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Saint Mary’s hosts programming for peer mentorship program

| Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Saint Mary’s Belles celebrated their across-the street neighbors Monday as they gathered to view the Notre Dame Irish Football game as a part of their Big Belle Little Belle event. According to club representatives, about 289 students have signed up for the peer mentorship program. The program partners a freshman or sophomore belle or, “little Belle,” with an upperclassman “big Belle” with intentions to facilitate friendship and mentorship. The game watch party was the first event of the year for the group.

For some students, the Big Belle Little Belle experience can operate as a sort of pseudo-sorority. The Saint Mary’s students often speak on the values of sisterhood, and often refer to themselves as if they are one big sorority. The EMX logo on sweatshirts, pants and t-shirts, which imitates popular sorority culture, can be spotted around campus. Members of Big Belle Little Belle is sometimes seen as a substitute for Greek life by first-years and the club’s facilitators.

“I think the sisterhood is really important, because we don’t have sororities,” Saint Mary’s senior and Big Belle Little Belle co-chair Moira LeMay said. “And I think a lot of girls want a sorority, but they don’t want the dues of a sorority or the commitments of the sorority. And this is one on such a small scale — by no means is it a sorority — but it’s a way for girls to feel like they have like an inner circle with people that they wouldn’t normally have.”

LeMay pointed out the absence of dues as a reason for Belles to join, but the club did recently require a 10 dollar fee.

“It is to pay for t-shirts,” LeMay said. “So girls can have the nice t-shirt, and we don’t have to worry about our annual budget. And we can put more into our activities, if we aren’t concerned about t-shirts. It’s something that we’re doing different this year, just because of the amount of girls that we have.”

The appeal of meeting people and getting involved was a large driving force for first-year Caroline Jakalski making an appearance at the event.

“I just signed up because I thought it’d be cool. [In a] small college, you don’t have sororities, but it’s like kind of like a sorority, so you have a big and stuff,” Jakalski said. “I decided that it’s a good way to get involved, especially freshman year not knowing a lot of people.”

This year, Saint Mary’s’ Student Government Association and Big Belle Little Belle is reformatting the selection process to more closely that of a sorority. In years past, the board assigned “littles” and “bigs” based on things such as majors.

“We’re going to do a ‘pref’ night this year to take away from having the committee chairs and the committee decide for students,” LeMay said. “We’re going to allow the big to choose their little.”

The game watch is an event aimed at allowing bigs and the littles to get to know each other to facilitate the selection process.

“It’s up to the bigs and littles who attend these events to connect with one another [and] get to know one another,” LeMay said. “So then they’re like, ‘OK, this is a good relationship,’ rather than, ‘Well, you randomly paired me with somebody,’ and think, ‘I’m not happy.’”

LeMay said the organizers will step in if a little does not get appropriately matched with a big. Despite the changes and the movement towards sorority culture, the motives for the organization is the same: They seek to give younger students an opportunity to feel comfortable and welcomed on campus and to provide them with guidance, LeMay said.

These events led toward reveal day when bigs will pick their littles.

“Yeah, we are really excited for reveal day that will be on October 6,” LeMay said. “… That’s our biggest event of the year. We put the most money towards it — funding, activities, all of that. Reveal day [is] when our bigs reveal themselves to their littles. Last year, it was a lot of fun, but we’re hoping to be bigger and bolder. And our theme this year is Disney.”

Big Belle Little Belle extends beyond the structured events and into everyday life and relationships. The organization encourages the students to participate and extend their relationships beyond the bigger all-club event.

“We really tell girls, you make it what you want,” LeMay said. “So like my little and I, we do homework together. She comes and hangs out at my apartment with me. We do a lot together. But we also provide non-event events. So it’s not something as big as game day or reveal day. But it’s like, ‘Hey, if anyone wants to go.’”

For first-year Hannah Shoemake, this guidance is why she is seeking out a relationship with a big.

“I think, when adjusting to the college life, having a big sister figure is really gonna help me through some tough times,” Shoemake said.

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