Ada Friends mentors ("Bigs") and their "Littles" kick off the 2014-15 school year with a trip to Suter's Corn Maze. (photo/ Ada Icon)

Interested in being a big brother or sister to an at-risk child? Ada Friends might be for you. 

Ada Friends is a mentorship program through Ohio Northern University’s English Chapel, created in 1991 as a program to integrate ONU students with the Ada community. The program is similar to Big Brothers/Big Sisters, matching ONU students (“Bigs”) with Ada Elementary students (“Littles”). The Littles range from kindergarten through eighth grade, with many that are considered to be at-risk youth.

The Bigs and Littles are paired together based on an application process that takes similar hobbies and interests into account. The pairs meet up at least once a week to play games and participate in other activities together. The Ada Friends staff will organize events throughout the year, giving the pairs plenty of opportunities to have fun together. Most of these events will be free for the pairs.

Not only does this program give ONU students an opportunity to become more involved with the Ada community, but it also is a chance for at-risk youth to gain stable friendships, positive influences, and lasting role models to look up to during their childhood.

The coordinator of the Ada Friends program, Austin Hilverding, held two informational nights on Aug. 25 and 26. At these meetings, Austin answered any questions the potential Bigs had and gave more details about the program.

Austin went into great detail when explaining the impact Ada friends has on ONU and the Ada Community.

“Bigs take what they gain and learn in this program to become leaders in other programs across campus.  In the past decade, the Ada Friends program has grown exponentially, blossoming from 46 Big-Little pairs in 2008 to over 80 matches in each of the last two years.  Ada Friends looks to make an even bigger impact this year by matching close to 100 ONU students with their elementary counterparts,” he said. “As for the Ada community, the children get a new, positive role model in their lives. Parents gain a secure sense of appreciation for the newfound confidante with whom their child has been paired.  Overall, the community and the campus of Ohio Northern University strengthen their unique ties with one another.”

At this informational night, P2 Michael Young explained his excitement to be a potential Big.

“It’s just really exciting to be able to have such a big impact on the kids in Ada and be someone they know they can always count on!” he said. “I can’t wait to meet my little!”

To join the Ada Friends program, potential Bigs must submit a some-what extensive application that covers, not only their interests and hobbies, but also why they want to be an Ada Friend. It is also suggested that the potential Bigs submit at least one reference in their application.

Every potential Big must have an interview with the Ada Friends staff in order for the staff to gauge how well of a fit the Big may be to the program. Per University policy, Bigs will have to complete a background check and attend a training session once accepted and matched with a little. Applications are due Sept. 12, and interviews will begin Sept. 7-11.

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