At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we believe every child should have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential – both as individuals and citizens. We believe that by changing the course of young lives we can in turn be changing the course of a community’s future.
Start Talking is a place where we want to raise awareness of key issues that face today’s youth. We will sometimes advocate, sometimes educate, sometimes inform, sometimes ask questions and always invite discussion about the pressing concerns that involve the younger generations of today.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Return on Investment of a University Education… Is That the Only Value of a Degree?

It’s a no brainer right? You graduate from high school and you aspire to reach post-secondary education in order to get a better job that will result in higher lifetime earnings over the course of your career.

That’s the path we were told we had to take and if you followed that path you were likely to attain a certain amount of success.

The proportion of adults in Canada with a post-secondary education is the highest among all OECD countries, so it would seem that Canadians have heeded the advice.
But a recent report suggests that a university degree – or more specifically ANY university degree is not enough anymore.

CIBC World Markets issued results from a report on Monday that demonstrates that the return on post-secondary education is dropping because too few students are graduating from programs that are in high demand.

The message is not to abandon the degree but to seek out a degree in the most sought after fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) if you are seeking a better return on your investment in terms of dollars earned in the job market after graduation.
But is that the only way to evaluate a university degree. Isn’t university a time to explore – open your horizons and seek out new experiences?

It’s back to school time and although many high school students are looking forward to seeing their friends again; many students are very stressed out - according to a recent survey conducted by Ipsos Reid for Big Brothers Big Sisters and CIBC.

The survey identified three major sources of stress: finding a job in their chosen field (68 per cent), not having good enough marks to go to their post-secondary program of choice (58 per cent), and not having the money for college or university (51 per cent).

I often wish I could go back and tell my 20 year-old self to relax and enjoy the experience because although it is important to focus on the end goal – it is equally as important to live the experience. You are only 20 and in university once and if I were mentoring my young self I would tell myself to take some risks because who knows where they might lead. ..

How do you give back?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Beyond the Classroom

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”- Winston Churchill

It’s a proven fact that mentoring helps kids stay in school, avoid risky behavior such as bullying, and that they grow up having more respect for family, peers and their community.

While children spend countless hours learning in the classroom, it’s important to recognize that having a role model and a friend, beyond the classroom, that they can talk to and share their experiences of growing up with, all within school grounds, can be a positive and life changing experience.

All over the country, for one hour a week during the school year, mentors from the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ In-School Mentoring Program, meet with their mentee and engage in activities such as board games, crafts or simply just hang out in the playground.

Being an In-School Mentor is about giving an hour of your time, once a week, to a child who is need of a little guidance and someone they can talk to about what’s going on in their day to day life. It’s about making that child feel special and that they truly matter while making a difference and most importantly -while having fun!

We know that In-School Mentoring makes a BIG difference because-

• 90% of mentors saw a positive change in the child they were mentoring
• 88% of students showed improved literacy skills
• 64% had developed higher levels of self-esteem

The proof is in the pudding! Check out our In- School Mentoring Program video to see how one simple hour can make a BIG change in a child’s life-

Looking to become an In-School Mentor or want more information on the program?
Get started here...

Monday, August 12, 2013

(Re)Connections stories…Why do we instantly feel so moved by them?

A lot has been written about social media and why today’s generation feels the need to document every moment of their life or every thought they have through the social media channel of their choice. As a result, we’ve decided that we are not going to add our thoughts or comments to this topic.

Instead, we would like to share this touching story from our Big Brothers Big Sisters agency in Newfoundland, which recently discovered the power of reconnecting with someone you may have lost touch with. We dare you not to feel moved or touched by this story.

“While the local radio station was doing a live interview with Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO and President, Bruce Macdonald, a former little brother heard the interview and instantly sent an email to the station. The station read his story on air with Bruce and the next day the Little Brother (Walter Harding) called the local agency. He wanted to tell them who he was, the impact his Big Brother mentor had on his life and that he was now going to be interviewed that evening on the same radio station! In addition to that, Walter, who had lost touch with his Big Brother, found him and talked to him for over an hour! He was so excited that he’s emailed the agency several times and decided to sign up as a Big Brother himself.”

Did you reach for the Kleenex? It’s okay we won’t tell. Maybe this generation isn’t so different after all.

So who have you lost touch with?  Who would you like to reconnect with or just thank for the impact they had on your life.

Let us know or better yet leave a Shout Out at

Who knows where it may lead.

And if you do reconnect, please share your story with us.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My Little Sister, My Friend

I first met my Little Sister, Lindsay, in 2002, when she was twelve years old. I was a single, thirty-one-year-old woman living in my condo in Mississauga, Ontario. I wanted something special in my life, the chance to “give back” and make a difference. I reached out to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mississauga after seeing an advertisement by the side of the road. That decision changed my life.

At the time that I met Lindsay, she was very shy and introverted. For the first six to eight months, she barely spoke. When I asked her questions, her responses were brief, and she rarely voiced her opinion. Over time, though, and with the support of her mother and Big Brothers Big Sisters, we bonded and created a solid friendship of mutual trust and acceptance. We spent every weekend together baking treats, eating fresh popcorn at the movies, window shopping at the mall, playing games at my kitchen table, rollerblading along the Mississauga lakeshore, sharing meals, and generally having fun. We were extremely thankful for the tickets generously provided by Big Brothers Big Sisters to the Toronto Raptors and Bon Jovi.

I proudly watched Lindsay grow and bloom into a wise, independent, and beautiful young woman who was social, vocal, and made her own decisions. With the encouragement of her mother, Lindsay became a cheerleader in high school and continued to expand her social circle and experience. Even after graduating, she returned to coach some of her younger peers.

Even though our time at Big Brothers Big Sisters ended when she was eighteen, our friendship did not. In 2008, aside from my matron of honour, Lindsay was the only bridesmaid in my wedding. I was extremely honoured to have her by my side that day. After all, she had been a tremendous presence in my life. In the years since then, we’ve continued to text each other and hang out when our busy lives allow it. I still fondly remember the day she held my newborn son in her arms for the first time. This past summer, Lindsay, her boyfriend and her mother attended almost all of my son’s soccer games. My three-year-old son smiles happily on the days Lindsay stops by for a visit or to babysit.

Lindsay was my Little Sister for five years, but she’s truly a remarkable young woman, friend, and part of my family. I’m so glad I made the decision to call Big Brothers Big Sisters. Thank you!



What is the most important thing your mentor did for you?