Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor program starts

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Photo by Jaylin Kekiwi

A "Big," junior Shana Aruda, shares an activity with a table of "Littles" at the opening session of the Big Brothers Big Sisters schoo-based mentoring program at Nāmahana Dining Hall earlier today.

By Jaylin Kekiwi, sports writer

PUKALANI –  Through the doors of Nāmahana Dining Hall, several elementary students and high school students gathered together for the official opening ceremony and first session of the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program earlier today.

Research “has shown that of all children matched with a BIG in a school setting, 58% improved their school performance, 65% showed higher levels of self-confidence and 55% had a better attitude toward school,” according to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Maui Web site.

Senior Victoria Alakai, who interned with Big Brothers Big Sisters, said that the experience inspired her to create a school-based mentoring program for her senior project, a first for Kamehameha Maui.

“I looked at our elementary kids, and I thought that we, as their older siblings, could help them while becoming better people ourselves,” Alakai said.

The ceremony started off with a statement and blessing from KSM Kahu Kalani Wong, which led into a speech by Headmaster Lee Ann Delima.

The elementary students in the program (dubbed as “Littles”) surprised their matches from the high school (known as “Bigs” for the session) with a rendition of Oli Aloha and a spirited rendition of the cheer “ʻEleu mākou, ʻeleu nō.”

After this, the Bigs were matched with their Littles for the very first session of the mentoring program. Though the Littles were nervous and quiet at first, they quickly began to warm up with a bit of prompting from their Bigs.

“It’s like the first day of school right now. Everyone’s trying to get to know each other,” Alakai said as the Bigs and Littles interacted. “Once they get into the swing of things, it’ll be a lot of fun.”

To bring a Big Brothers Big Sisters’s school-based program to the school, Alakai needed to recruit high school student volunteers to mentor children in the elementary school.

In order to become a Big, one must fill out an application that is looked over by Big Brothers Big Sisters. If the application is accepted, the applicant is then interviewed. After that, potential Bigs must become certified. For this program, the certification took place right on the elementary school campus.

Alakai’s mentor during the internship, Kainoa Correa, said that it was their most successful recruitment yet.

“Victoria played a big part in all of this,” Correa said. “We’re really happy she decided to do this. I don’t think we could have done it without her.”

The Bigs and their Littles meet every Thursday afternoon from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. for the remainder of the school year.