Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County (BBBS) will recognize their graduating Littles tonight with a special ceremony at the State Capitol Building. The Youth Leadership Council — a group of Littles from Madison East High School — have been planning the annual event.

“Graduation means a couple of things for our Littles. It’s graduation from high school, but it’s also graduation from our program so essentially when they graduate from high school they have completed the Big Brothers Big Sisters program,” BBBS CEO Sandy Morales tells Madison365. “It’s a wonderful accomplishment. Some of our Littles have been mentored from a couple years to 10 years. It’s a really big milestone in terms of having a mentor in their lives this whole time.”

So the event is a very happy event. But it also is a little bit sad because it signifies the official end of the Big/Little relationship. Some of those relationships have been going on for a very long time.

Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO Sandy Morales
Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO Sandy Morales

“Our Bigs and our Littles still keep in touch after graduation, but obviously with so many life changes that are going on the relationships continues but it’s not under the same program expectations that we have,” Morales says. “Still, a lot of the relationships continue to flourish. Usually how we know how our Littles who have graduated are doing is through our connections to our Bigs. They are still maintaining that connection and relationship. For many, it’s a lifetime bond.

“It’s bittersweet to see them leave our program, but for them to have graduated from high school and continuing on … that’s pretty important also and a cause for celebration,” she adds.

BBBS provides children facing adversity the mentoring and support needed to achieve higher aspirations, greater confidence and better relationships — all of which contribute to Littles’ educational success.

“High school graduation is such an important milestone in a young person’s life,” Morales says. “It means that they now have the opportunity to take everything that they have learned both in academics and life guidance from their Big to go out and make a bigger impact in the world.”
BBBS’ strong and enduring one-on-one mentoring relationships put children in a better position to find success in school and beyond.

“For the last 3 years we have had 100 percent graduation rate from our seniors in our program,” Morales says. “So, that’s really something that we’re proud of. So we know that their mentor — in partnership with their parents — have a lot to do with that.”

Morales says that this year a group of Littles from Madison East High School planned the graduation event and the program which is open to the public. “They decided to have a networking component of the event before the actual event from 4:30-5:30 p.m.,” Morales says. “They did everything – from the program, to determining and securing the location, to the food. We thought this was a great way to give the Littles more ownership over the agency and allow them to see the positive results of their time and efforts and just continue helping them gain the skills that enhances their academic and career readiness.”

Names will be announced, graduates will be honored, and each Little will get a small scholarship to help them get started in their next phase of life. Kevin Torrence, the Big Brother of the Year, will be the keynote speaker. “His Little Brother will be graduating,” Morales says. “So, that will be nice for him to be able to address the kids and give them a send off and let them know that the best part of growing up is yet to come.”

Nancy Lieberman is regarded as one of the greatest figures in women's basketball.
Nancy Lieberman is regarded as one of the greatest figures in women’s basketball.

Beyond tonight’s graduation event, Morales is really excited about BBBS Dream BIG Gala coming up on June 23 at the Madison Marriott West.

“Former WNBA player Nancy Lieberman, who is now the assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings and a Big Sister herself, will come out to Madison and help us raise money for the organization,” Morales says. “She will help us celebrate our 50th anniversary. We always try to get matches to be involved in the event, and our goal is to have 50 matches there and have them up on stage so everybody can see 50 years and 50 matches. We’re going to try and raise $50,000 in donations at the event. We’re really excited about this evening.”