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Big Brothers Big Sisters

Organization Mission

We create and support one-on-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. We have served more than 7,000 local at-risk children, providing a crucial foundation at a critical time of their lives.

Mentors make Santa Cruz County a safer and healthier place by helping children make better decisions, which increases their chances of staying in school and decreases their challenges with substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and the criminal justice system.

The Big Idea:
Transgender Matching Program and LGBTQ+ Service Expansion

Our local agency, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Cruz County, is the first and only agency in the entire nation to have a Trans Matching Program. We began matching transgender youth with volunteer transgender adult mentors in 2015.  The program now serves as a national model.

Using our proven mentoring model, volunteers receive in-depth training on how to support these youth, who routinely face pervasive injustice, bias, and mental illness in their daily lives. Research shows a quality mentoring relationship reduces the risk of suicide in the trans population by 50%.

We want to expand our efforts in the LGBTQ+ arena through training, roundtables and enhanced match support for all of our mentors, our matches and for other youth-serving organizations in the community. Discrimination and bias often begins in childhood, as LGBTQ+ youth explore their gender identites. They are at high risk of harassment, physical and sexual violence, and suicide. We work with this underserved population in close partnership with other agencies.

We grasp that gender identity can be fluid, and providing deeper support for all LGBTQ+ program participants will improve outcomes for youth we serve. Our volunteers are trained when first matched, and many matches last for well over five years. We must update our training so that long-term volunteers are prepared to support.

Although it took a while to be matched, it was completely worth it. My Big Sister has been through a lot in her own life and it has been really helpful. My Big Sister has been there for me in ways no one else ever has — I know I can count on her, she has earned my trust.


Lisa , Santa Cruz , 17