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Big “Allys” for Little Dreams

Ally Financial mentors Westerly Hills Academy Middle School through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte


Charlotte, October 2016 -- “She likes to rap.” “Both our favorite movie is Captain America Civil War.” “He loves mac ‘n cheese and wants to be a lawyer.” “My favorite subject is math.” “She likes chocolate and I like vanilla.” “If I get good grades, my mom will buy me a bike.” “If I had a million dollars, I would take care of my family.” “He is smart, articulate, and engaging.” “It’s my birthday today!”

These are just some of the cares and dreams of this year’s mentees from Westerly Hills Academy. They sound like every other child. But they are not. These are children who, through no fault of their own, are at risk. Whether economically disadvantaged or due to difficult family situation, these kids are struggling.

One Harvard study has shown that Charlotte ranks 50 out of 50 big cities in economic mobility. Which means that youth who are born to poverty have little chance of advancing out of poverty.

Fortunately, Ally Financial has partnered for the third year with Big Brothers Big Sisters to provide mentoring relationships to give these kids a chance. Ally Financial contributes a substantial funding grant, and Ally employees serve as mentors. Beyond School Walls, this program, links mentees, “Littles”, with mentors, “Bigs”, of a corporation through a school-based structured mentoring program.

The kids meet with these mentors in Ally’s offices once per month. They spend time building trust in one-on-one relationships. They spend time discussing success strategies like problem solving and leadership.

It seems to be working. Studies of Big Brothers Big Sisters programs show that 84% of our children with a low grade average have improved their grades, 97% avoid the juvenile justice system and 60% have a greater sense of social acceptance.

At the kickoff, Donna Dunlap, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte, had this advice for the Bigs: “Just be there. They want you to ask them about grades. Have they been to school every day this month? How did the last project go? This year in particular is about goal setting. Plant the seed of opportunity. “

When asked why they participate, Bigs showed their giving spirit. Said Keary: “My first experience was as a Big Brother in college. Then friends formed a loose mentoring group in my neighborhood. Now I have an opportunity to make a difference through Ally.” Several first-time Bigs spread the word through their work team. Will, a dedicated Big, has been a mentor for three years and participates in more than one BBBS program. Lera, another in her second year, said “I think I have made a difference by just being a sounding board. I have not always agreed with my Little’s choices, but she talks through things with me.”

When asked about the value of the corporate environment, one Big recalled a special moment from the prior year. The CEO happened to be walking by and just dropped in. He let the Littles ask questions. They may not have understood exactly who they were speaking to, but they knew it was important and it made an impression. But mainly, indicate the Bigs, it’s an opportunity to “show an example”.

The Bigs and Littles have been specifically matched to have many things in common. Today was day one – their first chance to discover those connections and begin building a relationship. One Little summed it up for the entire room “I can’t stop smiling.”

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