Carolina Youth Development Center
5055 Lackawanna Blvd.
N. Charleston, S.C. 29405
What it is:
Big Brothers Big Sisters provides a measurable prevention approach helping kids do better in school, stay out of trouble, and live happier, better-adjusted lives by matching them with positive adult role models.
What $25 would do:
"Well, it takes about $1,000 per match, so some of it would go to program development, some to recruitment and some to fund-raising. But training would be the first priority if we could use all of it for program costs."
• Gifts for kids over 12
• Craft kits
• Board games
• Grocery store gift certificates
• Tickets to sporting and recreational events
Memminger Elementary School students swarm Chassity Grant the second she steps down the hall.
"Am I on the list? Have you found me a match yet?" one student squeals.
"You're Megan, right?" Grant asks warmly, looking down at a little almond-eyed youth. "Yes Megan, I have your file on my desk. As soon as we get a couple more volunteers, we'll find you a match."
While Grant means it with all earnestness, she knows finding the fifth grader a Big Sister volunteer will be a much bigger challenge than it sounds.
Grant is a coordinator for the Charleston Big Brothers Big Sisters School-based Mentoring program. She manages five schools and over 100 matches.
Like the traditional Big Brothers Big Sisters program, the school-based program pairs "Bigs" or adult volunteers, with "Littles," elementary-age children. The pairs meet once a week during school hours and can participate in any number of activities, including homework. But this is far from just a tutoring session. Kids can talk about class, play games, and most importantly build a friendship with an adult.
Grant has seen firsthand how important these friendships can become. She notes how the last Little she has to check in on just found out that her Big Sister will be graduating from the College of Charleston in December, ending their match.
"These two have been together for a couple of years, so this will be kind of hard," Grant says. Akila, a tall fifth-grader with braids and pigtails, steps out of the science lab.
Proceeding carefully, Grant gently asks the girl how she feels.
"Sad," she says.
With so many children on the waiting list, both the little girl and Grant are well aware that her Big Sister opportunity has come to end, but that doesn't mean they can't celebrate it. "Maybe we could do something special for your last meeting, a special lunch maybe?" Grant offers encouragingly. "Maybe pizza."
"Yeah," the girl smiles, perking up, "with just cheese!"
Mandy Scherer, director of the Charleston Big Brothers Big Sisters, has watched Grant move upward in the program, from an intern to her current position. "Chassity really has a passion. She understands how important mentoring is for people in shaping who they become," Scherer says. "It's over a 40-hour-a-week schedule and not always nine to five. She's there when the kids need her to be there."
There and everywhere.
Grant not only recruits, coordinates with school liaisons, and contacts parents for Big Brothers Big Sisters, but she also volunteers as a community-based Big Sister as well as a lunch buddy at Chicora Elementary School.
"I think she looks at it as ministry, not evangelism, but to do everything with excellence," says Lynn Stafford, Grant's former roommate and fellow parishioner of Christ Temple in Summerville.
It would be hard to do Grant's job without faith considering the challenges.
"Burns in North Charleston is the school most in need," says Grant. "We have around 100 kids on the waiting list there. It's just hard to get volunteers for that school, but we'll do it."
Relentlessly positive, it would be easy for cynics to write off Grant as an idealistic dreamer. After all, how great of an impact can one hour a week with an adult really have on a child?
According to the recent "Making a Difference in Schools: The Big Brothers Big Sisters School-Based Mentoring Impact Study," apparently quite a bit. The study indicates that little brothers and sisters are eight times less likely to be arrested and 50 percent less likely to use drugs than their peers not in the program. They also earn better grades, stay in school longer, and get along better at home and with their peers.
Grant says, "You can't not see the effect you have on these kids."