Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, is on a mission to build bridges between the youth and law enforcement, launching the “Bigs in Blue” program in certain schools and communities across the region.
The program pairs men and women from various fields, including law enforcement, fire service, paramedics, local government and the National Guard, with young individuals seeking mentorship.
According to organizers, the initiative not only aims to provide support and guidance to the youth but also fosters trust and understanding between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
During in-school sessions at Cochran Primary School in Williamsport, interactions between mentors and their pupils got underway.
Eight-year-old Idris Williamsport made unforgettable memories with his mentor, Bureau of Police Assistant Chief Jason Bolt.
“You’re my best friend. He hangs out with me, makes me smile and happy,” Williamsport said.
Similarly, nine-year-old Gio shared his recent achievements with Williamsport Bureau of Police Chief Justin Snyder, who promised to attend one of his basketball games.
According to Wala Tillman and Mary Martin of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Lycoming County, the program has already yielded positive results.
“It doesn’t take much time to make a difference in a child’s life,” said Tillman.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Lauren Lesher, for instance, was paired with a little sister at Schick Primary School in Loyalsock Township School District, where they developed a strong bond.
The benefits of such mentorship programs are evident, with statistics showing that matched youth are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drug use, alcohol consumption, skipping school or resorting to violence.
Moreover, a significant percentage of matched mentees graduate from high school, emphasizing the long-term positive effects of these relationships.
Tillman also said the initiatives help shy or reserved children open up and engage with positive role models from law enforcement and other fields.
By breaking down barriers and promoting understanding, “Bigs in Blue” is reshaping perceptions and building stronger, safer communities.
The program welcomes volunteers of all ages, including retirees, who can dedicate their time to mentoring at-risk youth either in school or within the community.
Currently, there are approximately 30 children on the waitlist for a Big Brother or Big Sister, underscoring the ongoing need for dedicated volunteers.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lycoming County, managed through Children and Youth, operates under the larger umbrella of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of NEPA (Northeastern Pennsylvania), with a focus on defending the potential of every child.
Individuals interested in volunteering or learning more about the “Bigs in Blue” initiative are encouraged to contact Martin or Tillman at (570) 433-3193.