Student Voice

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May 23, 2024

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UWRF Friends program celebrates five years

March 1, 2007

Friends of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) and UW-River Falls have been working together as a campus-recognized organization for five years.

BBBS matches children ages six through 18 with mentors in professionally-supported one-to-one relationships. The Friends program is a one-on-one relationship in a group setting.

Friends of BBBS was designed to provide college students with the opportunity to make a difference in a child's life at a convenient location. UWRF students get together with students from Greenwood Elementary and Meyer Middle School, both in River Falls, to take part in activities around campus.

Before becoming a recognized organization, the program was held in the basement of Johnson Hall where more than 30 "littles" would come to interact with less than 10 "bigs."

President Rachel Wilber, who was elected last spring, said though there are other programs college students can be involved in as "bigs," the Friends program makes it convenient for them.

"The program generally involves children that need positive role models in their life and the Friends program provides them with a college student that can provide friendship and a positive influence," she said.

Wilber said an advantage for the college student is that they don't need a vehicle to volunteer.

"Since the program is located on campus and the 'littles' are dropped off on campus, college students don't need to drive anywhere," she said.

Wilber, along with Bridget Degel and Carye Kringle, created a Facebook group last year to make it easier to communicate with "bigs" involved in the program.

"We often times had troubles with e-mail and thought more people would actively check Facebook," Wilber said. "We didn't create the group to get more people involved, but I think it has benefited us as an organization."

Wilber said the number of members in BBBS has gone up since the group was created.

Jeff Parker, vice president and Thursday Program Day leader, said he finds many important qualities in the organization.

"The most important part of the job is making sure everyone feels safe and comfortable, gradually becomes more open with their big or little and has fun," he said.

Parker said raising awareness of the program is also important.

"We are always in need of volunteers - especially males - for not only the UWRF Friends program, but for all of the programs that BBBS offers," he said.

Degel, vice president and Wednesday Program Day leader, said she would love to see more community partnership and service from the "bigs" and "littles."

"River Falls has so many fun places for kids and college students to hang out with each other that it's great when the community opens the doors welcomingly for us," Degel said.

The UWRF Friends program has held events such as rock climbing at Knowles, playing basketball with the women's team and skating with the men's hockey team.

School-based Big Sister Nikki Purtell said she enjoys spending time with her 11-year-old "little."

"I go visit him during his study hall at his middle school and hang out with him for that time period," Purtell said. "Sometimes I help him study, other times we sit and talk."

Secretary Kringle said she wants BBBS to spread throughout UWRF and the community.

"I would love to see the organization grow to serve the community with more UWRF students seeing what our organization has the power to do," she said.

Meetings are currently held in the South Fork Suites conference room every other Wednesday and Thursday. The next meetings will be held March 7 and 8.

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