February 2005 probably does not ring a bell for Frederick, an A.P. Hill Elementary School student, as far as historic dates go. Chances are, he’s never heard of the Cameron Foundation, either. What rocked his world this month was meeting Elliott Reed for the first time, a tall and enthusiastic Virginia State University student who […]
February 2005 probably does not ring a bell for Frederick, an A.P. Hill Elementary School student, as far as historic dates go. Chances are, he’s never heard of the Cameron Foundation, either. What rocked his world this month was meeting Elliott Reed for the first time, a tall and enthusiastic Virginia State University student who will be his “Big Brother.” He craned his neck and a grin spread from ear to ear as they met in an A.P. Hill Elementary School classroom and started talking about football and jazz.
So what is so special about February, 2005? That is when the long-time goal of Big Brothers Big Sisters to establish a chapter in Hopewell-Petersburg, got a $23,500 boost from the Cameron Foundation, with the participation of Richard Bland College of the College of William and Mary. A year later, the Hopewell-based John Randolph Foundation offered a $12,500 grant and then the Cameron Foundation added another grant — funding that will change young lives forever.
Having put down roots at JEB Stuart Elementary in Petersburg and seeing the pilot program blossom there, BBBS added an after-school component at R. E. Lee Elementary, on the other side of the city. BBBS was ready this year to expand again, and A.P. Hill Elementary was chosen as its latest partnership site. Eventually, BBBS would like to have 80 Bigs and Littles matched in Petersburg, according to Sarah Gould, BBBS Tri-Cities coordinator.
“After the second year in Petersburg, all of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters had had such positive experiences with their Littles that they started telling their friends about it and floods of interested volunteers contacted us. I knew it was going to be huge,” Gould said.
Thanks to the Beta Gamma Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., of which all its chapter members at VSU now serve as Big Brothers, the Petersburg area has more male volunteers than the national average, who are paired with boys in need of mentoring, she added. The nationally unprecedented amount of African-American male mentors in Petersburg speaks volumes to how gifted the Petersburg children are as students and friends.
“A lot of people don’t think men are there for kids. But there are some good men who want to help kids,” said Antonio Raynor, one of the new Bigs, who has agreed to fit this new role in his life into his busy collegiate schedule.
BBBS has been pairing up young people for almost a century, in a careful process. Each partnership signs a contract, agreeing to work towards three goals for the “Little,” which may include improving academic performance or taking steps to improve his or her self-confidence. A professional puts together those goals, based on the “Little’s” specific needs, and the partnership has access to a number of helpful resources.
Locally, the Littles have already visited the campuses of Richard Bland College and Virginia State University, learning about higher education alongside of their new Bigs.