First mentoring cohort leads to program expansion for 2023
Imagine how the future would look if every high school student had a mentor inside a major company. That was the reality for 20 Atlanta teens who recently wrapped up the first cohort of the Beyond School Walls (BSW) program at the Chick-fil-A Support Center. The initiative, which kicked off in late 2022, was developed by Big Brothers Big Sisters® of Metro Atlanta (BBBSMA) in 2019 to promote career readiness and future planning. Chick-fil-A, Inc. is one of the first corporations to launch this in-person partnership and plans to expand it during the 2023-2024 school year.
Creating opportunities for the next generation
“My favorite part of this program so far has been watching Chick-fil-A Staff step up to lead some of the large group sessions. You can see the passion they bring to the room when they’re representing their expertise within the business, and I think the students really value their perspectives,” said Jolie Fouts with Chick-fil-A’s Community Engagement team.
The participating students, called “Littles,” each developed a relationship with a corporate “Big”— Staff volunteers from Chick-fil-A, Inc. Every month, the Littles, who are mainly high school sophomores, traveled as a group from South Atlanta High School to enjoy lunch with their Big and participate in facilitated 2-hour mentoring sessions. The goal is for these mentor matches to continue as long as the student remains in high school.
Engaging cross-company Chick-fil-A Staff to mentor the first cohort
Bigs came from virtually every department at Chick-fil-A. There were also about 12 additional Staff who volunteered as program ambassadors to support the program as needed. Each of the individuals selected agreed to the long-term commitment and program training. Jolie says they already have 13 additional Bigs lined up for next year’s class.
“The connection, growth and collaboration that has come from the inaugural year of BBBSMA’s Beyond School Walls program with Chick-fil-A and South Atlanta High School is truly a model for all BSW partnerships,” said Megan Arthur, director of innovative programs for BBBSMA. “We are so thankful to Chick-fil-A for its dedication to service.”
The students listed resume writing, corporate etiquette and professionalism and the fundamentals of networking as three of their favorite topics.
“I have enjoyed getting to know the students—not only my Little, but the whole cohort,” said Natalie Bell, who works in Chick-fil-A's Digital Technology and Transformation Department. “Being in this program has challenged me to think outside my everyday perspective and I’m grateful for the experience.”
Committed to service and impact
Beyond School Walls is one of several place-based initiatives sponsored by Chick-fil-A, Inc. The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team focuses on serving and strengthening communities sand identifies ways to support, elevate and scale the efforts of local nonprofits. From its earliest days, Chick-fil-A has worked to positively influence the communities it serves as a way of demonstrating its commitment to caring for others. While Atlanta remains a strong focus, the Corporate Social Responsibility team continues to expand its efforts and find ways to create greater impact and opportunity for community transformation across the United States and Canada.
The BSW collaboration reflects one of Chick-fil-A's core values: “We’re here to serve.” Through the Team Chick-fil-A employee volunteerism program, Chick-fil-A, Inc. Staff regularly engage in community impact projects and initiatives – like this mentorship program – throughout the year, “Our Corporate Purpose calls us to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A,” says Jolie. “Our work with BBBSMA allows us to live that out in a tangible, meaningful way as we help empower local youth through mentorship.”