Philadelphia Police Department and Big Brothers Big Sisters Launch Innovative “Bigs In Blue” Youth Mentoring Program with Philadelphia Schools
PHILADELPHIA, PA (March 24, 2017) — Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region (BBBS Independence) and the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) today announced the official launch of their new Bigs in BlueSM initiative, a one-to-one mentoring program that connects local youth with police in communities throughout Philadelphia. The launch is part of a national campaign with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) and select Big Brothers Bigs Sisters affiliates across the country. Philadelphia Police Commissioner, Richard Ross, has been named National Spokesperson for the broader program.
Volunteer police officers (Bigs) will be paired with youth (Littles) from schools located in policing districts they serve. The Philadelphia rollout will begin by establishing 20 mentoring relationships at D. Newlin Fell Elementary School in the 3rd District, and Sharswood Elementary, Mead Elementary and Dr. Ethel D. Allen Schools in the 22nd District. All schools are currently partners with BBBS Independence for other school-based youth mentoring programs, and have children waiting to be paired with a mentor. The goal is to build strong, trusting, lasting relationships and help build stronger bonds between law enforcement and the families they serve.
“It is no secret that many cities struggle with police-community relations. We know mentoring cannot fix every issue, but we believe the Big Brothers Big Sisters youth mentoring model can make a difference and foster understanding,” stated Police Commissioner Richard Ross. “We’re excited about the response we have received to the rollout of Bigs in Blue. In fact, we’ve been working closely with Big Brothers Big Sisters to bring this program to life in Philadelphia over the past 18 months. We all agree that we need better relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. In addition to efforts to engage young adults in the millennial age group, we want to continue nurturing positive relationships with Philadelphia’s youth.”
Bigs In Blue is a unique one-to-one mentoring program in which students (“Littles”) from local schools meet with their mentor police officers (“Bigs”) at their respective schools. Bigs meet with their Littles every week during the school year. “It is beneficial for our students and members of our school communities to establish close, quality relationships with the police officers in their neighborhoods,” said Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent, The School District of Philadelphia. “Having a positive role model will also help our students grow and make healthy decisions both inside and outside of school. I am grateful to both the Philadelphia Police Department and Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region for their partnership and for brining such an impactful opportunity to our students.”
The Big Brothers Big Sisters curriculum encourages students to rise to their full potential, manage letdowns and challenge the status quo wherever they can — all key traits of successful community citizens and leaders. “You’re seeing a real solution created in partnership with the Philadelphia Police Department to address some of today’s most pressing problems such as youth violence and social injustice,” says Marcus Allen, CEO of BBBS Independence. “The Bigs in Blue program will help the men and women who serve as police officers better understand the youth in their community just as much as it will help the kids benefit from a one-to-one mentoring relationship.”
BBBSA is helping to fund Bigs in Blue programs through national grants. Several communities across the country have implemented this program and many are expanding to neighboring police departments. Similar programs have been started in Austin, TX, Dallas, TX, Houston, TX, Los Angeles, CA and Roanoke, VA.