By Tyler Kennedy
Members of the University of New Hampshire chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon have extended the barriers of whom they can call their brothers within the past year. Multiple members of the fraternity are offering guidance for local youth through the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of New Hampshire organization.
The statewide program has been matching “bigs” and “littles” in the Greater Seacoast area for over 35 years. The mission of the organization is to provide children who are facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally-supported, one-to-one relationships with the goal of changing their lives for the better, forever.
Each duo meets roughly four times a month, for about an hour at a time. There are two distinct programs within BBBS. The first is a community-based program in which a big takes his or her little around the community. The second is the site-based program, which differs in that the matches stay at a single location and follow a schedule of events.
The pairings are not random. The organization puts much effort into matching the bigs with the littles. BBBS also stresses safety. Through the use of multi-layered background checks and interviews, they determine the matches based on the interests that they share.
Ryan Kalton, a SigEp brother, was accepted into the program in September but wasn’t matched until January.
“Having the opportunity to bring our little to campus has been really beneficial for them. They get a glimpse of what college life is like, and it gives them something to strive for,” Kalton said.
Big Brothers Big Sisters serves as SigEp’s primary national philanthropy. The UNH chapter held an event on campus titled “SigEp’s Day Out” on April 17, in which approximately 38 youths from around the Seacoast area came to the campus.
“One of our goals for the event was to get brothers to, maybe in those few short hours, form a connection with these kids and be like ‘Wow, these kids are actually really awesome and I want to go and work with them more’,” Sean Mitchell, vice president of programing for the chapter said.
The chapter rented out a lecture hall in Kingsbury for the event, where Chris King (former president of SigEp) and Cliff Brown gave a talk to the children about the benefits of college and the opportunities that a degree can give you.
Mitchell spoke very highly of Brown, who is an associate professor of sociology at UNH, along with being the faculty fellow for the chapter.
“He went in there and he absolutely killed it,” Mitchell said. “He did such an amazing job working with these kids and creating the message that not only if you go to college, will you make more money, you also have these different opportunities that will open up for you.”
The event was praised by the staff of BBBS.
“I asked for criticism [of the event],” Chris Eisener, a SigEP brother who helped lead the event said, “they had none for me. Which was really good to hear. Which was also sad ‘cause I wanted to know what I could do better. It was like my baby, almost.”