South Bend begins school-based mentoring program

SOUTH BEND - This January our country will celebrate the 13th Annual National Mentoring Month, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington is aiming to expand the quality of mentoring programs in north Pacific County. The South Bend School District is currently enrolling students for their school based Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Students from Chauncey Davis Elementary are signing up to participate as ‘Littles’ and the South Bend High School students are enrolling as ‘Bigs’. When a Little and a Big become matched in the program, they will meet once per week for an hour. The relationship between the Big and Little will last for an entire year.

Big Brother Big Sisters became an opportunity for South Bend Schools when they applied and received a grant through AmeriCorps. The grant was also in partnership with Public Health of Pacific County, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington as well as the South Bend School District.

We are really excited about this program and the opportunities it provides for our kids, both the younger and older kids,” said Superintendent of South Bend School District Mike Morris. “Both of the “brothers” or “sisters” can learn a lot from one another. I would have loved to have had this opportunity as a young boy growing up here!”

With their AmeriCorps grant, the South Bend School District was able to hire a Mentoring Coordinator. Gracie Manlow, a South Bend alum, was hired to establish and oversee the program.

This program can be so beneficial for the elementary students as well as the high school kids,” Manlow said. “Mentor relationships can improve confidence, educational success and overall well-being for both participating parties.”

The South Bend program currently has 15 active matches with more interested kids each day.

It’s great that the Littles have a positive role model that they look forward to seeing each week,” Kresta Byington, Chauncey Davis Elementary Principal, said. “A Big is someone that makes them feel important. Sharing positive experiences at school makes school a positive place to be.”

The Bigs are excused from class and walk to the elementary pick up their Littles. From there, the students gather in the library and spend the next hour playing board games, working on arts and crafts or studying. When the hour is finished, the Bigs return the Littles to class and finish the rest of the school day.

As the month of January draws near a close, the message of National Mentoring Month remains relevant: Be someone who matters, to someone who matters. Mentoring relationships are basic human connections that let a young person know they matter; and mentors frequently report back that their relationships make them like they are making a difference in another person’s life.

To learn more about the school based Big Brothers Big Sisters program at South Bend, or to find volunteer opportunities please contact Manlow at