Bridging the Gap: Bigs in Blue program offers mentorship & more

Bridging the Gap

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Every day, corrections officers at the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility pass by Ritta Elementary School on the way to work, which is a few miles from the facility.

Chief Brian Bivens decided it was time for some of his employees to get to know kids at the school, so he got in touch with Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee, officially bringing the nationwide “Bigs in Blue” program here, pairing law enforcement with a student.

It’s another way of “Bridging the Gap.”

Chief Bivens gets a kick out of relearning the classic card game “Uno,” thanks to fourth-grader John Blair. But this partnership is about more than playing games at lunchtime each week.

Bivens looks at John with care and concern saying, “so what’s going on with you today? ” John answers, “nothing much.” “You’ve got a Christmas musical you’re working with?” John nods. “When’s that gonna be?” “I think next Friday,” John says, as Bivens starts shuffling cards.

The two hit it off after meeting just a week ago, the first local pairing in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters’ “Bigs in Blue” program at Ritta Elementary School.

“Just see how his day’s going, ” Bivens explains, “see what’s going on in the world, if he needs help with homework, I can do that, or we can play games like we’re doing today-just hanging out.”

John is hoping for some help with his least-favorite subject.

“Math,” he says. “well, it’s getting a little harder every now and then.”

For many kids, there’s more to the Bigs in Blue program than even homework help.

David Mowry, assistant principal at Ritta, explains what more it could mean.

“Sometimes, families and students may not have a good experience with folks in uniform but they realize they are people and they’ve gone through some of the similar situations and they want to give back,” Mowry said.

Right now, 10 Knox County Sheriff’s Office employees have signed up for Bigs in Blue, including deputy Kevin McCandrew, coming in on a scooter, not letting recent foot surgery keep him down.

We got to see his first meeting with third grader Graham Stewart, the two going over basic rules with Big Brothers Big Sisters, looking forward to what will very likely be a lasting friendship.

Stacy Bevil with BBBS says, “kids love it, they look so forward to seeing their “bigs” come in and know that they have somebody there just for them.”

We salute these busy corrections officers, committed to making a difference in the life of a child.

As Chief Bivens says, “we’re here to serve the public and no better way to do that than join Big Brothers Big Sisters and come in here and make an impact on some young folks’ lives.”

We’ve learned that Knoxville Police Department is also getting ready to join the Bigs in Blue program.

If you’d like to mentor a child through BBBS, whether you’re in law enforcement or not, BBBS says at least 100 children are on the wait list.

MORE ONLINE | For information on volunteering, click here

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