Five years ago, six Nashua fifth-graders who attended Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Nashua came together through the agency’s Mentors In Training (MIT) program. As “littles”, they each have benefited from having a Big Brother or Big Sister. Through MIT, they have learned leadership skills and how to mentor younger children as they prepare to one day become Big Brothers or Big Sisters themselves.
Now a collaboration among Big Brothers Big Sisters, Nashua Community College, and United Way of Greater Nashua is providing a springboard for this tight-knit group of Nashua high school students to reach their goal.
The Youth United program teaches leadership, teamwork, and entrepreneurship skills to youth in Greater Nashua who are not often exposed to such opportunities. Teams can receive up to $1,000 in seed funding to launch a plan that draws on members’ interests, generates measurable community benefits. and creates lasting change.
Last spring, MIT members Joel, Malaysia, Diante, Ivan, Tanesha, and Brianna decided to create a Youth United team called The Buddy Project. Their idea was to help elementary students from the Amherst Street School in Nashua by teaching leadership skills that will help them succeed and doing group activities that the children might not otherwise experience. Working with an adviser from Nashua Community College and a Big Brothers Big Sisters staff member, they developed an “action plan” that described their goals, scope of work, budget, and sustainability plan. The team presented its idea to a United Way panel of volunteers for approval.
“Our experience forming a Youth United team was fun but stressful,” said Joel. “It took time, effort and communication, but in the end it was worth it. We worked hard as a team and sometimes there were lots of compromises. We had to rewrite the proposal several times and we worked hard creating a budget.”
The panel approved The Buddy Project for a $1,000 grant with the condition that it raise $250 each semester. The team raised nearly all of its first semester goal through a car wash at Amherst Street School with help from members of Nashua Community College’s Rotaract Club.
After an initial meeting with the little buddies in September, team members took them to Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis for a hay ride and corn maze walk. Each little buddy received a bag of apples to take home. In October the big buddies held a Halloween-themed Fall Festival for their little buddies, which included costumes, games, spooky stories, and a snack.
In November the big buddies led their little buddies in a community service project of making Thanksgiving decorations for a local nursing home. They also wrote letters about what they were thankful for over the past year. December featured a holiday party in which each big buddy purchased a small gift for a Secret Snowflake little buddy (similar to Secret Santa).
The team is planning an indoor field day for the little buddies in January and has other activities and fundraisers on the horizon as it prepares for an outing at Mel’s Fun Park in June. Now high school sophomores, the team’s members who came together in MIT five years ago are bringing younger MIT members into the Youth United team so that it may continue long after they graduate.
Note: Seed funding for Youth United teams is provided by donations to United Way of Greater Nashua’s Community Impact Fund. If you’d like to help teams like The Buddy Project become young community leaders, make a gift today.