Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence

Organizational mission statement (50 words or less): 

To create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth, while working collaboratively to strengthen the quality of the mentoring field and close the mentoring gap.

Brief description of organization (include key programs and recent achievements, 100 words or less):

Our proven mentoring approach - which involves recruiting, screening, interviewing, training, matching, supporting and evaluating - is a top model for improving children’s lives and has impacted over 240,000 children since 2015.  Our traditional community based program matches a mentor and mentee in a one-to-one relationship that meets 2-4 times a month on the weekends, or after school. Site-based programs match one-to-one at a corporation, or in a school. BBBSI has been rated a Four Star Charity by Charity Navigator, received the Gold Standard Award for Top Performing Agencies in the nation, and the Best of Norristown Business Award.


Population served (25 words or less):


Our children are between the ages of 7-21 and come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences.

Geographic area(s) served: 

Delaware, Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, in PA; Burlington, Chester and Gloucester counties in NJ.

In which Life Science Cares Area of Focus is your organization’s work primarily? 



Does the organization already receive support from or otherwise engage life science companies? If so, how? 

BBBSI is fortunate to partner in the above described Beyond School Walls program with Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, Independence Blue Cross (new this year), and AmeriHealth Caritas (AHC). We also receive financial support from Amerisource Bergen. Finally, we have board members employed at Merck, United Healthcare, Teleflex, AHC and Amerisource Bergen.

Please outline existing volunteer opportunities or programs & initiatives that harness human capital including any current virtual volunteer events:

BBBSI’s mentoring programs provide positive adult role models in the lives of at-risk children that reduce the likelihood of long-term behavioral and academic problems and help them become confident, caring, responsible adults. We do this through several program models. Currently, all programs are being run in a virtual format and are accepting volunteers:  Community-based (CB) program: Mentors & mentees spend time in the community doing fun and interactive activities together, working towards personal achievement and positive character building. To participate in the CB program, matches commit to an average of 2-4 hours, 2-4 times per month. School-based (SB) program: Mentors & mentees spend time together at the mentee’s school or the mentor’s workplace to build their mentoring relationships. The SB programs were designed to be able to impact more youth in the communities that we serve. We have four core School-based programs: The Beyond School Walls (BSW) is an innovative mentoring program designed for organizations seeking to help their local communities while improving employee engagement. It is unique in that students from a local school meet with their mentors at their workplace. Students are exposed to a positive work environment while developing a mentoring relationship. The College Bigs is a program where college students are matched to elementary and middle school students and spend time together at the Little’s school during lunchtime or after school. Many of the mentees in our programs will be first generation college students. Mentees in this program are exposed to mentors who can speak directly to the college experience.  The LGBTQ Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA) program was launched in 2018. LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk in a number of areas that impede healthy and safe development. The GSA program matches compassionate LGBTQ+ volunteers to be group mentors to GSA programs at local high schools. GSA’s provide a safe space for queer and questioning youth.  The Mentor 2.0 program is a program where high school students are mentored by college-educated mentees for their four years of high school. Mentors and mentees follow a specific curriculum which includes topics such as goal setting, self-advocacy, applying and paying for college and transitioning from high school to college. The program was launched in 2018, following strong evidence-based results from affiliated programs across the country.  Additionally, volunteers may join event committees that support our four signature events; Fashion Touchdown, Building Big Awards, Golf, and Flavorfest. They may also seek board membership on the Governing Board, or as a Regional Advisory Board member. BBBSI has five regional boards that assist with recruitment, fundraising and engagement. Finally, volunteers may serve on our Alumni Association committee, or in our Black Affinity Group.


Please outline proposed or potential future volunteer opportunities or programs & initiatives that harness human capital including any planned virtual volunteer events:  

All of the programs listed above are continuing in the current year and 2021.


Please signify the type of support you are requesting from Life Science Cares:


Programming (existing)

Project Title: 

Mentor 2.0

Total Project Budget (if applicable): 


Requested Amount [note that first year partners will generally be awarded $10k]: 


In which Life Science Cares Area of Focus is the requested project’s work? 


Description of Need (What is the issue you plan to address? What are the demographics and number of people you plan to serve, if applicable?): 


Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence (BBBSI) seeks $10,000 in support for Mentor 2.0, our technology enhanced high school to college mentoring program. Mentees are from Philadelphia's Parkway Center City Middle College beginning in 9th grade and continuing until, and sometimes beyond, high school graduation. Mentor 2.0 grows by approximately 50 students per year as a new cohort of freshman is added; 170 students are being mentored in academic year 2020-2021. Parkway is a special-admission school serving students with high potential and limited exposure to a college-going culture. It employs two school counselors to serve 500+ students. US World and News Reports recognized Parkway in its 2018 rankings as a high performing "Bronze" school. Despite high standardized test scores, Parkway scored 16.1 out of 100 on its "College Readiness Index". This is an alarming disconnect between the students' high school accomplishments and future prospects.  Mentor 2.0 is a collaboration between 15 Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates and iMentor, a New York based non-profit that created a safe email platform for mentor-mentee correspondence, an evidence-based high-school to college curriculum, and an evaluation methodology.


Mentor 2.0 reimagines how high schools support students through the process of planning for college using the following components:

*Mentor 2.0 students have a college graduate mentor working with them for 4 years, providing college-readiness support. *Mentors come from partnering corporations and the community.

*Relationships are built through weekly emails based on Mentor 2.0's curriculum and monthly in-person meetings at the school. *Mentors and mentees use iMentor's custom technology platform to build their relationships. Staff use the platform to launch, manage, monitor for safety, and evaluate the program.

