An independent news publication of
United Way of Lancaster County


Big Brothers Big Sisters program launches in School District of Lancaster

Favian Velazquez, left, and Serenity Philogene show off the mittens they colored during a Big Brothers Big Sisters meeting at Lincoln Middle School on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2023. (Photo: Max Weidman)

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region has brought its “High School Bigs” program to the School District of Lancaster.

The initiative matches high school mentors (“Bigs”) with middle school mentees (“Littles”). On Tuesday, already scheduled as a half day of classes, the new Bigs and Littles met in the afternoon at Lincoln Middle School and got to know each other over two hours of snacks, crafts and casual conversation.

The Bigs were selected from J.P. McCaskey and McCaskey East High Schools. Jamie Showers, a social worker with the district, was part of the team that identified middle schoolers who could benefit from the program.

She explained: “Kids in middle school tend to respond differently to their peers. We’re looking for students we felt could thrive more with an older mentor who isn’t an adult, someone who can help them navigate and channel them onto a positive path.”

Students will continue to meet monthly in sessions supervised by adult facilitators.

The program is the second of its kind in Lancaster County. It joins another in Columbia Borough, where high school students from Columbia High/Middle School Hill campus began mentoring students from the Columbia Middle School Taylor Campus last month. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region representatives, from left: Deborah Hornick (director of Lancaster and Lebanon Counties), Katie Nyce (program director) and Amanda Dunn (vice president of programs). (Photo: Max Weidman)

Amanda Dunn, Vice President of Programs with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region, described the process of matching the high school students with their mentees: Mentors fill out an application, get parental permission, and then complete an interview with the Big Brothers Big Sisters team.

That interview is used to make a match from the pool of Lincoln middle schoolers selected as possible participants in the program. 

Posters around JP McCaskey and McCaskey East High Schools alerted students there to the opportunity. Wednesday was chosen for the first meeting because of the scheduled half day.

The Bigs and Littles get to know each other. (Photo: Max Weidman)

Mentor Carina Cruz, a senior, cited the film “Role Models” as part of her inspiration for getting involved. Mentor Natasha Mayers, a junior, said she liked the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective.

Serenity Philogene, a 7th grade mentee, hopes the program will mean a change for the better: “I’d like to learn how to control myself in various situations.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region has 16 High School Bigs programs in Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon and Perry counties.