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Sharing knowledge to support kids from Alabama to Montana

Steadfast support from an adult mentor can be a transformative force in a young person’s life, but how do you maintain that support in the face of a pandemic that requires people to stay apart?

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) partnered with SNF last spring to help maintain and strengthen these connections between the young people served by the organization and their adult mentors. SNF’s grant to the BBBSA COVID-19 Response Fund not only helped these one-on-one relationships weather a difficult year, but it also forged a less-expected kind of connection: between the BBBSA agencies that received SNF support.

Fifteen BBBSA agencies across the United States, from West Virginia, to Louisiana, to Wisconsin, to Hawaii, received support through the $1 million SNF grant. These midsize agencies, which do not ordinarily receive funding at the national level, established an informal collaborative cohort—the “SNF 15”—to share knowledge and best practices amongst themselves.

This spontaneous grouping proved so successful that they shared out further, informally and formally, to other agencies around the country, about how they were working to meet the needs of young people in their local communities amidst the ongoing effects of the pandemic.

BBBS of Big Sky Country in Bozeman, Montana, which serves an area with some of the highest rates of youth suicide in the country, has implemented Youth Mental Health First Aid, a course which trains adults who work with young people to identify and respond to signs of mental distress or unwellness.

BBBS of Greater Birmingham in Alabama is working to equip their “Bigs”—the adult mentors—to be able to provide homework help to their “Littles,” especially where technological assistance may not be available at home.

And BBBS of East Tennessee in Knoxville launched a computer lab and resource center where families have free access to computers and the internet to be able to participate in online learning, receive tutoring, and take care of other essential tasks.

Read more about how Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has helped guide young people through a period of anxiety, turbulence, and change.