Little Sibs Program Making Big Impact

A Chaminade Julienne service-learning course lets students become the teachers at two local elementary schools for one class period each week.

The Little Sibs Program is a year-long elective offered through Ministry & Service for juniors and seniors interested in mentoring children. CJ students, or “Bigs,” serve K-2 graders known as “Littles” at Ruskin Elementary School and Immaculate Conception School in Dayton, where they lead activities for an hour every Thursday afternoon.

“Our program is truly a hidden gem,” said Marilyn McCrate, religion teacher and assistant director of ministry and service. Bigs spend class time learning techniques for working with children and managing a classroom. They then create and gather the materials necessary for implementing hands-on projects, and guide one another in teaching the projects to their Littles.

On Oct. 3, Bigs and Littles at Ruskin teamed up to create balloon people with drawn-on faces and feet cut out from cardboard (pictured above).

The projects and activities vary from week to week, said McCrate, but participation in the program has always proved to be a positive experience for all parties involved. Over more than 15 years teaching the course she has witnessed self-discovery in students -- both Bigs and Littles -- as a result of their weekly interactions with one another.

“The program really serves two purposes. First, it meets the needs of the elementary schools and Littles who may not get enough individualized attention,” said McCrate, adding that children seem to come out of their shell around the Bigs.

“Secondly, our Bigs learn a lot about different virtues, like responsibility and patience.”

CJ students must submit an application in the spring in order to become eligible to take the elective. No credit is awarded; however, the class is listed on a student’s final transcript.

Most importantly, McCrate said, the program has been shown to influence lives.

“Some of our students have gone on to realize their future career paths just by working with these children,” McCrate said, naming graduates who became teachers or sought involvement in the national Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer program after high school.

Meet the Sibs
On Wednesday, May 7, the CJ community will have the opportunity to meet this year’s group of 26 Bigs and 27 Littles at the Service Awards Assembly. Participants will be introduced on stage, then share a picnic lunch together on campus that afternoon.