Every other Thursday, 25 Fort Mill Middle School students load onto a bus at 11:15 a.m. bound for LPL Financial, an independent broker-dealer located in Fort Mill’s Kingsley business park.
The students are referred to as ‘littles’ in Big Brothers Big Sisters Beyond School Walls, a one-to-one youth mentoring program that matches middle school students with local corporate employees.
Seventh grader Kamille, 12, rides that bus. Since the beginning of her sixth-grade year, she’s been a little sister to LPL Financial service, trading and operations manager Michelle Maxey.
“We usually talk about how our day has been, what’s going on in school and how my grades are,” Kamille said. “And we talk about what our future goals are.”
She and Maxey meet in a room along with 24 other big-little pairs. After everyone chats over lunch, they watch a presentation on the curriculum topic for the day – anything from social skills and team work to problem solving and career development.
The big-little pairs take turns giving presentations. Last year, Maxey and Kamille performed a skit on bullying.
“We were talking about bullying and being left out, showing that it’s not cool to bully people and leave them out and make them feel like they’re not wanted,” Kamille said.
Maxey said that Kamille’s involvement in the program has helped her come out of her shell and boost her self-confidence.
“I feel like interacting in front of a large group in a comfortable situation helps her to be more confident in the things she does in school,” Maxey said. “I can see the reflection of that in some of the activities she’s doing this year.”
The topic that day was financial literacy. Littles learned how to budget, setting aside 50 percent of their allowance for needs, 30 percent for wants and reserving 20 percent for savings.
Four other local companies participate in the Beyond School Walls program – Duke Energy, Atrium Health, Ally and Quicken Loans. Each company tailors its curriculum to its specialty.
“The whole concept is to get kids into workplaces so you can do the big-little relationship along with workplace development,” Big Brothers Big Sisters spokesperson Meitus said. “A lot of the emphasis is on economic mobility and kids learning particular skills.”
Meitus said more companies are encouraging employees to volunteer. He said Beyond School Walls provides a convenient and fulfilling way for employees to give back to their community.
“What employers have learned is that to support their employees in that way, they end up having better job satisfaction, they stay longer and they feel supported in their lives and what they’re doing,” he said. “So it’s a win-win situation for everybody involved.”
LPL Financial was one of the first companies to participate in Beyond School Walls. When the company built an office in Fort Mill, Big Brothers Big Sisters began its first foray into York County. And now, the charity’s York County program coordinator, Christy White, is expanding the outreach.
“We’ve partnered with the Boys and Girls Club in Rock Hill. We’re at their Northside location (during) afterschool hours and we’re in need of ‘bigs’ to volunteer there,” White said.
Volunteers can fill slots on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. or 4 to 5 p.m., White said. Volunteers would commit to one of those hours, one day per week. The program serves kindergarteners through fifth graders and also kids in the at-risk population.
For Kamille, Big Brothers Big Sisters broadens her world. She said it teaches her about what lies beyond middle school, high school and college.
“My best friend is in the program and we talk a lot about how fun it is to be doing something other than being on Instagram and Snapshat or some other social media,” she said. “It’s a good experience for me.”
And for Maxey, the benefits are endless.
“I’ve been given the opportunity to do this within my work day. It breaks up my day and makes me feel really good about giving back to someone else,” she said. “And what’s most important is that you’re sowing seeds into a young person’s life who lives just down the street, right around the corner.”
And what’s most important is that you’re sowing seeds into a young person’s life who lives just down the street, right around the corner.
Michelle Maxey, LPL Financial
For more information about Beyond School Walls, visit bbbscentralcarolinas.org/programs/specialty-programs or call 704-910-1301 ext.1048. For more information about volunteering in York County, call 803-487-1365.