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March. A month filled with green and madness. Home to both Opening Day and the first day of spring. A month with seussical and mathematical holidays. A month to internationally celebrate women, roll back time, and say goodbye to winter. The third month of the year is a great one to help grow your relationship with your Little and maybe blossom new interests and hobbies. Here are ten #LittleSuggestions for March.

1. Celebrate Dr. Seuss Day

Read some of your Little’s favorite Dr. Seuss books with them. From Green Eggs and Ham to All the Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss books are not only great for teaching younger Little’s to enjoy reading, but can teach Little’s of any age valuable life lessons.

2. Celebrate International Women’s Day

All across the world, events will be held in honor of International Women’s Day. Whether, you have a Little Brother or a Little Sister, attending an event with your Little can be a great way to celebrate and learn more about the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

3. Have fun over Spring Break

March is the height of Spring Break season. Celebrate your Little’s Spring Break with them by taking a trip to the beach, having a picnic, or planting a flower.

4. Take a College Tour

This time of the year is great for college tours. You could take one with your Little and get them excited for college or spark their interest in attending. If your Little is older and reaching the end of high school, visits can be a crucial in helping them choose what they want to do after graduation or where they want to go.

5. Celebrate Pi Day

For Pi Day, join your Little in some math fun or share fractions of your favorite pie.

6. Enjoy March Madness

March means March Madness. Help your sporty Little fill out their bracket and take the time to take in some of the action with them. Maybe head to the courts and play some games of HORSE or 21.

7. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

You and your Little can do more than just wear green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Really dig into the holiday by looking into its history, attending a parade, or enjoying an Irish meal.

8. Catch a Baseball Game

Opening Day is in March. Catch a baseball game with your Little or scan the schedule to find one you want to attend before the year is up.

9. Paint with your Little

Painting can be a great activity to foster creativity or relieve stress. Lay down some newspapers, put up a blank canvas, and spend an afternoon painting works of art with your Little.

10. Visit a Skate Park

An afternoon at the skate park can be a great activity to do with your Little. You can begin to teach younger Littles to find their balance, while older Littles can probably teach you a trick or two.

Maroon 5 have teamed with the NFL and Interscope Records to donate $500,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America just days before the group is slated to take the stage as halftime performers at Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta. A spokesperson for the Adam Levine-led group confirmed the donation to Billboard on Tuesday (Jan. 29), with a spokesperson for BBBS sharing a statement from the organization’s president and CEO Pam Iorio.

“We believe that all of our nation’s youth need someone who believes in their potential, and we are so honored that the NFL, Interscope Records, and Maroon 5 are supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in our important mission,” Iorio said.

Platform will highlight ongoing engagement efforts, provide grant funding, and includes the creation of new programs to improve communities

The National Football League today announced the launch of the Inspire Change platform, showcasing the collaborative efforts of players, owners and the league to create positive change in communities across the country.

Working together with the Players Coalition, NFL teams and the league office continue to support programs and initiatives that reduce barriers to opportunity, with a focus on three priority areas:

  • Education and economic development
  • Community and police relations
  • The criminal justice system

The Inspire Change platform includes the debut of a new television spot, which will air during this weekend’s playoff games. Additional versions of the television spot will continue to air throughout the post-season, including on Super Bowl Sunday during pregame programming.

New Social Justice Grants

As part of the league’s ongoing commitment to social justice, the joint NFL players-owners working group recently approved two new social justice grants focused on the three priority areas. The grants were issued to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) and Operation HOPE. BBBSA will use the funding to support agencies across the country as they create long-term mentoring relationships that empower youth to reach their full potential and help communities connect across racial and economic divides. Operation HOPE will use the funds in support of their nationwide work within underserved communities to equip young people and adults with the financial tools and education to secure a better future.

