Big Brothers-Big Sisters Tie Is Formalized
A gift from a Boston College alumnus has laid the groundwork for a formalized program between the University and Big Brothers-Big Sisters
ByA gift from a Boston College alumnus has laid the groundwork for a formalized program between the University and Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay.
William Dwyer ’80, managing director and president of National Sales and Marketing at LPL Financial, and his wife, Chris ’82, have funded a pilot program being administered this year by the Volunteer and Service Learning Center. The program has paired 10 BC students with children from the Franklin Field Housing Development in Dorchester.
Although many BC students have donated time as Big Brothers or Big Sisters in the past, the new program offers more resources: activities on campus, a van to pick up and drop off the children — often referred to as “littles” in the program — and collaboration and reflection opportunities for the student volunteers.
“We really have to give thanks to Bill Dwyer, who came up with an idea to support a unique program here at his alma mater,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Patrick Rombalski. “To Bill’s credit, he had his own powerful mentor experience when he was younger and sees value in investing in what he knows can become transformational moments in a young person’s life.”
For Will Bricker ‘12, that transformative moment took place when he found a connection through a common language with nine-year-old Julio. Bricker, who participated in Big Brothers-Big Sisters prior to the BC program, is helping to establish a strong student leadership element in the program through oversight, recruitment and activity planning.
Recently emigrated from the Dominican Republic, Julio spent much of his time after school at the West End Boys & Girls Club, but had trouble making friends because of his limited English. When Bricker – who is fluent in Spanish – met Julio, the child was not shy in lobbying for the economics major to be his “big brother.”
“Ours is a unique situation,” said Bricker. “He must have asked me 100 times to be his big brother. Usually it’s a blind match. But that’s the kind of weight this program carries for the children in his neighborhood. They seek out the opportunity. And, on my end, it’s been a privilege to get to know him and humbling to see the impact you can make on the life of a child.
“It’s finding value in the little things. Playing basketball, buying a candy bar from a vending machine – I mean really small acts that mean the world to them,” said Bricker.
Volunteer and Service Learning Center Director Dan Ponsetto said the work being done by the Big Brothers-Big Sisters on the BC campus speaks directly to the mission of the University.
"Sometimes there is a perception here at BC that you have to get on a plane and fly somewhere far away to have a life-changing experience. This program demonstrates that our students can engage in relational work that is potentially transformational right here in Boston," said Ponsetto. "And that can be as, if not more, rewarding. I've seen the impact being a Big Brother or Big Sister can have on students. I have seen what an impact it has had on my own son [BC student Julian Ponsetto '12]."
Alexander Eaton ’11, said the partnership will afford more BC students the chance to participate. Before the program, Eaton would spend countless hours on the T, visiting his “little brother” Jeremy, who lives near Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester. Now Jeremy and other “littles” are picked up by a van at their homes and come to BC where they play on the football field or in the Flynn Recreation Complex, or conduct experiments in the chemistry labs.
“The partnership is great because many of Jeremy’s friends are dying to be paired up with BC students. But because of where they live it’s very hard for students without cars to become active in the program,” said Eaton. “It’s nice that now, the ‘littles’ will be able to come to campus – a place that is safe and academically focused, so it gets them thinking about why getting good grades is important – and more BC students can get involved.”