Like Peas and Carrots

Story by Johnna Walker

The River Valley branch of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of North Central Arkansas strives to make good matches when providing a Big Brother or Big Sister for a Little Brother or Little Sister. An example of a great match is Big Sister Kelli Vogt and Little Sister Victoria Mitchell.

Kelli, 20, is a junior at Arkansas Tech University majoring in Health & Physical Education. She is the daughter of Bill and Kim Vogt. Victoria, 13, is an eighth grader at Dover Junior High School. She wants to be a journalist or a photographer.

Victoria said that her mother wanted her to participate in the program and she was really against it. She felt like she would be older than most of the other “littles.” Her mother insisted, and Victoria is really glad that she did. She and Kelli have become great friends. They have done something together almost once a week for over a year.

Kelli got involved with Big Brothers and Big Sisters because she wanted to help someone who needed a good role model. The participation is completely volunteer based. Kelli said that Victoria’s mom always tries to give her a little spending money and she always turns it down. She adds, “Somehow, when I’m not looking, Victoria always manages sneak in some money and leave it in my car.”

Usually once a week, Kelli picks up Victoria and takes her to her apartment. Kelli said, “We hang out, I cook and we usually rent a movie.” Victoria added, “Yeah, she fast forwards through any bad parts! She will ask me if I liked the movie. I tell her ‘well yes the parts that I saw.’” Victoria adds that Kelli is a good cook. When the two first were matched Kelli says of Victoria, “She was really shy, she would hardly talk at first now she talks a lot.” Victoria calls Kelli, “Fun and really sweet. She really is a good role model.” When asked about Victoria, Kelli said, “Victoria is really smart. She is ranked very high in her class.”

Kelli played softball at Russellville High School and during her first year at Arkansas Tech. Victoria loves softball and plays on a team in the summer. Kelli has one older sister. Victoria has one younger brother. Both Kelli and Victoria have birthdays separated by just a few days in early June.

Robin Trafford, Partnership Specialist with Big Brothers Big Sisters said that Kelli and Victoria are part of the Community Based Program. In this program, Big Brothers and Big Sisters provide children ages 6 through 14 individualized time and attention on a regular basis, typically 2 to 4 hours per week or 8 to 12 hours a month. During unstructured weekly or bi-weekly outings, they develop a relationship that helps youth or “littles” manage the everyday challenges that are part of growing up. During the time with the “big,” “littles” gain new skills, explore new interests, and test behaviors that expand their experience base beyond their family or neighborhood.

Over the course of time, “littles” gain confidence in themselves, acquire new skills and competencies, and develop an enhanced capacity to care for others. Volunteers or “bigs” experience a sense of discovery and enjoyment as they see the world of possibility through the eyes of a child.

One of the components that makes Big Brothers and Big Sisters so successful is the Match Support System. Once a month every “big,” “little” and parent is contacted by telephone or email to make certain things are going as they should for everyone involved in the program. Any questions or concerns are addressed at that time.

An alternative to the community- based program is the Bigs in School program. In this program, teachers identify students who would benefit from a caring adult in their lives. “Bigs” and “littles” meet once a week during the school year. Whether they play board games, or go to the computer lab or just visit, the relationship promotes a positive school experience for the child and tends to increase attendance, and promotes a positive attitude and academic enrichment.

When beginning the program, participants complete an interest inventory. Then “bigs” and “littles” with similar interests are matched. Volunteers commit to participate in the program for one year, but Trafford said there are many “bigs” and “little’s” who have been together for several years.

Kelli said, “I would like to be with Victoria until I graduate. I am getting married this summer, but I still have one more year of college.”

Victoria commented, “I know she will be married and busy, but I would like to continue with Kelli. I love her.”

For more information on how to volunteer with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, contact the office at 968-5525 or email them at bbsmatches@ suddenlinkmail.com.

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