An Inside Look at Jefferson’s Big Sibs Program During Hectic Year of Construction

Photo courtesy of Will Ryu,

Bayliss Wagner, Staff Writer

Each year, Jefferson’s Big Sibs coordinators sift through around 400 applications from current students. After reading each and every one, they choose about 200 rising sophomores, juniors and seniors to mentor incoming Jefferson students, which makes the program selective enough that there is only a 50% chance of being accepted as a Big Sib.

Senior coordinator Woorin Jang described the team’s process for choosing participants. She said that they first had to “advertise to middle schools,” then they matched up each “little sib” with one of the chosen Jefferson students, based on mutual interests. “It’s crazy,” Jang said of the quantity of applicants that they handle. As for the selection process, “It’s a lot of manual work and it’s very hard.”

As a sophomore, current junior Caroline Nguyen applied to be a big sib and was paired with a girl with a mutual athletic interest. “My little sib was on swim, so I had a really close relationship with her,” Nguyen said.

The next year, Nguyen wanted to apply as a Big Sibs coordinator. “In freshman year, when we were all supposed to get big sibs, I never met mine,” she said. “When big sib coordinator applications came out, I really wanted to be a part of that because I hadn’t had a big sib freshman year, so I wanted to help improve the program.”

Now, both Nguyen and Jang are working together as coordinators through a unique year for the Big Sibs program. “After we get them [Big Sibs participants] matched up, we send out information about them and then we hold events for them to come together and communicate,” Jang said. But this year, conflicts with the school renovation prevented them from holding an orientation.

All of the eight Big Sibs coordinators are working to adapt the program to keep up with Jefferson’s chaotic construction schedule next year. They hosted an interest meeting for coordinators during eighth period on Wednesday, March 2, much earlier than they usually accept coordinator applications. “Everything got canceled due to construction, so we’re trying to build a strong team from the start,” Jang said. “We have been making a lot of changes to our program.”

To maintain continuity in leadership while training underclassmen, this years’ senior coordinators have stayed in the program for longer than usual. “Most of our work is done over the summer,” Jang said, so typically, seniors leave earlier in the year. “What we’re doing now is making sure the seniors get next year all planned out before we leave so we can have a strong program. We wanted to start coordinator applications early so that the rising juniors could know what’s going on,” she said.

The coordinators are excited for the program’s future. Because all of her Big Sibs experiences, Nguyen believes that it is a valuable program at Jefferson. “Just having somebody to ask questions to who doesn’t make you feel stupid is really nice when you’re coming into TJ.” According to Nguyen, Big Sibs is even more important because of the construction, which could confuse freshmen. “It’ll be really helpful with the adjustments at TJ,” she said.

Jang, too, believes that Big Sibs relieves the stress and fear that incoming students may feel when they arrive at Jefferson. “I think the Big Sibs program is integral in the TJ community because coming to high school in itself is scary,” she said, “but coming to TJ, that’s a whole other thing.” From Jang’s perspective, the program also helps guide freshmen toward taking advantage of the many opportunities at the school. “Knowing that you can talk to someone gives you a chance to reach out and get yourself into every program that’s around here.”