We Fight Spotlight: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan hosts mentorship programs for Traverse City area youth from all backgrounds and life experiences. BBBS creates a supportive environment for young people to flourish — matched with a Big, young people get a positive influence and the opportunity to explore new interests together!

We Fight chatted with Cecilia J. Chesney, Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan (and a Big Sister herself!) to learn more about the work they do, and how the We Fight network can support them.

How would you describe your organization to a stranger?

Bigs places youth with adult mentors to help them navigate life’s challenges. To help them learn, grow and experience life in new and different ways. Through mentorship programs, our Littles are exposed to opportunities and experiences they otherwise would never have been afforded to them. The most important element of our mentoring program is that every child’s voice is heard. They have someone who spends time listening, encouraging and guiding them to be their best self.

What are the primary goals of your work?

Meet children where they are and establish goals to nurture their development socially, emotionally and academically. To guide them through adolescence and support their future goals. To ensure every child reaches their potential.

What are some resources you offer?

Academic tutoring, adventurous, educational and entertaining activities, including sailing, charter fishing, cooking classes, too many to name. In addition, we work with young adults to support their post-secondary goals, i.e. scholarships, college enrollment, financial planning. These opportunities are provided through our local partners.

What are you most proud of about the work you do at your organization?

The impact on a child’s life. It is so rewarding to watch a child build their self confidence and explore new opportunities and grow into a young adult with aspirations they never dreamed were attainable.

What’s a favorite memory or experience you’ve had so far in your programming?

I am reminded of a young boy who I met my first year with Bigs (2010). He was living south of town in a small trailer with six people. It was a very chaotic and undesirable environment. When his Big Brother asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, his answer was “I’m going to be poor”. I watched this young man go through so many challenges throughout his youth. Fast forward to today. He graduated with honors from Michigan State University’s School of Engineering

How can folks get involved, or support you?

  • Volunteer: One hour. Once a week. Two lives changed forever. Role models come in all shapes, ages and awesomeness!  
  • Donate: There is no charge to children, families or volunteer mentors to participate in our program. 100% of our funding comes from individuals, corporations, local foundations and special events.
  • Advocate: Invite Bigs to give a 10-minute overview at your next personal gathering or your next staff meeting to learn more. With your help we can ensure children reach their biggest possible futures!

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