Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Selects iRT To Develop Training Curricula for Youth Educational Outcomes

Durham, NC (October 24, 2014)—innovation Research & Training (iRT)—a behavioral sciences research company—today announced its partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) to develop executive, staff, and volunteer training for an innovative program designed to support youth with learning differences whose learning style is not aligned with the expectations and teaching methods common in mainstream school systems.

The program—Promoting Enhanced Resilience and Learning, or PERL—will help BBBSA identify, understand, and support youth as individual learners. BBBSA Vice President of Research, Innovation & Growth Venessa Marks explained, “PERL will help our staff further understand children’s individual assets and challenges so that we are better positioned to help develop customized support systems for them that include their mentor, their parents, other service providers, and their schools.”

iRT will develop the training curricula for the PERL program, which will assist BBBS program staff to better tailor services based on risk and protective factors in each mentee’s life. The pilot program aims to encourage mentors to be more academically active with their mentees; and to help mentors understand the various learning differences that might affect the development of their mentoring relationship.

“Research indicates an urgent need for more resources for mentors and staff working with youth struggling in school,” said Dr. Janis Kupersmidt, president, iRT. “We are excited to partner with BBBSA to help train staff and mentors on identifying and assisting youth struggling academically. Ultimately, with this training, adults involved in the lives of mentees will be better equipped to address academic challenges and help improve the academic outcomes for these mentees.”

iRT will develop various sets of in-person training materials for the program. The executive level training will provide agency staff with awareness of learning differences and learning disabilities, and how these factors may influence both children’s functioning in school and the development of an effective mentoring relationship.  A one day train-the-trainer curriculum for use with agency staff will be created to facilitate staff conducting a three-hour training session with volunteers, who are prospective Bigs.  Finally, a three-hour training curriculum will be developed to train the volunteer mentors on the program.

Once all curricula are developed and completed, the pilot program will seek to help mentors be more purposeful and strategic in their interactions with their Littles, their mentees. Mentors will be better equipped to help mentees have hope for their success in school, create educational goals, believe that they can learn and master their subjects in school, be more engaged in their school, envision school as a positive place to be, and foster feelings of self-efficacy for their own learning.

iRT has a long history of working with BBBSA. Previously the behavioral sciences research company customized and branded a version of its core online mentor training program for BBBSA. The customized pre-match web-based training course prepares Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers by helping them to develop realistic expectations about mentoring and relationship initiation skills before they meet their mentees, so they can develop a strong relationship with their future Littles. The course is the first step in helping volunteers as they contemplate and initiate a relationship with their Little.  iRT also customized two post-match training courses for Bigs to help them in building and maintaining their mentoring relationship.

“We are extremely pleased to be working again with the iRT team,” said Marks. “This is an internationally respected group that is committed to the full development of youth. Through this partnership, we will provide our volunteers with the skills they need to work with those youth who are struggling academically. Our aim is to deliver an innovative support system to these youth that offers them the same opportunities to succeed academically as their peers.”

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About innovation Research & Training
innovation Research & Training (iRT) is a behavioral sciences research company committed to identifying and solving significant real-world problems facing children, families, communities, and organizations. By using evidence-based and culturally sensitive methods, iRT researchers investigate, develop, and evaluate behavioral, educational, psychological, social, and community assessment, prevention and treatment programs and services. iRT’s staff includes experts in basic and applied research in a variety of areas, including substance abuse prevention and treatment, youth mentoring, social and emotional development, mindfulness education, media literacy education, pregnancy prevention and sexual health, child and adolescent mental health, adult and juvenile justice programs, drug courts, drugged driving, tobacco use and underage drinking. For more information about iRT, visit

About Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Brothers Big Sisters, the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, holds itself accountable for children in its program to achieve measurable outcomes, such as educational success; avoidance of risky behaviors; and higher aspirations, greater confidence and better relationships. Partnering with parents/guardians, schools, corporations and others in the community, Big Brothers Big Sisters carefully pairs children (“Littles”) with screened volunteer mentors (“Bigs”) and monitors and supports these one-to-one mentoring matches throughout their course. The Big Brothers Big Sisters Youth Outcomes Survey substantiates that its mentoring programs have proven, positive academic, socio-emotional and behavioral outcomes for youth, areas linked to high school graduation, avoidance of juvenile delinquency and college or job readiness. Big Brothers Big Sisters provides children facing adversity, often those of single or low-income households or families where a parent is incarcerated or serving in the military, with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. This mission has been the cornerstone of the organization’s 110 year history. There are 334 Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates across the country, serving more than 500,000 youth, families and volunteers. Learn more at

Media Contacts:
Yvette Ruffin, APR
Director, Marketing and Communications
innovation Research & Training
Sarah J. Haney, CFRE
Vice President, Development
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America