“Our vision is to create a stronger, more inclusive economy—and by extension, society through financial empowerment – and financial dignity. Think of the difference our programs make in people’s lives as they improve their FICO scores by 100 points or more. Think about the impact on families and communities as more people and more local businesses succeed. And consider the new investments and jobs that come to communities where people are financially secure and young people have the skills to be productive. We are proud to partner with the NFL as part of the Inspire Change initiative to bring meaningful impact to our communities and advance the critical dialogue on social justice taking place nationally.” – JOHN HOPE BRYANT, Operation HOPE Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer.

“We are honored to be working with the NFL on the Inspire Change Initiative. Mentoring is a proven long-term strategy for bridging gaps in academics and income, and this grant will allow our agencies to create more strong mentoring relationships,” – PAM IORIO, President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

These grants build on the two grants issued last season to Dream Corps and the UNCF (United Negro College Fund). With this support, Dream Corps’ #cut50 initiative helped pass the bi-partisan First Step Act, and UNCF is developing and launching a new criminal and social justice initiative. The new program aims to alleviate the impact of mass incarceration on individuals and communities through the prism of higher education, specifically UNCF’s 37 member-institutions and other historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Additional grants will be announced as they are approved in the coming months.

“The coalition of bi-partisan support was the secret sauce behind the passage of the First Step Act, and the unlikely allies we brought together for the historic legislation are what we are all about — we work across deep divides to inspire change and solve America’s toughest problems. We back initiatives that close prison doors (#cut50) and open doors of opportunity (#YesWeCode) and we are excited to continue our NFL partnership for even bigger changes in the future.” – VAN JONES, President & Founder of the Dream Corps.

“For 75 years, UNCF has supported educational opportunities for the most disenfranchised communities. With the support of the NFL, this new effort will build on the history of HBCUs as some of the oldest social justice organizations in this country. Our ultimate aim is breaking the cycle of incarceration and increasing the likelihood that low-income individuals and individuals of color are on a path to educational and economic success, not prison,” – DR. MICHAEL LOMAX, President and CEO of UNCF.

The league also announced today that it will partner with digital learning curriculum leader EverFi on a high school-focused African-American History education program. NFL funding will allow thousands of students in 175 underserved schools in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Montana and North Carolina to take part in the digital curriculum, at no charge to the schools or students. The schools were selected by EverFi based on areas of need and biggest opportunities for impact.

Activating for Impact

Inspire Change is a comprehensive platform for social change that also includes:

  • Community activation. During Super Bowl week in Atlanta, the league will take part in several events related to social justice, including events with RISE (Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality) and Morehouse College. More details will be announced in the coming weeks. The league is also supporting the Martin Luther King, Jr. Global Youth Leadership Conference, taking place in Washington, D.C. in January in partnership with The Memorial Foundation, the builders of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall. The event will bring together youth leaders from around the country to learn from Dr. King’s legacy of leadership and to help them develop their own voices.
  • Grassroots funding. The Players Coalition will announce the recipients of their social justice grants during Super Bowl week. The NFL Foundation continues funding social justice matching grants as submitted by current players, NFL Legends and teams. To date, the Foundation has matched 365 social justice grants from players, and 28 grants submitted by teams, totaling nearly $2 million.
  • New nationwide programming, digital content and social media support. NFL Media will also unveil programming across its platforms focused on the efforts of current and former players toward social progress and understanding. The new documentary series Indivisible launches on Tuesday, January 15, featuring real conversations with players and local leaders on the issues and values at the heart of six communities. The six-part series premieres Tuesday, January 15, with new episodes unveiled weekly across NFL Media’s digital platforms (NFL.com, NFL app, NFL YouTube and Facebook channels). In addition, on Monday, January 14, the seventh installment within the Impact & Influence series is set to premiere within NFL Total Access. The installment follows the creation of the Bears’ nine-person social justice committee and their efforts to donate more than $800,000 to local social justice efforts. All installments from the Impact & Influence series can be viewed digitally by visiting NFL.com/impactandinfluence.

Please visit www.nfl.com/inspirechange and join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #inspirechange.

