Identifying, understanding and supporting Learning Differences across the Big Brothers Big Sisters Network
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) provides children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. Its grant supports building staff and mentor capacity to understand the challenges diverse learners face in school, and to serve as educational advocates for youth with learning differences.
“Funding from the Oak Foundation has aided at-risk youth and contributed to the creation of the Promoting Enhanced Resiliency and Learning (PERL) project…we have developed educational materials to educate mentors and staff on how to best assist youth in developing skills, including goal setting, growth mindset, and academic self-efficacy.”
– BBBSA CEO Pam Lorio
ABOUT THE ORGANISATION
As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer-supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”) in communities across the country. Research on the BBBS community-based mentoring model has shown that one-to-one mentoring has a significant impact on social and educational outcomes. Overall, youth enrolled in BBBS programs are 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27% less likely to begin using alcohol, and 52% less likely to skip school. The same study found that BBBS matches consistently spend more time together and continue their match for longer periods than other youth mentoring programs.
ABOUT THE OAK FUNDED PROJECT
With funding from Oak, BBBSA is changing its culture and approach when it comes to serving youth with learning differences or youth who are struggling in school. BBBSA has made significant progress in designing sophisticated pilot programs and evaluation measures that can now be used by more than 300 affiliates across the country through its “Promoting Enhanced Resiliency and Learning” (PERL) project. Training for staff and mentors is now emphasizing the importance of developing non-cognitive skills, which can lead to improved academic self-efficacy, school engagement, hope, and goal-setting, and a positive growth mind-set. These factors combined serve to strengthen the mentoring relationship, as mentors can now position themselves as academic advocates for their Littles.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
What have you accomplished through your Oak-funded programme that you’re most proud to share with your colleagues?
What’s the most interesting challenge your Oak-funded programme currently faces?
The most interesting challenge facing our partners centers around our efforts at Compass Academy to simultaneously achieve and drive outcomes in student achievement, social emotional development and
bi-literacy. Not only is Compass Academy a new endeavor that requires rapid learning and improvement, but we are also trying to do something different and dynamic in education — instill in students, teachers, staff, and families the core Learner & Leader competencies that enable success in today’s rapidly changing world. There is no existing blueprint for how to get this right, which means we must be vigilant in documenting what we learn so that, in the long-term, we create a plan that benefits and inspires others in our community and the field.
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Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. With offices in Europe, Africa, India and North America, we make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.
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