CoMo Community: Big Brothers Big Sisters

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri

The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported 1-to-1 relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.

We partner with parents/guardians, volunteers and others in the community and hold ourselves accountable for each child in our program achieving:

  • Higher aspirations, greater confidence, and better relationships
  • Avoidance of risky behaviors
  • Educational success

A 44 Year History in Columbia, Missouri:  Big Brothers Big Sisters was started in 1968 in Columbia with a singular focus – to mentor at-risk youth (6-14) one-on-one. Over the years it was a part of two different organizations and became incorporated on its own in 1991. In 2005 Audrain County was added to the Boone County organization and in 2007 Randolph County was added.  When the expansion began the name was changed to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri.

Local and National – How Does It Really Work?:  Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri is an affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. We go through yearly accreditation checks by the national agency; we pay national dues that amount to about .0125 of our yearly budget.  Each local organization shares a vision and mission statement, but there can be deviations as to program.  Most have our two main programs:  Community-Based and School-Based Mentoring.  Our S.O.A.R. (Successful Opportunities in Academics and Recreation) which is our waiting list program with our partner, MU Service Learning, is unique to Columbia. Our waiting list children enjoy community activities in small groups with Service Learning students weekly while they are waiting to get their own Big Brother or Big Sister.  All local organizations go to a yearly national convention to vote on national programs and policies that we all adhere to. We are locally governed by a local Board of Directors.

What do most Columbians already know about your organization?:  Most Columbians know that we match role-model adults with at-risk children to participate in activities together.  The children that we work with are children of single parents, of incarcerated parents, and foster children in our Community-Based program and any child referred by a school teacher/counselor in our School-Based program.

What would surprise many Columbians about your organization?:  Although economics is not a criteria, an average of 95% of our children are on free/reduced lunches indicating some degree of poverty; 66% are African American; and just about all are 1-3 levels below where they should be according to their grade level when they come into the program.

The weekly activities build healthy relationships that produce interesting outcomes.  A couple of years ago we had a U.S. Department of Education grant for School-Based Mentoring.  The grant required goals of 5% improvement in reading, writing and mathematics and a 10% decrease in truancy.  After our mentors had worked with the children for one school year the University of Missouri researcher found that our children had averaged 29% improvement in reading, 24% improvement in writing, and 19% improvement in match plus a 35% decrease in truancy.

Our Big Brothers and Big Sisters are not told what specific activities to do. The School-Based matches have a trunk of educational games and activities but no one gives them a specific plan.  Much of the growth is achieved because of the motivation that is shared by the mentor and the interest that the mentor has in the child and in his/her mental, emotional and social growth.  Kids pick up on that and aspire to do better.

We also have programs in Mexico and Moberly.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Missouri By The Numbers:

We have 700 – 800 Big/Little matches yearly.

In the question above you see local short term outcomes.  Two years ago a research firm surveyed100 former Little Brothers and Little Sisters (alumni) and compared them to 100 adults from similar demographs growing up.  They found that BBBS alumni were:

  • More likely to have a college degree;
  • More likely to be making more money;
  • Rated their spouse, their own children, and their friends at a higher rate;
  • And were more likely to be community volunteers and/or leaders.

Volunteers Are Key:  Every child has their own one-on-one mentor that they share activities with.  Unfortunatly, We never have enough Bigs. There are 60 kids waiting currently.  One third are girls and two thirds boys.

In the Community-Based program mentors can start at any time of the year. School-Based mentors can only start September – February because there is such a short time between March and the end of school.  It would be best of a potential School-Based mentor will start the process of being interviewed during the summer so that they will be ready when school starts.

We encourage Columbians to become mentors. To do so call us at 573-874-3677, attend an orientation and interview. We will check your criminal, driving and child abuse record. We then place you with a child that matches your preference in program (Community-Based or School-Based), age, activity interests, etc.


If You Can’t Be A Mentor, How Can You Help?  You can donate money.  We must raise over $100,000 a year to pay for staff who interview/check potential mentors, train mentors, match them with appropriate children and monthly contact mentor and parent for additional training and consultation.

You can volunteer your time to work on a committee perhaps to plan a fundraising event or a group activity for the Big/Little matches.

You can donate any activity tickets such as athletic events, theater tickets, movie tickets, etc that you will not use and we will distribute them to Big/Little matches.

This information was provided by Georgalu Swoboda, Executive Director of BBBS of Central Missouri who says that her favorite part of working at BBBS is ” hearing about the positive changes that are made in the child’s life because he/she was mentored by a Big Brother or Big Sister.”


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