ST. CLOUD -- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota celebrated the end of an annual mentorship program at St. Cloud State University on Wednesday morning.

The Dr. Potter Bigs on Campus Mentoring Initiative, which brings together students from the St. Cloud Area School District, Big Brothers Big Sisters, faculty and alumni of St. Cloud State, and business professionals from the community completed its third year.

The program was inspired by a pilot model in Michigan that aimed to bring business professionals and kids together for mentorship. Grant and Communications Manager Shannon Harter says it exposes kids to the possibilities of post-secondary education.

They meet with their mentors here on campus and some of them just spend their time together talking. Others go and explore campus. They've been able to tour different academic departments and do different on-campus recreational activities. So really just getting the kids immersed in what college life looks like and getting them excited about planning for their own futures.

The Bigs and Littles meet up for an hour twice a month from September through May. The mentorship initiative is continuing to grow, from 14 matches the first year to 36 this year.

Next year the program will serve 55 matches by continuing with this year’s Bigs and Littles moving on to Tech High School and adding new pairs in grades six through eight at South Junior High. 

Executive Director Jackie Johnson says the program is a good fit for people who want to be mentors but do not have a lot of time to commit.

This program really speaks to those who have very busy after work hours and weekends. This program is twice a month an hour per time and it runs from September to May. So it's about a 20-hour commitment for an entire year, but it isn't less than any other program as far as its impact.

The program began in 2016 and is named for late SCSU President Earl H. Potter III who signed the agreement weeks before his passing and was active in Big Brothers Big Sisters programs during his lifetime.