News The Tattoo

Students help kids on agency wait list

BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Not every teenager lives in an alien world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.

The Nutmeg Big Brothers/Big Sisters Waiting List Program is an example of a fun, helpful activity that teens can participate in and even, shockingly, control.

The Nutmeg program is a volunteer group for high school students. The program fills a critical void for children in the community and lets high schoolers test their childcare skills.

Most of the children, ages seven to 11, have been waiting for a Big Brother or Sister for several years. The students, not yet 18, are too young to become official Big Brothers or Sisters.

The Waiting List Program was recently developed under the guidance of Cathy Perkins, a case manager for the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. The teens and children are screened to test their eligibility.

At present, the program takes place at St. Paul Catholic High School one Friday a month. Three high school girls from Bristol schools and eight to 10 elementary school kids take part in the program.

“They are a real great group of teens who are dedicated to the program. They have done a good job of making the kidsfeel special,” Perkins said.

It is not a chore for them to deal with the kids, who are mostly all boys.

Many of the program’s children come from single parent families.

Perkins said she gives the parents “a lot of credit. They are under pressure in their lives, but still make sure the everyday needs of their children are met.”

The students are the decision makers for the planned activities.

“I only help if they’re stuck and I supervise to see that things are going smoothly,” Perkins said.

With the budget of this unique program supported solely by the United Way and some group fundraisers during the year, there isn’t a huge supply of funds available. Students sometimes bring in supplies from home so the crafts stay economical.

The activities range from playing Twister to baking cookies. Holidays provide many ideas, including pumpkin decorating and a Christmas treasure hunt.

Perkins said the kids idolize the teenagers and the teens adore them.

“I do feel that the program is successful because I have gotten positive feedback from parents and kids. They’re really excited,” Perkins said.

For information on the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Waiting List Program, contact Cathy Perkins at the Nutmeg Big Brothers/Big Sisters office at 160 Farmington Ave. The phone number is 583-9225.

Corrie Balash is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.