In-school program scores big with Big, Little Brothers in Jefferson County

PORT TOWNSEND — At 2 p.m. every Tuesday, Tom Foley leaves his Glen Cove business and drives to Mountain View Elementary School.

There, he spends an hour designing and building boats with his 9-year-old protégé, Matthew.

“We dream up projects,” Foley says.

Foley, who owns Haven BoatWorks, is Matthew’s Big Brother through a Big Brother/Big Sister program that is held on elementary school campuses during the school year.

Started in Chimacum and now spread to Port Townsend, the school-based program is proving a successful way to match boys with Big Brothers who serve as mentors, role models and friends.

“The after-school program seemed too big of a commitment because I work full-time,” Foley says.

“This looked like a better fit, and it has been.

“Even an hour makes a difference.”

Build model boats together

Foley has been working with Matthew since the beginning of school, spending an hour with him every Tuesday building model boats.

But he and Matthew didn’t know they had a mutual interest until they met.

“The first day we talked about all kinds of stuff,” Foley says.

“Matthew said he likes to make things and is interested in electricity, so we are trying to make things that have an electrical component.”

For work space, they found a table in the school’s book room where they can lay out their projects and work on them.

During their weekly visits, Big and Little Brothers can’t leave school, but have access to any area on campus, according to Sylvia Platt, recruitment coordinator of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Jefferson County.

“They can bake cookies, go to the library and read, play on the playground, use computers, play games,” Platt says.

“Some have lunch together or spend recess together.”

The school-based program is modeled after a “lunch buddy” program that matched elementary school students with older students, Platt says.

High schoolers participate

Of the 70 Big Brother/Big Sister matches made in Jefferson County last year, half are school-based matches, she says, and eight of those are high school boys who volunteer as Big Brothers.

“Volunteering instills a sense of civic involvement in teenagers,” Platt says,

“It also counts as graduation requirements for community service.”

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