Big Brothers Big Sisters

9 07 2009

Pamela Weatherspoon

Wanted: Positive adult role models

When men met on a recent Saturday at Champions Barbershop on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, it wasn’t just about getting a haircut; they ran into a campaign that’s recruiting volunteer mentors to be Big Brothers.

The effort is an attempt to reverse dismal participation rates by black adult role models in the local Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest mentoring program. The philanthropic group served over 317 African American children in 2008, but only 16 percent of these children were matched with an African American Big Brother or Big Sister. Of the volunteers in the agency’s programs, fewer than 2 percent are African American men.

In order to reverse this trend, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the African American fraternities Alpha Phi Alpha and Kappa Alpha Psi are partnering to take a fresh approach at recruiting black men to be positive adult role models for African American boys.

Since the early 1990’s, these fraternity brothers have reached out to young men by sharing activities and experiences that have a lasting impact.

“We are excited about this partnership with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and Champions Barbershop,” said Pamela Weatherspoon, African American Mentoring Programs Director with Big Brothers Big Sisters. “With our collective efforts, we can really have a lasting difference on the youth in our community.”

Nationally, Alpha Phi Alpha and Kappa Alpha Psi began using barbershops as venues for recruiting men to become Big Brothers four years ago with positive results. This is the first year that fraternity brothers have participated in barbershop recruitment in Portland.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters has continuously worked hard to improve the lives of children,” said Phillip Rogers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. “It doesn’t take a lot to be a Big Brother, and it really does a lot to improve the futures of young African American men.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters helps children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with mentors that have a measurable impact.

Founded in 2002, Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest has become the largest one-to-one mentoring program in Oregon, the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters agency on the West Coast and the eighth largest in the United States.

For more information about volunteering or supporting the group, visit