Additional Information

For more information about the joint commitment of NFL players and the league to strengthening communities through social justice, please see the following:

  • Background: NFL Social Justice Initiative
  • NFL becomes the first and only sports league to endorse criminal justice reform
  • Fact Sheet: NFL Social Justice Initiative is Making an Impact
  • Additional successful Players Coalition advocacy efforts for state criminal justice reforms (2018)
    • Florida Amendment 4 – Passed with 64.5% of the vote.
    • Louisiana Amendment 2 – Passed with 64.4% of the vote.
    • Michigan Proposal 2 – Passed with 61% of the vote.
    • Michigan Proposal 3 – Passed with 66.7% of the vote.
  • NFL endorses the First Step Act
  • Club Involement
Inspire Change - NFL

Contact: Traci Otey Blunt, NFL, Traci.Blunt@nfl.com
Clare Graff, NFL, clare.graff@nfl.com

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America President and CEO, Pam Iorio, and her longtime mentor Al Barnes

This holiday season, I want to thank one of my early mentors in life.

In the 1960s, I attended Riverhills Elementary School in Temple Terrace, Florida. Back then, physical education (PE) was strenuous. We continuously ran around the track in the hot sun, climbed ropes with no safety nets, and drank water out of a hose. I’m sure none of this would be allowed today.

Our PE coach was Al Barnes. I thought Coach Barnes was the greatest. He pushed us to be better and more competitive.

When I was upset that I was never in the top three to win a weekly award for running, his advice to me was simple: “Run faster.” His no-nonsense approach motivated me to practice until I was a weekly award winner.

He taught me early on that one competes with oneself, not others, and to compete without making excuses. Throughout my life, when I face challenges, I think of Coach Barnes, and his advice to “run faster.”

Coach Barnes passed away years ago, but this holiday season, I am contributing to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and sending a thank you card to his widow, Olga.

This holiday season, recognize the gifts a mentor gave to you by sending a thank you card.

Click here to honor your mentor

People Magazine published its annual list of “25 Women Changing the World,” on November 2, and the list includes our President and CEO, Pam Iorio. While the headline may be “25 Women Changing the World,” we see the story as how Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies, our Bigs, and our partners are working together to change their communities.

We are celebrating this recognition in a national publication and taking a moment to reflect on the impact being made in the lives of young people, their families, and our Bigs. In the last 10 years, nearly 2 million youth have been served by Big Brothers Big Sisters. In all 50 states, Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies match youth with Bigs who help them increase their self-esteem, improve their grades, strengthen their social skills, and work toward their biggest possible futures.

In the interview with People Magazine, Pam said that she’s inspired by the impact that Bigs have in helping Littles realize their full potential. “It’s very emotional for me to meet a Big and a Little and to hear them talk about their relationship. Just recently one said to me that their Big Brother was the first person in his life who had high expectations for him. That’s the sort of thing that I hear all the time.”

Big Sister Michelle and Little Sister Jennifer

Big Sister Michelle and Little Sister Jennifer

After spending years in foster care, Little Sister Jennifer began living with her mom again. It was a tough transition, and her mom knew Jennifer needed someone else in her corner. She signed her up to become a Little Sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona, and that decision changed the entire trajectory of Jennifer’s life.

“Early on in childhood, I experienced repeated trauma and frequent instability due to caregiver mental illness and growing up in a family struggling with poverty,” Jennifer says.

Those adverse childhood experiences left Jennifer dealing with extreme anxiety when she faced unfamiliar situations. She had an especially hard time meeting new people and going to new places. She spent a lot of time stuck in their small apartment. “To cope, I kept my inner thoughts close to the vest, preferring to immerse myself in books instead of interacting with people,” she said.

“It’s not the mentor’s role to fix everything or do everything for them, but to share opportunities with them.”

– Little Sister Jennifer

All that began to change when she was matched with Big Sister Michelle.

