Workplace Mentoring Makes a Big Impact on Littles' Lives

Photo: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa

Photo: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa

Thinking back on your childhood, ask yourself: Who was there for me? What would I have done without them? There were people in my life that directly and positively affected my development, and I believe every child should have a chance for that type of support. This why I’ve chosen to serve at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa as a Fellow with Future Leaders in Action.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa’s aim is to impact youth by empowering them to discover and achieve their goals through meaningful one-on-one mentoring relationships. According to the Public/Private Ventures study and countless testimonials, matches make a lasting impact in children’s lives. I wanted to serve as a Fellow because I know the importance of these relationships.

This summer I will be developing a three year, rotating curriculum for our Workplace Mentoring Program. As a part of our School Based program, our Workplace Mentoring Program aims to match middle school students with area businesspeople to participate in personal and professional development activities such as learning basic career concepts, skill inventories, self-esteem building, team building, engaging in business culture with Bigs, and activities designed to help envision life after high school. Our intended outcomes are to help youth stay in school, graduate high school on time, and develop a plan for post-secondary and career success. We just completed our second year of the program with five partner companies in the Des Moines metro area, with around thirty Big/Little pairs at each location.

“I always look forward to going to the program. I like that I can ask my Big Sister about whatever happens in life.”
— Little Sister Jahdiel

BBBS, in part, created this program in response to community need. Many young people in our community lack skills for employment. In 2016, the Des Moines Public Schools four-year high school graduation rate was 81 percent versus 91 percent statewide. In 2014, 53 percent were deemed college and career ready. Our Workplace Mentor Program aims to combat these trends from an early age in an innovative way. Programming offers goal-setting, soft skill development, and motivation for young students to envision their path through high school, post-secondary education, and to a career. This is done with the guidance of someone who’s gone through a similar process, ready to offer advice and support as needed. The added benefit of one-on-one mentoring complements skill-building with a quality relationship that stretches beyond biweekly meetings. Our corporate partners and their employees benefit, too—partners see improved morale, higher employee retention rates, and stronger ties to the community.

During my time as a student at the University of Northern Iowa, I was involved in creating interactive curriculum for incoming freshman. I had the opportunity to collaborate with students and faculty to make research-based, engaging programming to not only inform, but give meaning to information conveyed. This experience will be highly beneficial as I move forward in my curriculum research. I’m grateful for this opportunity to use my skills to help better the Des Moines community, and I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned in this position to my next venture!