*The 4-year curriculum focuses on non-academic factors needed for college success, including: Building strong relationships, Grit and resilience, Setting goals, Critical thinking, Career exploration, College aspirations, The college landscape, Completing applications, Paying for college, and Transitioning from high school to college.


The community need addressed by this project is the low high school graduation to college enrollment rate among low income students who aspire to go to college but have few college guidance resources. We estimate that 66% of current mentees have at least one risk factor for being from a low-income household. Only 30% of mentees live with both parents, with 48% living with a single parent and 22% students living with no parent (including other family guardian, foster care, group home, etc). Six students who participated in 2019 have a parent who is currently or formerly incarcerated.  As described earlier, the students in this program are high achieving academically, but they attend a school with limited resources. When asked if they would be the first generation in their family to attend college, 51% said Yes.  All students who participate in the MENTOR 2.0 program must have parental permission and must elect to participate in the program. Students who wish to participate in the program are interviewed by a BBBSI staff member to ensure that this program aligns with their goals and to help match them to a mentor who is a good fit. Students who lack support at home, struggle socially or academically, or who need to develop communication or leadership skills all benefit tremendously from BBBS programs. Age Group(s) Served 62% 12-15 38% 16-24  Gender(s) Served 73% Female 27% Male  Ethnicity Served 3% Asian 69% Black 14% Hispanic and Latino  3% Multiracial 2% White 9% Not Tracked

Specific Activities (Please detail what activities you intend to undertake as a result of the grant. Include information about service delivery and timelines.): 

The Program dates, curricula, and activity schedule for each high school grade sequence is included in this application packet. Recruitment for new mentors begins at the close of each school year and continues until the class cohort is completely filled (roughly June-September 30).

Evaluation (What are the anticipated results? What methods will you use to measure your progress? What does success look like?): 

Projected outcomes for Mentor 2.0 are based on iMentor's 10 years of experience matching 26,000+ students from schools in low income neighborhoods with online mentors, a program adapted by BBBS affiliates to become Mentor 2.0. Outcomes include: 98% of mentees developed study strategies to help improve academic performance; 91% of mentees who complete the 4-year program apply to at least one college; 81% of mentees who complete the 4-year program submit financial aid applications; 90% of mentees who applied to college were accepted.  BBBSI anticipates outcomes for our Mentor 2.0 students will be in line with these national outcomes. Program Coordinators use iMentor's custom technology platform to track key program metrics -- e.g., online and in-person meeting participation, strength of pair relationships, and pair support. Impact is measured through monthly online evaluation surveys, as well as annually with Youth Outcome Surveys and Strength of Relationship surveys administered by all BBBS programs. iMentor sends BBBSI a full data set on all its metrics at mid-year and at the end of the school year, while platform participation metrics are kept and tracked in an ongoing basis.  The evaluation's core metrics establish baselines and benchmarks to track and measure progress in: program implementation, short-term outcomes, and long-term outcomes. Mentor 2.0 measures overall success based on students' attainment of four short-term and long-term goals.   Short-term outcomes: 1) Development of a strong, personal mentoring relationship, the foundation for everything Mentor 2.0 seeks to accomplish. 2) Development of a college aspiration, a critical precursor to college success. 3) Development of key non-cognitive skills essential to personal, academic, and career success. 4) Effective navigation of post-secondary processes. These provide the foundation for Mentor 2.0 to increase mentees' attainment of our four long-term outcomes: High School Graduation; College Enrollment; College Persistence; College Completion.

Does this project already have support from life science companies? If so, what is the nature of that support? 

Employees from Independence Blue Cross serve as mentors in Mentor 2.0.



Is there any other information not captured elsewhere regarding your organization, project, program or initiatives that you believe will help the Life Science Cares team in evaluating your request? 

Parkway Center City Middle College has a unique partnership with Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) with students taking classes at CCP in 10th grade; by 12th they will be spending the majority of their time at CCP. They will graduate with a high school diploma as well as an Associate's Degree. The vast majority of the students in Mentor 2.0 have their sights set on additional schooling after they complete the middle college program at Parkway/CCP. Mentor 2.0 is the perfect complement to this opportunity because they have a mentor supporting and encouraging them throughout the four years.


How does your organization or program differentiate from other organizations doing similar work? Are you executing or proposing to executive an innovation in program or service? 

Mentor 2.0 has been successfully implemented at 14 other BBBS affiliates nationwide and was initiated in Philadelphia by BBBSI in fall 2017.  Evaluations from those 14 sites found that 97% of participants completed college applications; 88% expect to earn a college degree. BBBSI is replicating this structured program that involves: 1) matching students with their own 1-to-1 college-educated mentor for the duration of their time in high school with whom they communicate weekly through a secure, monitored online platform and who they see once a month at special events, and 2) Mentor 2.0's curriculum that guides mentor-mentee interaction so that pairs build strong personal relationships while students develop the skills necessary for college success. The curriculum is organized by checklist goals that mentors and mentees work to achieve together during each year of the Mentor 2.0 program.  Mentor 2.0 brings fun and flexibility to mentoring through the use of technology. Although technology supported and enhanced, this model uses the research proven relationship structure of one-to-one mentoring used by BBBS agencies nationwide. Mentor 2.0 recognizes that today's youth are accustomed to and skilled at developing and maintaining strong relationships with a majority of the contacts being via email. It also recognizes that adults are busy and provides a structure for volunteers to make an important and lasting impact in the life of a youth on a flexible schedule.