In the News

1. Austin, Texas

In Austin, TX, Big Brothers Big Sisters and United Way are working together in new, strategic ways to help struggling middle schoolers achieve school success.

Middle School Matters brings together social, family, community, and out-of-classroom supports to boost graduation rates, improve academic performance and increase parent involvement. United Way Capital Area is investing $1 million and 16 partners – including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas — are providing coordinated services like mentoring, tutoring, parent education, and after-school programs. The integrated, highly coordinated approach is being piloted in three high-risk middle schools, with support from Applied Materials, Inc. and IBM.

The joint project goals are an increase in the percentage of youth with positive connections to at least one adult, increased attendance, promotion to the next grade level, improved behavior, and more youth reporting increased college aspirations.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas works closely with three high-risk middle schools, pairing students with one-to-one mentors. Unlike other school-based mentoring programs, the Middle School Mentoring Program allows mentors to meet their mentees in both community and academic settings.

"This means parents are an integral part of the program's success," said Brent Fields, CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas. "When we engage parents as partners in their children's success, we see longer mentoring matches, which improve outcomes for those children."

Big Brothers Big Sisters and United Way worked together to define community indicators for mentoring, including a 50% increase in the length of the mentoring match. They also worked with the largest school district to provide community providers with access to aggregate student data.

2. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Before Ramelo met his Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor in 2010, his mother, Maryse Muller, described her son as "just not caring" and "lost," having no motivation to succeed. Muller says she now sees 15-year-old Ramelo "becoming the young man I always hoped he would become." Ramelo recently achieved school Honor Roll for the first time, saying his Big Brother helped him "learn how important it is to push myself."

Two years ago, the United Way of Broward County began requiring youth serving partners to use school data to measure program performance. Because access to students' electronic records requires parental permission, the requirement has forged closer connections between Big Brothers Big Sisters and mentee parents.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County President and CEO Ana Cedeno said the agency's match support specialists serve as a bridge, directing families to other United Way resources that focus on poverty, single-parenting, parental incarceration, language and cultural differences, and other issues that often impact high risk students' support systems. Cedeno believes that closer connection with parents has contributed greatly to the pilot's early success.

Among youth enrolled during the 2010-2011 funding cycle, 87 percent have shown improvement in knowledge/academics; 95 percent have demonstrated improved social interaction/confidence; and 88 percent have demonstrated improvement in their attitudes/behavior.

"We serve an incredibly diverse mix of families representing 52 languages and ethnicities – Latino, African American and a range of Caribbean cultures," Cedeno said. "Families can easily become isolated in their own neighborhoods. Partnering with us to help their children succeed can empower parents as participants in their child's education and as citizens in the greater Fort Lauderdale community."

The Broward County Public School system has been a central supporter of the unique partnership.

"I am excited about the momentum of this program and look forward to creating an environment that encourages even greater outcomes. The first college graduate in a Jamaican-American family, I believe we must leverage the diverse resources of our unique community to dramatically transform public education," said Robert W. Runcie, Broward County Superintendent of Schools. "All children deserve to receive resources necessary to give them the quality education they deserve.

3. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

In Winston-Salem, the United Way of Forsyth County is leveraging its role as funder of mentoring and other youth programs, working instead as a strategic partner with the agencies to align their efforts against a common goal of increasing the local graduation rate from 74 to 90 percent by 2018.

Three years ago, through Winston-Salem's Big Brothers Big Sisters, Sheryll Strode met her Little Sister mentee, Brianna, whose enrollment was part of the "Graduate. It pays" program, which paired repeat ninth graders (and has since expanded to include struggling ninth graders) with one-to-one mentors. It's part of part of a comprehensive resource funding partnership headed by the United Way of Forsyth County. Today, 73 percent of the students in the program during its first year are still enrolled in school, 81 percent of whom are scheduled to graduate with their 2012 class.

That success is partially due to the caring adults who stepped up in the community, said Amy R. Mack, President and Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters Services, Inc. "Finding caring adults interested in serving this population felt like a stretch but our inaugural volunteers for the 'Graduate. It pays.' program not only met the challenge, but exceeded our expectations," she said. "The relationships flourished and student performance improved. Prior to being matched with mentors, these students demonstrated risk factors for dropping out, and some even said that was their intention."

Big Brothers Big Sisters is also part of the "Graduating Our Future" program, a similar partnership with United Way, the YMCA and the Winston Salem/ Forsyth County School System that provides year-long, one-to-one mentoring for students in high drop-out-rate middle schools. New Big Brothers Big Sisters Youth Outcomes Survey results find students paired for one year or longer are improving in educational, behavioral and socio-emotional areas.

Big Brothers Big Sisters will build on this data as part of a pilot in the Community Data Sharing project. Funded through United Way and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, the program connects local agencies to individual educational achievement data, allowing programs to connect youth survey data to academic results. United Way is working with Big Brothers Big Sisters to expand this successful program to include more middle and elementary schools.

4. Louisville, Kentucky

Two years ago, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kentuckiana partnered with Louisville's Metro United Way to launch "Turning Up the Heat." The program strengthens one-to-one, community-based mentoring with group activities that expose middle school students to colleges and careers.

"This kind of community-based mentoring is unique for our agency in that parents of students in the program allow us to access their children's school records," said Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kentuckiana President and Chief Executive Officer Jeri Swinton. "This enables us to provide guidance to mentors to help them work on or enlist other resources to target specific academic or behavioral issues."
Big Brothers Big Sisters Youth Outcomes Survey data reflects improvements in pilot mentees' grades, behavior and socio-emotional outcomes.

Mentors make a one-year commitment to spend quality time with their mentees two to three times each month. The one-to-one activities are supplemented with participation in coordinated community activities, including college tours, motivational presentations and career workshops offered by other Metro United Way-funded partners.

About Big Brothers Big Sisters

Big Brothers Big Sisters, the nation's largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, holds itself accountable for children in its program to achieve measurable outcomes, such as educational success; avoidance risky of behaviors; and higher aspirations, greater confidence and better relationships. Partnering with parents/guardians, schools, corporations and others in the community, Big Brothers Big Sisters carefully pairs children ("Littles") with screened volunteer mentors ("Bigs") and monitors and supports these one-to-one mentoring matches throughout their course. The first-ever Big Brothers Big Sisters Youth Outcomes Summary, released in 2012, substantiates that its mentoring programs have proven, positive academic, socio-emotional and behavioral outcomes for youth, areas linked to high school graduation, avoidance of juvenile delinquency and college or job readiness. Learn how you can positively impact a child's life, donate or volunteer at

United Way USA

United Way USA is comprised of more than 1,200 community-based United Ways in the U.S., and it is part of a worldwide network of nearly 1,800 United Ways in 41 countries and territories. It advances the common good, creating opportunities for a better life for all, by focusing on education, income and health – the building blocks for a good quality of life. United Way recruits the people and organizations from all across the community who bring the passion, expertise and resources needed to get things done. LIVE UNITED is a call to action for everyone to become part of the change. For more information, please visit:


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