Michelle was new to Arizona when she first volunteered to become a Big Sister. She saw an ad for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona in the newspaper, ripped it out, and stuck it to her refrigerator. “It was one of my goals, when I got to a point in my life to make that commitment, to become a Big Sister,” she says.

Jennifer was slow to trust because of the challenges she had faced in her childhood, and Michelle was patient with her.

“I would stare out the window during our long car rides, lost in thought,” Jennifer says. “I struggled to come up with something that seemed worthy of breaking the silence. But Michelle never pushed. She asked questions about school, my home life, hobbies, likes and dislikes, and gave me all the time I needed to open up.”

Michelle says. “I wanted to project that I was not going to cause Jennifer any further pain. I was going to be steady and constant, and no matter what she shared with me, I wasn’t going to judge her.”

Through high school, Jennifer began to rely on her Big Sister for support and advice. Eventually, Michelle pushed Jennifer to get an after-school job. Jennifer was still experiencing anxiety and shyness around strangers, and Michelle thought a job would help. “I knew that it would expose her to other things and new people,” Michelle says.

Jennifer wasn’t sure about the job at first. Would she be okay, outside her comfort zone? She agreed to try.

Michelle was right–Jennifer loved it.

“I really enjoyed working. It was a way to take myself out of the day-to-day routine,” Jennifer says. “I came to find out that I’m a people person.”

When Jennifer graduated high school, Michelle was still there, steady and constant, for her to lean on. It was Michelle who took her to college orientation, answered her questions on what college would be like, and told her what she would need on her first day.

Now, 18 years after they first became Big Sister and Little Sister, Jennifer and Michelle are still close. Michelle encouraged Jennifer to embrace all that college had to offer, coached her through the decision to study abroad in France, and attended her wedding as an honored guest. They consider one another family.

“Without judgment, Michelle is there for me,” Jennifer says, “in happy moments, like the wedding, and in the really tough moments, too.”

Big Brother Randall and Little Brother Henry

Big Brother Randall and Little Brother Henry

When Big Brother Randall told Little Brother Henry he would be graduating with his MBA, Henry gave him a big high five and asked if he could attend. Randall immediately said yes.

“I knew this was a moment that would be a giant seed in his mind, and if he could see the graduation, and I could give him a high five there, it would be a huge positive influence in his life,” Randall says. “Thanks to the amazing team at BBBS Columbia Northwest, we were able to get the approval and have Henry and his mother attend.”

They had planned to meet in the lobby outside the gym where the ceremony was taking place, but the size of the crowd made it difficult to find one another. Randall took his seat without seeing Henry, but, luckily, Randall’s family spotted Henry in the crowd. They tipped off Randall to his location, and when it came time for his row to stand up, he looked straight at Henry and pointed.

“Knowing I planted a seed of self-confidence and personal motivation in his heart and mind is all the reward I could ever ask for.”

– Big Brother Randall

“He smiled huge and his eyes lit up as he waved,” Randall says. “I admit, there were some ‘allergies’ in the gym.”

Long before tears fell (or did not fall) at a graduation, Randall was Henry’s age and growing up in far from ideal circumstances. As he describes it, he grew up in home with physical violence, mental abuse, drug abuse, poverty, and sadness. It would’ve been a tough situation for any child, and Randall gives credit to one thing helping him get through.

“Looking at where I am now, and what I went through as a child, I realize I would not be where I am if it wasn’t for the love and generosity of others,” Randall says. “Simply put, I had several key mentors early in life who helped me realize there is more in the world that just what was within the walls of my home.”

Mentors helped defend Randall’s potential and show him that there was more out there for him. He eventually realized that potential and joined the army, became a police officer, and eventually started a career in telecommunications at Comcast. His gratitude for his mentors became the driving force for him becoming a Big.

“I truly believe the time my mentors spent with me as a child and teen were the best gift I’ve ever received,” he says. “I volunteer to give back to the community that humbly gave to me as a child, hoping I can inspire just one other person to be a champion for themselves and to others.”

