Impact: The nonprofit makes contact with more than 1,100 families a year. “I’m always amazed of the success our kids are able to achieve after all they’ve been through,” Kofsky says.
Big Brothers Big Sisters strives to nurture children by matching them with adults who will mentor them one-on-one. The group has worked for 55 years in Miami-Dade, where it currently serves 2,000 youth.
“The hallmark of Big Brothers Big Sisters is the consistency of the relationship between a volunteer and a child,” says Lydia Muniz, president and chief executive. “That more than anything, research has shown, over time has a significant, positive impact in the life of a child, particularly their self-esteem.”
In Miami-Dade, the program has grown from about 300 children in 1988 to 2,000, says Muniz. The goal: to serve at least 5,000 children per year by 2018.
Some 600 student are expected to participate in the group’s workplace program this year, receiving one-on-one mentorship but also visiting businesses like Baptist Health System, Carnival and the Fontainebleau each month.
“We’re encouraging all of them to think what’s next,” says Muniz, who adds that the group’s biggest need is male mentors.
That means more Bigs like Manuel Arrebola, a police captain with Miami-Dade Public Schools, who last year joined the pilot Bigs in Blue program. He visits his Little Brother, a 12-year-old fifth grader named Darrel, each week at school, where they read in the library, eat lunch in the cafeteria and sometimes just joke around.
“It’s like it’s your child,” says Arrebola, 48 who has a teenage daughter. “It’s become one of the most important things I do.”
Broward’s Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter will turn 40 next year and has about 1,300 active matches, says its chief executive, Ana Cedeño, with 700 to 900 children in line for a match.
About 125 young people in Broward are participating in the organization’s 5-year-old Inspire Within program, which matches youths transitioning out of foster care with adults who serve as life coaches. “It’s smaller but it’s just as important,” Cedeño says.
She says the biggest need is awareness of the program and its outcomes. For example, 89 percent of Broward children in BBBS show improved academics and 79 percent say they are more optimistic about the future.
Budget: $4.27 million, including 33 percent from government funding, 22 percent from special events, 15 percent from foundations and 9 percent from the United Way.
Impact: With about 350 agencies across the country, Big Brothers Big Sisters serves nearly 630,000 children, volunteers and families.
Teach for America
Despite a successful career, entrepreneur Renee O’Connor wanted to do more. A speech by President Barack Obama and an article about Teach for America inspired her to apply. She is now in her second year at her alma mater, Miami Norland Senior, in Miami Gardens as one of about 300 Teach for America members in Miami-Dade.
O’Connor, a native of Jamaica, teaches English and reading to students who have failed the state’s standardized test. Last year, 38 percent of her students jumped more than two grades in their reading level. Some are starting to talk about college. “I see the change coming,” she says.