By Sara Bishop, communications specialist, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa’s “I Am Enough” mentoring program empowers young girls in our community.
“I am proud to serve as an ‘I Am Enough’ champion alongside 30 phenomenal women. These women are outstanding community and civic leaders from all types of backgrounds. What we all have in common is our belief in these young ladies we are nurturing,” Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa CEO Bridget Cravens-Neely said.
Being a champion allows Phonsavanh Sullins, Businessolver foundation manager and member services collaboration partner, to pay it forward.
“Growing up as biracial, I found it difficult to find my place in the world. I looked to strong female mentors in my life who inspired me and reminded me that ‘I Am Enough.’ I’m so grateful to be a champion and hope to provide the same guidance and encouragement I was given as a young girl,” Sullins said.
Once a month, Champions facilitate a workshop for Little Sisters (ages 9 to 16) and their Big Sisters (volunteer mentors) held at Principal Financial Group. Workshops have covered topics like valuing uniqueness, feeling and expressing emotions, and overcoming obstacles. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa program support specialist Emma Kolpek plans the curriculum for these workshops and works closely with Champions and Little Sisters.
“Throughout the year, I witnessed the girls become comfortable sharing their feelings and experiences. Friendships have blossomed and confidence has soared,” Kolpek said.
During one of the workshops, Little Sister Adalynne enjoyed presenting her vision board with the group. She filled her board with magazine cutouts that embodied her dreams and goals.
“I have learned it’s OK to be different and I am enough to do anything,” Adalynne said.
Another workshop included a service project.
“As we packaged meals at Meals From the Heartland, it warmed my heart to see the girls work together and make a difference for others. I feel I get more out of the program than the Little Sisters,” Kolpek said.
Last month we held a celebration to honor Little Sisters for completing the first year of the program. Little Sisters and their families, Bigs, and Champions, as well as Principal Financial Group Chairman, President and CEO Dan Houston. Each Little Sister received a colorful bracelet with the words “I Am Enough,” a daily reminder of how far they’ve come in their development and believing in themselves and understanding their self-worth.
Champion Deb Alexander, who is a virtual campus English language arts middle school instructor, is passionate and committed to this program.
“I love the ‘I Am Enough’ program. As an educator, I see many young girls struggling with self-worth and acceptance. This program allows me the opportunity to pour positivity into their lives and watch them as they go through their metamorphosis and blossom into beautiful butterflies,” Alexander said.
As the second year of “I Am Enough” begins this fall, Cravens-Neely reflects on the origin of the program.
“I personally want to extend a special thank-you to Renee Hardman for creating the ‘I Am Enough’ program during her time as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa CEO. I respect and appreciate Renee’s vision to facilitate a psychologically safe space where young girls can discover who they are and how special they are,” she said. “I am proud to continue the legacy Renee started and to elevate it even more as we begin our second year with new and returning Little Sisters and Champions. ‘I Am Enough’ is a program that is near and dear to my heart.”
September is Big Brothers Big Sisters Month. Mentoring is more than hanging out – it’s unlocking potential. Join the village and become a Big: www.bbbsia.org/be-a-big.