Thursday, February 10, 2011

Big Brothers and Sisters wanted: UIS students help out

The challenge for Yvonne Wapniarski and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Illinois Capital Region in Springfield is to find adults who fit the preferences of children and their parents, as well as volunteer qualifications.

Wapniarski says that nearly 80 percent of children waiting for a mentor in Sangamon County are African-American and many are young boys who would like an African-American Big Brother. She rarely gets African-American candidates for volunteers until Anthony Thomas-Davis, adviser for the Black Male Collegiate Society at University of Illinois Springfield, contacted her last summer.

Wapniarski told Thomas-Davis, “I was struggling to find African-American male mentors.”

Now 15 volunteers from the Black Male Collegiate Society at UIS have partnered as Big Brothers with children at Matheny-Withrow Elementary in Springfield. The group has met with children during their lunch on Fridays since Jan. 14.

Thomas-Davis, 24, lost both his mother and father as an infant and can relate to children who had a rough upbringing. He says that his Little Brother is “Like me in more ways than one.”

Mentors and children play board games, finish homework or talk about sports.

Black Male Collegiate Society president Justin Rose builds Legos, plays dominoes and talks about his Little Brother’s favorite sport, basketball. Rose, 21, reminds the 11-year-old that, “You have to be a student first – playing sports is a privilege.”

“It gives you something to feel good about,” Rose says. “Not just for you – for that child. It’s just going to get better,” he says. “I’m already attached to my Little Brother and it’s still early.”

The UIS volunteers were featured in a February 10, 2011, article in the Illinois Times.

Download a PDF of the article