Randall’s relationship with Henry embodies that. Before he was matched, Henry struggled with math, but thanks to Randall’s help, he now feels like it’s one of his stronger subjects.

Also, having Henry attend his graduation accomplished exactly what Randall thought it would. After the ceremony, Henry came up to Randall with flowers and gave his Big Brother another big high five.

“This was a very special day for my Big Brother, and I am proud of him,” Henry says. “Because of him, I want to graduate high school, and I also want to go to college and graduate.”

Randall is looking forward to attending both of Henry’s graduations.

Big Sister Portsha and Little Sister Arayah

Big Sister Portsha and Little Sister Arayah

Big Sister Portsha grew up with a very busy single mother. Her mom didn’t really have time to craft or read, or to be silly with Portsha and try to touch the tip of her nose with her tongue, as Portsha liked doing. She was devoted to working and providing for Portsha and didn’t have a lot of spare time. Because of this, Portsha felt she was missing a mentor in her life, so she made mentors for herself out of pop culture icons.

“My mentors and role models were the powerful and brave girls and women I would read about in books, like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird or see in movies, like Disney’s Mulan,” Portsha says. “And of course, Oprah. Everybody loves Oprah.”

By the time she was an adult herself, she knew she wanted to be a real-life mentor for someone. Signing up to be a Big Sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay was the perfect opportunity.

“I hope that every girl is as blessed as I am to have a Big like Portsha.”

– Little Sister Arayah

In 2015, she was matched with Little Sister Arayah. At the time, Arayah was struggling with reading and lacking confidence. Portsha saw the potential in her Little Sister. She thought she could be someone who was great at reading and believed in herself, so she set out to help Portsha become that.

They started with trips to the library. They would pick out books, read them independently, and come together after to talk about what they learned. Portsha didn’t stop there. She also would ask Arayah to read things like street signs, menus, and directions during their outings. Over time, Arayah became more confident in her reading and in herself. She now loves reading—especially comic books.  Her mom has noticed the changes.

“Portsha has been such a motivating force in Arayah’s life,” she says. “She now exudes a confidence I have never imagined and is willing to take chances.”

In fourth grade, Arayah decided that she wanted to help other kids, so she started a club at her school called “Helping Hands.” Her goal was to offer students a place they could go and air out their frustrations. She had no idea if anyone else would be interested, but it turned out that, like her, a lot of students needed that kind of outlet.

Arayah gives credit to Portsha for supporting her and her ideas.

“If I didn’t have her as my mentor, there would definitely be a big void in my life,” Arayah says. “She encourages me to never give up on my hopes and dreams.”

Portsha always knew Arayah had the potential to be a great reader and someone brave enough to be a leader and help others. She hopes to continue to help Arayah reach of her potential, and to be the real-life mentor she missed out on when she was Arayah’s age.

Big Brother Kevin and Little Brother Marcus

Big Brother Kevin and Little Brother Marcus

Millions of children are being raised by their grandparents, many because of their parents’ struggles with addiction. In 2017, nearly 10% of Big Brothers Big Sisters Littles were being raised by a grandparent, another relative, or a foster parent.

When Little Brother Marcus was just 3 years old, his aunt took full custody of him because neither of his parents were in a place to raise him. One of his parents was struggling with opioid addiction and the other was not a consistent presence.

Marcus has lived with his aunt and four female cousins since then, and he has struggled with dealing with his anger. Marcus often found himself called down to the school office for an outburst in the classroom or on the playground. When he was in first grade, his family received something special in the mail.

“One day, we received a letter about a program called ‘Big Brothers Big Sisters,’” Marcus’s aunt says. “After discussing it with the guidance counselor, we decided it was something that might benefit Marcus.”

“I look forward to many more years and adventures with him.”

– Big Brother Kevin

They signed him up to be a Little through BBBS of of Cumberland & Salem Counties and he was matched with Big Brother Kevin. Marcus’s life slowly started to change. At first, Big Brother Kevin visited Marcus at school, playing kickball or working on school work. When Marcus transitioned to middle school, they became a community-based match so they could see each other outside of school and on weekends.

