Student groups provide friendship and mentorship

EMILY WILLIAMS
STAFF REPORTER

Butler University has partnered with nationally known organizations to bring different volunteer opportunities to campus.
College Mentors for Kids, Best Buddies, and Bulldogs being BIGS are just a few of the organizations that allow students to become involved in the lives of local community members.
College Mentors for Kids allows school age children from Indianapolis Public schools No. 60, Butler’s lab school, and No. 43 come to Butler. About 85 children spend two hours per week with their mentors from the College Mentors for Kids program. The children range from first to fourth grade.
“The change you see in the kids over the course of the year is great,” said Becky Pokrandt, president of College Mentors for Kids. “They gain confidence and become more sure of themselves. It is very rewarding when they get off the bus each week, because they run into your arms and hug you.”
College Mentors for Kids has 23 chapters at different colleges and universities in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, New York and Ohio. More than 1,700 college students volunteer nationally.
More than 100 students are involved in Butler’s chapter, which won the national chapter of the year last school year.
“A lot of the kids we work with could use an adult role model in their life, someone to always be there for them,” Pokrandt said. “The kids get exposure to what college is by coming to campus. I was talking to parents with kids in the program and they said they don’t know what we are doing with their kids, but they see their kids are happy and coming out of their shells.”
Volunteers must apply online at www.collegementors.org to get involved with the program. Afterward, they have an interview with staff and commit to one year of mentoring, Pokrandt said.
It is best to apply at the start of the school year. Sometimes spots open up during the semester, but there is often a long wait list.
Students can also support the program by purchasing a sweatshirt for $20 . All proceeds go toward College Mentors for Kids.
Butler is also affiliated with Best Buddies. This program offers friendship between students and young adults with disabilities.
“The goal is to create opportunities for one-on-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” according to Best Buddies’ website.
Butler students are known as peer buddies and are asked to commit to weekly contact with their buddy. This could include phone calls, e-mail or text messages. The program expects buddies to meet in person twice a month. Students typically take their buddies to the movies, out for ice cream or bowling.
Best Buddies has monthly chapter meetings that count as a “hang out.” If a Butler student does not have the time to commit to a year, he or she can be an associate member who comes to the monthly chapter meetings.
“Our events typically have themes. In the past, we’ve had luau, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day themes,” said Katie McGill, President of Best Buddies on Butler’s campus. “We also have an annual prom with the other Indianapolis college chapters. Our exec board comes up with ideas for each event. Often, our buddies have some great ideas that we make sure to include.”
Each year, the peer can choose to get a new buddy or stay with their original buddy. It is the student and the buddy’s choice if they want to stay together.
“Some people like to get a new buddy every year to help build friendships between more people. Others have had the same buddy since joining,” McGill said.
“My buddy, Mary, is great,” said Sammy Stang, exexcutive board member for Butler’s Best Buddies chapter. “She comes to swim and is involved in Special Olympics. I love spending time and getting together with her. She has allowed me to grow as a person, and I have helped her grow.”
There are several different fundraising opportunities for students to get involved.
“We typically do give-back nights with businesses in Broad Ripple,
McGill said. “This year, we are working on an auction night and a tailgate in the Reilly Room before a basketball game for students.”
In March, all Best Buddies chapters do an awareness and fundraising week for Spread the Word to End the Word, a campaign to end the use of the word ‘retard’ and instead use more respectful language.
Best Buddies Indiana hosts the annual Friendship Walk on the Central Canal in Indianapolis. All members are encouraged to raise money for the walk and their chapter.
The organization is partnered with more than 16 colleges in Indiana. Butler students can get involved by emailing kemcgill@butler.edu and filling out an application online at www.bestbuddiesonline.org.
Bulldogs Being BIGS is the division of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana that’s facilitated at Butler.
“The bond between the big brother or sister lasts beyond the program. It is mentoring but also a solid friendship (between the two),” said Danielle Stone, Bulldogs Being BIGS’ president.
Bulldogs Being BIGS has won the Big Brothers Big Sisters Corporate Partners Award for both 2011 and 2013. About 40 Butler Students and several faculty members are involved in the program.
The time commitment for Bulldogs Being BIGS is a full year, but students can get involved at any point during the year. The kids involved range from ages eight to 14. The organization pays for any activities the two do together.
“My favorite part is when we host an event for our matches,” Stone said. “They constantly run up and thank you for hosting. It is so rewarding when you see the child’s face light up.”
A big brother or sister must meet with their little two times a month and can do even more if he or she wants. The pair can either spend time on campus or go to a different venue.
“We encourage students to try to program out. Everyone who has gotten involved and matched with a child said it’s life changing,” Stone said. “You step into the child’s world as a friend, and role model. It will completely change your life.”

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