By: Wesley Stine
As the year 2016 draws to a close, Horizons has been asked to shine a light on one of the older, but lesser-known student groups on campus, the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program. “It’s a program we have here in Yavapai County,” said student recruitment leader Keti Robeli. “I’ve been a part of it for about a year now… We have a club on campus, but we’re trying to get it more exposed.”
Robeli, a senior in Aerospace Engineering, is one of 70 active Big Brothers and Big Sisters among the students of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. His club is open to all majors, though students who wish to join are asked to do so before their senior year.
“The program is focused on matching Littles to grownups or, preferably, college students,” said Robeli. “The [Little Brothers and Little Sisters] don’t have much to do; most of them are living in a single parent household and don’t see much of the city or the world.” He explained how the organization’s goal is to give them role models to look up to.
Robeli then described his own experience in the program. “My Little is Andrés,” he said. “He’s twelve years old now; we’ve been matched for a year now…. The program does a good job matching you with someone who shares your interests…. We often play football, basketball, and other sports…. A lot of the things you do with them are their first time. I took him to his first baseball game, his first bowling…”
Robeli recounted how the Big Brothers and Big Sisters often see their Littles “laughing or smiling or doing something they’ve never done before…. It really brightens up your day.”
While Big Brothers Big Sisters was incorporated as an Embry-Riddle Student Group just this year, the organization has been on campus for much longer. Active in the city for 45 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been recruiting from among Embry-Riddle students for the last three decades.
“Michael Smith has been involved with the school for at least ten years,” said Robeli. “He’s our Regional Coordinator. He’s the one who will interview you if you are interested in becoming a Big.”
Regarding the commitment necessary to join Big Brothers Big Sisters, Robeli said that “the only main requirement is to be matched for at least a year…. It’s not hit and go, hi and bye.” The program recommends that its members be with their Little Brothers or Little Sisters about six hours per month.
“I usually meet with [Andrés] about once every one-and-a-half or two weeks,” Robeli said. “It doesn’t matter much whether you’re spending 30 minutes with them out of your day, or an hour and 45 minutes…. They’re shy at first, but just being with them is the biggest thing.”
Anyone aged 18 or older can join Big Brothers Big Sisters, though the program mostly recruits younger adults so that they can more easily relate to the children. The children themselves range from first graders to high school.
“There’s a good matching process,” Robeli said. “You get to choose which age level to be matched to, [and] they match you with the best fit for the age group you decide.”
The current president of the Embry-Riddle group is Casandra Freeman of California, a junior in Aerospace Engineering.
“If you guys want to learn more about the program, you can contact me or Cassandra or even Michael Smith,” Robeli said. “In general,” he added, “being on the program has been a very beneficial thing, if not the most beneficial thing on campus, and it really does make an impact in your life, as well as the life of your Little.”