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Student organizing Friends of Big Brothers Big Sisters group at OHIO

First meeting scheduled for Feb. 17

The experiences and support the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) organization provides to youth throughout the country has inspired Ohio University student Mattie Ropelewski to establish a Friends of Big Brothers Big Sisters student organization at OHIO.

The group will hold its first meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17, in Baker University Center 237. Free pizza will be provided.

As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters has for more than 100 years created and supported meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers, known as “Bigs,” and children ages 6 through 18, known as “Littles,” in communities across the U.S.

“I am looking to spread the message of Big Brothers and Big Sisters and how important it is for children to have a mentor,” said Ropelewski, an OHIO junior majoring in social work and psychology and president of OHIO’s Friends of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Ropelewski has been a BBBS mentor since 2009 and has been mentoring with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Athens County organization eight hours a week since May.

According to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Athens County, there are approximately 340 children between the ages of 5 and 17 in need of a mentor in the four counties the organization serves – Athens, Washington, Vinton and Meigs.

“Having a mentor like us, these children can get out and be in an environment that is fun and stress free,” said Ropelewski, who explained that while many high school students volunteer their time with BBBS, college student often don’t realize that those volunteer opportunities exist.

Those interested in becoming “Bigs” may participate in BBBS’ community-based or afterschool mentoring programs.

Locally, the afterschool mentoring program is held at West Elementary School in Athens. The program is supervised and healthy activities are planned. Arrangements with parents can be made for children to be picked up for activities outside the school.

The community-based program involves taking children on fun activities, which can include going to the movies, participating in sports or working on homework. Ropelewski has recently taken her “Little” ice skating and to her home to make gingerbread houses.

“The majority of our ‘Bigs’ come from the Ohio University community and include students, faculty and staff,” said Tracy Kelly, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Athens County and a recent graduate of OHIO’s Master of Public Administration Program. “A lot of people are not aware of the need for responsible adults in children’s lives.

“The need is especially strong for big brothers,” continued Kelly. “They are wait-listed nationally for boys. Some boys have to wait a year for a big brother.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Athens County is gearing up for one of its bigger fundraisers of the year, Bowl for Kids’ Sake 2014, which will be held Sunday, April 6. Money raised during the event will go toward summer events at the organization. For more information, visit http://www.bbbsathens.org/BowlInfo.aspx.

“(Mentoring through BBBS) has been the best experience of my life,” said Ropelewski. “Having a ‘Little’ has been the most rewarding experience I’ve had at Ohio University.”

For more information on the Friends of Big Brothers Big Sisters, contact Ropelewski at mr968710@ohio.edu or visit the group’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FOBBBS.