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A Big Show By Big Brothers

In December, Professor Jason Kingsbury and undergraduate researcher Julian Ponsetto (BCC’12) created a Chemistry Activities Day for underprivileged Boston youth. Julian, a junior major in the Chemistry Honors program, became a Big Brother his freshman year at Boston College. The Big Brothers (and Big Sisters) program matches young adults with ‘at risk’ children in the greater Boston’s public school system. A pairing begins as a simple friendship and can evolve into a trusted partnership in which the mentor helps to foster the child’s interests and reinforce positive behaviors. When they first met, Julian’s Little Brother Charlie was eleven, and Julian took Boston transit once a week to visit him at school during a lunch hour. The positive influence on Charlie was expected, but reciprocal benefits for Julian were less foreseen. Julian has been amazed at how much he shares in common with Charlie in spite of their different backgrounds. He has been inspired by Charlie’s determination and resolve despite the unique challenges of growing up and attending school in the inner city.

This year, several Boston College Big Brothers worked with the University’s Volunteer and Service Learning Center to create a program for Little Brothers from Roxbury and Dorchester to visit with their Big Brothers on-campus. A Chemistry Activities Day was planned. In what amounted to a magic show orchestrated by Julian at the front of the large lecture hall in Merkert, the teams of Little and Big Brothers were witness to live demonstrations of reactivity and basic chemical principles. Professor Kingsbury was on hand to encourage each student to formulate a working hypothesis before each ‘trick’ was performed. One of the experiments that caught everyone’s attention was the disappearing cup. When styrofoam is immersed in acetone it completely dissolves! Fortunately, a large enough supply of cups was on hand to keep the excitement at a high level. The day was great fun and a huge success.

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