By Kathy Eastwood (USMA West Point, Public Affairs)February 11, 2016
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Feb. 11, 2016) -- Thirty Cadets from The United States Military Academy at West Point volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Orange County on a bi-weekly basis.
One aspect the Admissions Directorate at West Point looks for in a Cadet candidate's admission packet is their involvement in community service. Once a candidate is admitted, volunteering and community service is an important part of life as a cadet.
One of the volunteer programs Cadets are active in is the local BBBS, offering mentorship and companionship. The Cadet volunteers work with third to eighth grade students at Highland Falls Elementary School. Children are paired individually with a Cadet mentor to establish a one-on-one relationship while participating in after school activities.
In BBBS vernacular, volunteers are known as 'Bigs' and the children are 'Littles.' "We have biweekly visits to mentor our Highland Falls 'Littles,' with once a month weekend trips to Bounce, ice skating, bowling, hikes around West Point and picnics at Bull Pond," Class of 2016 Cadet Jennifer Moore, Cadet-in charge, said.
"A BBBS volunteer is required to commit four hours of one-on-one mentorship with their 'Little' to stay enrolled in the program. Cadets at West Point fulfill this requirement with a biweekly visit and/or the once a month mentorship activity. Otherwise, cadets must be dedicated to the club as the 'Littles' depend on a solid mentorship foundation and cadets must be excited to make a difference in a child's life," Moore explained.
Moore said she began volunteering for BBBS during her plebe year and has been a member ever since.
"I started BBBS with the intent of releasing stress by hanging out with children after school once a week and once a weekend," Moore said. "Today, I realize I have gained and given much more than friendship because I am considered a beloved and hollowed 'Big' to my 'Little.' The children are great. Each one of them has a lovely personality, from over excited to laid back and quiet. Each cadet is interviewed and each 'Little' is interviewed in order to establish a cohesive match. My 'Little' is always on the go. She is active and fun-loving and is always ready to have a good time."
Class of 2016 Cadet Michael Auten works with BBBS by helping them obtain more volunteers. "We are part of a team of community service groups at West Point that all work together to represent the Academy in a positive light," Auten said. "I actually believe that the most important thing that we can do is reach out to local children. They are the future, and we can do so much to change their lives. That is exactly why I joined the military."
"When I was a kid, there was an adult who reached out to me and showed me how the military encourages the development of good values," Auten added. "I wanted to be like him and that desire brought me to West Point where I have had so many great opportunities. Everybody joins the military to serve and projects like BBBS remind us of our motivation. Ultimately, if we reach out to one child and change his or her life for the better, we can sleep well at night."
BBBS have been working with West Point Cadets since 1978. BBBS targets children who may be facing some challenges at home, such as children being raised by a single parent or are from low income families.
The mission of BBBS is to help children reach their potential through one to one relationships with mentors, which has been proven to have a measurable impact on youth.