my most rewarding moment is being able to introduce them to each other and see how happy the kids are to meet someone then, in the future, seeing them with the relationships that they have built.”
BBBS directly helps youth from the ages of six to 18. This organization exists all over the country, helping thousands of youths.
Office Manager Jan Williams explained the process of getting involved. Initially, there is an application and interview process. After passing that, there is a layered background check, which uncovers any criminal or driving records. If the applicant passes the testing process, then they will become a “big.” Currently there are over 300 matches.
UNH students are involved in BBBS in many ways. Last year, BBBS held a match makeover contest, which a big brother from UNH won.
“The big brother was an outdoorsy guy who loved to hike, while his little didn’t get many opportunities to do such things because he didn’t have a father figure in his life,” said Alyssa Salmon, the marketing and communications director at BBBS. “They then put together a diorama of pictures of them rock climbing and slogans from magazines, and it was very neat to see the little expand what he could usually do.”
Many of UNH’s sports teams have had involvement with the BBBS organization. A few members of the men’s soccer team were involved last month with an event called Start Something Big Day.
This event was designed to help children on the waiting list to be matched for the day and just have fun.
Another event brought BBBS youths to a UNH women's hockey game.
“The little had her face pressed against the glass in excitement,” Salmon said. “I received a thank-you email for organizing the tickets. I then forwarded it to the women’s hockey team, and they were thrilled that they made an impact on the girl.
“UNH often gives tickets for sporting events to BBBS for matches to have a fun activity to do. UNH has a long history with BBBS, and between becoming a big, interning and offering sports tickets, any little offering will help a great cause.”
There are many UNH students currently involved in the program helping youths in the Greater Seacoast area.
“The most rewarding moment I have had while volunteering was completing a Lego Christmas village with my little… I played with Legos a lot when I was a kid, and it was his idea, so it was a great way for us to connect,” said UNH sophomore Matt Doubleday.
“It took us two or three visits to complete, so it was nice to see the end product on something that took us about a month to finish. Watching his eyes light up as the train went around the track with the Christmas village in the middle was a very rewarding moment for me.”
UNH senior Sarah Dobush said, “The most rewarding thing about being an intern at BBBS is knowing that no matter what I’m doing, whether it is big or small, its helping extremely desiring children be matched with someone that’s going to help them reach their fullest potential.”
During a typical meeting, the big plans a low-key, low-cost or free activity for the two to do together. They talk and have fun for about two hours around two to four times a month.
Martin Ritsch, a senior at UNH, has been directly affected by this organization, as he was a little when he was younger.
“Meeting my big brother was great,” Ritsch said. “I can’t remember our first experience since I was probably 10 or so at the time, but I loved him.”