“This was the beginning of the infamous ‘Marcus Sunday,’” Kevin says. “With Marcus in seventh grade, I started the tradition picking him up at 9:15 almost every Sunday morning.”

The two spent nearly the whole day together, often wrapping up after dinner. Occasionally, they took trips to Six Flags or explored Philadelphia, but a lot of the time, Marcus simply hung out with Kevin and his family. Kevin’s wife began making sure that Marcus was always included in the Sunday plans, and Kevin’s son played basketball with Marcus like they were actual brothers.

Marcus’s aunt saw a change in him. Kevin’s family was exactly what Marcus had been missing his whole life, she says. “As time passed, Marcus no longer belonged to a mentoring program,” she says. “He belonged to a family that loved and accepted him.”

Marcus felt that way, too. Kevin and his family helped him believe in himself and in what he could achieve in the future.

“If I never had Kevin, I don’t know what my life would be like,” he says. “Kevin helped me choose goals for my future, like playing football for the University of Florida. I want to be a Gator.”

Football is his first goal, but his backup plan is to pursue a career in business, following in the footsteps of his Big Brother, who is a successful business owner. Seeing the growth that Marcus has already made, his aunt can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.

“Kevin has done much more than act as a Big Brother,” she says. “He has inspired Marcus to become a great man.”

Big Sister Jess and Little Sister Sky

Big Sister Jess and Little Sister Sky

From a young age, Sky felt her life spinning out of control. She grew up in a home with drug use and physical abuse, witnessed her house raided by police, and, at one point, was physically abused herself. She knew that she couldn’t live there anymore.

She moved in with a friend before finding a stable guardian in a different part of town. She found even more stability when she was matched with her Big Sister Jess through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Minnesota.

They didn’t have the typical journey to becoming a match. When Sky moved and enrolled at a new school, she was struggling in her personal life and academically. Her new guidance counselor was worried about her reaching her full potential and expressed concern to his wife, Jess.

“There is one certainty in this plan–I will be there to support her every step of the way.”

– Big Sister Jess

“[He] came home and said, ‘Jess, do you know a Sky that went to Washington a couple of years ago?’” Jess says. “I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I probably talked about her every day. Why?’”

Jess’s husband explained that Sky was a new student at his school. He wondered if reconnecting the two of them might be good for Sky. Jess expressed interest, so he checked in with Sky to see how she felt.

Sky was more than up for it. Jess had been her fifth-grade teacher, and Sky vividly remembered the first time they met — she was in third grade, and she had fallen down the stairs. Jess remembers it too.

“I happened to be walking in the hall when several little girls breathlessly told me Sky fell and was hurt,” Jess says. “I scooped her into my arms and brought her down to the nurse.”

From that moment on, Jess kept an eye on Sky.

“I noticed she would go out of her way to acknowledge me,” Sky says. “She was persistent in making sure I knew she cared. I didn’t always make it easy for her, but she never gave up on me, and that’s what I remembered about her.”

When the two reconnected in Sky’s middle school years, Jess knew she wanted to help her get through this tough time. She also knew she couldn’t do it all alone, though. She wanted the relationship to be supported and have set boundaries, and she thought Big Brothers Big Sisters would provide the perfect support system for them.

“I called Big Brothers Big Sisters and explained the situation, asking if it was a possibility for us to be matched,” Jess says. “Although they told me they couldn’t guarantee it, I had a peaceful feeling that all would work out as it should.”

After the vetting process and background checks, Jess and Sky were officially matched as Big and Little Sisters. Since then, Sky has grown both personally and academically. She says she has Jess to thank for her growth.

“She was there for me when I was down and at my lowest and she’ll be there when I’m up,” Sky says. “If I didn’t have that consistent reminder, I would probably have given up a long time ago and gone down the same road as my mom.”