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Big Brothers Big Sisters adjust to “new normal”

Posted at 5:29 AM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 10:02:46-05

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a nationwide, mentorship program that normally pairs a mentor with a child in need of mentorship. The two would normally meet in-person to play games or just chat, but the pandemic threw that to the wayside and forced the organization to adjust.

“We know a lot about each other. I know that Billy loves Bakugan, Pokémon. He knows that I like to play piano,” said Bautista Guerrero, a senior at San Luis Obispo High, about his experience as a Big with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Three years in the making, Bautista and Billy, a 3rd grader at Pacheco Elementary School, have formed a meaningful friendship as a Big and a Little. Monday was the 1st in-person meeting they’ve had in nearly a year because of the pandemic, and Billy could hardly contain his excitement to see his Big.

“I get excited a lot. There’s a lot of things that are really exciting in this world,” said Billy.

“Billy is quite the optimist. It’s always just a nice dose of optimism that I get to come every week and kind of be a kid again. It’s just been a really good time to be a role model for Billy,” said Bautista.

And though they’ll head back to online meetings for the time being, Billy is seeing some positives in his virtual time with Bautista.

“In-person, not on the computer, even though I did get to show some things that I couldn’t in-person. It’s way funner playing than talking,” said Billy.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Luis Obispo County has gone completely online since March. Making a complete 180 is what the organization had to do to keep up with the needs of the Littles.

“Normally, we would have a STEM-related, educational program; we really just found that these kids just needed to connect, and they needed a place to just be themselves and a space to talk openly about what they’re going through,” said Maria Anastassiou, school based coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Luis Obispo County.

“Not only is it good for him to have someone to talk to, but it’s also good for me,” said Alana Sachs, a Morro Bay sophomore and a Big with Big Brothers Big Sisters. “I’ve lost connection with some of my close friends during COVID due to only being able to connect with them over text. It’s nice to actually call with someone and be there if he needs anything. Most of the time, we play games, but I’m always there if he needs to talk.”

Sophie Rothenberg, an intern with Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Luis Obispo County and senior at Cal Poly, has only been with the organization during the pandemic, but she says it’s been nothing but a positive experience.

“The whole culture of Big Brothers Big Sisters is so helpful, so caring, so personal, and even when we’re getting stuff done – business – it’s fun. It’s comfortable,” said Rothenberg.

The organization says it has a few Big Sisters on a waiting list for Littles, but they are in need of Big Brothers. If you are interested in getting involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters, click here.