SCHOOL FRIENDS VIRTUAL PROGRAM
What is School Friends?
School Friends is a site-based mentoring program at 11 schools/sites throughout Madison, primarily in partnership with Madison Metropolitan School District. Mentoring takes place at the Little's school once per week during the 9-month school year, usually during lunch or after school. Pre-pandemic, this program served around 150 youth annually.
What happened when COVID hit?
In March 2020, all our School Friends sites were abruptly closed as a result of the pandemic. We had about 85 Littles actively Matched at that time. In the summer, we reached out to all those Bigs and Littles to see if they had interest in continuing their Match virtually, and had about 25 Matches decide to meet weekly on their own time. The remaining 60 Matches were closed as a result of scheduling issues, the Big/Little moving, etc. These 60 Littles are still enrolled in our program, but need a new Big in order to continue being mentored.
What is the new School Friends Virtual Program?
Our School Friends program has been redesigned to virtually meet the mentoring needs of Littles who were previously matched in our in-person School Friends program. We have been piloting this virtual program with some of the 25 Matches that were still meeting, and it has been very successful. As a result, we are planning to re-match the remaining 60 Littles with new Bigs in January 2021.
How does the School Friends Virtual Program work?
Once a week for 45 minutes, Bigs and Littles will log into Zoom and meet during one of our scheduled School Friends sessions. Multiple Matches will log-in at the same time, and BBBS staff will move each Match into their own breakout room. While Matches can simply visit and get to know each other, BBBS staff will also provide get-to-know-you activities, online games, and ideas of things to do virtually during the session.
What is the time commitment for the School Friends Virtual Program?
In order to best align with MMSD school schedules, the School Friends Virtual Program is only offered on Wednesdays, with sessions from 12:00-12:45pm and 4:00-4:45pm. During the volunteer application process, you will pick your preferred session, and will always meet your Little at that same time each week.
We are asking that new Bigs commit to mentoring their Little through at least May 2021. With a virtual format, we are hopeful that mentoring relationships can continue through the summer and into the fall, where possible. But we also recognize that with shifting public health needs, this program may need to shift, too, so we are reducing our typical 2-year commitment to ensure these Littles don’t have to wait any longer for a mentor.
Preferred Start Date: Wednesday, January 6th
FOR UW-MADISON STUDENTS—we are aware that UW-Madison classes don’t resume until later in January, and understand that may mean some prospective mentors can’t start until late January/early February. But given the minimal weekly time commitment and the ability to log-in anywhere, we are hopeful that UW-Madison mentors can still begin when MMSD starts in early January. We’ll discuss your start date during the volunteer application process, and can be flexible as needed.
What are the requirements to be a Big in the School Friends Virtual Program?
- Must be at least 18-years-old
- Can commit to meeting with a Little each Wednesday (12:00pm or 4:00pm) via Zoom from
January through mid-May, at least
- Can pass a federal, state and local background check (no credit check)
What is the application process to become a Big in the School Friends Virtual Program?
Joel Gove, our Enrollment & Matching Manager, can answer any questions you have about the program and the application process. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 608-661-5437 ext. 106.
Here’s what to expect through the application process, which will take a few weeks to complete:
- Inquiry Call (optional): If you want to learn more before applying, click here to schedule a timefor a 5-10 minute phone call with Joel.
- Volunteer Application: You can fill out an online application at www.bbbsmadison.org/volunteer/ (click the “Volunteer Sign Up” button), or reach out to Joel (contact info above) and he can send you a digital or paper application. We also need a copy of an ID card (driver’s license, school ID, etc.).
- Background Checks: In your application, you’ll give permission for us to run your background checks, and we’ll do these prior to your interview.
- Volunteer Interview: This 30-60 minute interview will be conducted via Google Hangouts, and will help us learn more about you to make sure we find the perfect match for you and your future Little.
- Reference Checks: On your application, you’ll give us one family member reference, one non-family reference, and a reference from any Youth Service Organization you’ve served at within the past 5 years. We’ll conduct these calls after your interview. We appreciate you giving your references a heads up so they answer our calls and help us get you matched quickly!
- Orientation: Typically, we offer an in-person orientation for all new mentors to go over expectations, common issues that arise, safety guidelines, etc. We are still developing this, but expect to have a short virtual orientation prior to your start date.