- Sponsorship -

Bigs and Littles Find Rewarding Relationships

When you’re in elementary school and a high schooler gives you some attention, it feels cool. Thornapple Kellogg High School students have been making younger kids feel that way the past three years by building relationships with the district’s Big Brother Big Sisters program.

“The Bigs are like rock stars to them,” said Gayle Bachert, the Big Brother Big Sister Barry County Coordinator who runs the program, which refers to the older and younger partners as “Bigs” and “Littles.”

Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land board games, nerf footballs, plastic bowling pins, chess sets, puzzles and more cover the table in the room where Littles and Bigs met at Lee Elementary during the last hour of a recent Friday. Paige and McFall elementary schools also host the program. “All of this is educational, and improves social skills as well,” Bachert said.

Besides having fun, Bigs are encouraged to help their Littles with homework and read to them. Academic achievement is stressed, but that doesn’t mean learning can’t be fun, like when math problems are done using shaving cream. “What kid doesn’t like making a mess?” asked Batchert.Thornapple Kellogg senior Lauren Webster and Frankee Keller get started playing

The results of the matches are what everyone wants to see.  “It affects every aspect of that child’s life,” Bachert said. “The Little is happier, will get along better with other children, and grades have gone up. I’ve seen children go from failing to high academic achievement.”

High schoolers are put through a screening process and hand-picked by the principal before becoming a Big. “They are the cream of the crop,” Bachert said.  About 30 matches have been made at the district’s three elementary schools this year.  It’s preferred a match to carry over from year to year so a child can have a three-year relationship while the Big is in school.

The program’s not just helping the young kids. It’s an eye-opener for the high-schoolers, Bachert said of the Barry County program, that also includes schools in Delton and Hastings schools. “They’re kind of put in a parent role,” she said. “They’re responsible for their safety when they’re together. We think it gives them some insight on why their parents made them and make them do what they have to do.”

Bigs are encouraged to share teachable moments with their Littles, along with their values and morals.

“I get time to spend with a younger child,” said Lauren Webster, a senior in her third year of being a Big to third-grader Frankee Keller. “I get to be a role model and help him with homework.”

Gayle Bachert prepares for a Big Brothers Big Sisters meeting at Lee ElementaryFrankee, once he finished his Blow-Pop, said he likes to spend time with his friend Lauren, who he doesn’t get to see much. “My favorite parts are when we get to go outside and play,” he said.

A national study done on the Big Brothers Big Sisters program showed spending time with their Bigs left Little Brothers and Little Sisters less likely to begin using illegal drugs and alcohol, less likely to skip school and less likely to hit someone. “We’re keeping kids out of trouble,” Bachert said. “It’s like have a favorite aunt or uncle tell you (that) you better be studying.”


Big Brothers Big Sisters

Big Brothers Big Sisters impact study

- Sponsorship -
Linda Odette
Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio or email Linda.


Bus drivers work as daytime cleaners during pandemic

It’s also a plus to have familiar faces around school...

What kind of school bus doesn’t need gas or batteries?

A new/old way to get to school is saving money and having a positive effect on students and families...

Superheroes, jungle explorers, Cinderella join virtual kindergarten lessons

As an all-virtual kindergarten teacher at Stoney Creek Elementary, Tiffany Imhoff is constantly adapting and tweaking her lessons to keep her students engaged and learning...

Making masks more fun

A face mask tie-dying activity teaches East Oakview developmental kindergartners teamwork and patience while also supporting a very local business...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Superintendent announces retirement, interim named

A former Byron Center superintendent is taking the reins at Thornapple Kellogg on an interim basis...

‘I didn’t give up’

If a challenge becomes an excuse, said senior Clair Jansma, “it's much harder to overcome and you sacrifice opportunities”...

Earth-friendly students ‘working to make a difference’

The newest club at Thornapple Kellogg Middle School focuses on living more sustainable lifestyles...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU