Through one-to-one mentoring relationships, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay hopes area youth get a more accurate perception of the positive role law enforcement personnel play in our community.
Bigs in Blue is a one-to-one mentoring program through Big Brothers Big Sisters that aims to build a bridge between law enforcement personnel and the communities they serve by pairing children facing adversity with mentors in local law enforcement. Currently there are 55 Bigs in Blue programs in the United States, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.
The pilot program for the Tampa Bay area was launched with the Tampa Police Department in the fall of 2017. As part of the program, TPD employees (called Bigs) spend one hour each week meeting with an elementary school student (called Littles) to spend quality time together. Currently there are over 35 matches involving TPD personnel, and they are excited about growing with Bigs in Blue.
“We feel honored to be the pilot program and we think it will be a huge success in the Tampa Bay area,” said Capt. Ashley Roberts, Big Brothers Big Sisters liaison for the Tampa Police Department. She explained that the benefit of allowing officers to volunteer during their work hours means that the usual barriers to becoming a Big – not enough time or having kids of their own – is no longer an issue.
Capt. Roberts, who has a Little Sister herself, knew Bigs in Blue would have positive outcomes for the children, such as reducing their risk of involvement with the Dept. of Juvenile Justice. But she didn’t realize how much the program would affect her. “It definitely has a positive impact on the kids and the officers,” she said. “I look forward to seeing my Little all week. We’ve been reading My Little Pony together and she loves it! The program gives the children a sense of pride.”
“I would recommend the program to any local law enforcement that is thinking about getting involved,” she said. “The initial setup takes time, but after that, the program basically runs itself. I tell everyone how amazing this experience has been.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Bigs in Blue program, please reach out to Jack Sheppard at 727-420-4338 or JackS@bbbstampabay.org