Lycoming College student honored for being a ‘big brother’

Lycoming College junior John Schopper and Riley

Lycoming College junior John Schopper and Riley

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa – When Lycoming College junior John Schoppert first volunteered at Williamsport’s Divine Providence Hospital for his medical sociology class two years ago, he had no idea he would get a little brother out of the deal.

While volunteering in the operating room at the hospital, the biology major met a nurse named Cherie, whose son, Riley, was involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lycoming County. Cherie felt her son could benefit from a “big brother” and thought Riley and Schoppert would really hit it off due to their mutual love of sports.

Now, two years later, Schoppert has won the program’s “College Big Brother of the Year” award for his mentoring of 8-year-old Riley. Schoppert said he didn’t know he was being honored with the award until it was announced at the annual Lycoming County Big Brothers Big Sisters banquet.

“I heard them say it was a Lycoming College student, so I started to look around for another student,” he said. “Then I realized I was the only one there. I was pretty shocked. It was really cool.”

Sister Catherine Ann Gilvary, the Catholic campus minister and adviser of the College’s Big Brothers/Big Sisters club, said the Lycoming County organization recognizes a student from either Lycoming or Pennsylvania College of Technology for making a positive difference in the life of his or her “matched” child. She said the student is selected based on his or her commitment and dedication to their little “sibling.”

Schoppert said his experience as a mentor has given him the chance to connect with someone he might not have otherwise met, and gives Riley, who lives in Williamsport, a male role model.

“I get another friend,” Schoppert said. “I get the chance to have a little brother I wouldn’t otherwise have, and he gets someone to look up to.”

Schoppert said Riley mostly hangs out with him around campus during visits, playing basketball or other sports, while enjoying meeting some of his college friends. In addition to on-campus activities, the pair have enjoyed some off-campus activities, including ice skating. He said Riley also watches some of the College’s roller hockey games at the Pickelner Arena, since Schoppert plays on the team.

Schoppert says anyone who is interested in participating in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program should take advantage of this worthwhile opportunity.

“It’s a really good idea (to get involved),” he said. “The more people who get involved, the better it is for everyone. There are so many kids who would benefit from having a big brother.”

A native of Baltimore, Schoppert plans to enter into a physician’s assistant program when he graduates from Lycoming in 2010. In addition to Big Brothers Big Sisters and the roller hockey team, he is a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

According to Cherie, Riley says he plans on attending Lycoming College when he graduates from high school, so he can be just like his “big brother.”

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