Junior works as president of the “Big Buddies” club, which mentors impoverished youths

Junior works as president of the

Trevor Stamp

Tania Benjamin, 20, a junior cellular and molecular biology major, is the president of Big Buddies, a student run charity organization that supports homeless and troubled children. Benjamin hopes her work will get her to medical school so that she may realize her dream of helping the community. Photo credit: Trevor Stamp / Daily Sundial
Tania Benjamin, 20, a junior cellular and molecular biology major, is the president of Big Buddies, a student run charity organization that supports homeless and troubled children. Benjamin hopes her work will get her to medical school so that she may realize her dream of helping the community. Photo credit: Trevor Stamp / Daily Sundial

Coming to college is all about new experiences. Do you join a club, or start a new one? How do you immerse yourself into the college community? For Tania Benjamin, 20, attending CSUN was about trying new things. That’s what led her to starting Big Buddies.

“I always wanted to start a club to just make college fun for myself,” Benjamin said. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.”

Big Buddies is a student run charity organization focused on helping children in homeless shelters or in tough living conditions. Most of the club’s members volunteer at Hope of the Valley in Sun Valley. The group pairs its members with children for one-on-one tutoring and other peer mentoring.

Benjamin is the president and the founder of the club.

“I felt college students would be the best people to be there for  (the children) because we have a diverse group at CSUN,” she said. “They’re all in college, they all have visions and goals.”

The idea for Big Buddies stemmed from her volunteer  work at the Help the Children Foundation in Santa Clarita.

“I saw the kids that would come into that food pantry,” she said. “The clothes they were wearing, the way they were feeling, the way they were treating their parents in front of people, I could tell they had so much hurt inside of them.”

Benjamin came up with the idea of the club on her own, according to Terri Silverberg, the club’s faculty adviser.

“She saw a need for volunteers in the shelters and took the steps needed to remedy this situation,” Silverberg said. “After presenting the idea to me as faculty adviser, she literally took charge of all the details.”

Benjamin began volunteering at Help the Children during her junior year at Canyon High School. She said that she was never really active during high school, spending most of her time studying for classes.

“I wasn’t as involved as I am now,” she said. “But that was because of my family circumstances. My parents were divorced.”

Despite their divorce, her parents did the best they could to make sure their children were not too affected by it, according to Benjamin. But this allowed her to see how hard her mom worked to support her children as a single parent.  It also motivated Benjamin to work even harder in school and begin volunteering when she received a car.

“I like giving more than I like taking,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin, a junior, currently majors in cellular and molecular biology. She hopes her degree will help get her into medical school, and later land a job as a physician. Benjamin hopes to be the kind of physician that is seen as caring and compassionate, something that she learned from her mother who is a nurse.

“Her enthusiasm for helping people is sincere and, in her quiet, gentle way, she inspires everyone around her, including me,” Silverberg said.

Benjamin fears that the time allotted to helping the children is not always enough. However, she’s happy they at least help them get started on finding a solid education and quality time with positive peer mentors.

“I always wanted to be a person where I can make people feel happy and good and secure in their lives,” she said.  “I guess maybe that’s why I wanted to do Big Buddies.”