To Protect and Serve

Veterans are notably resourceful and often self-reliant. There are times, however, when even America’s finest can use some extra help. Natasha Taylor, a single mom and Army veteran, found that support through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas and a Big Brother for her son.

“They’ve been matched since my son was in 9th grade,” Natasha said. “Hickman needed a male role model in his life. A father figure. He’s always been a good kid, but once he was matched with Sean, I saw a tremendous change. He was more positive. It was like a big weight had been lifted off him.”

Hickman’s father has not been in his life at all. “His father didn’t contact him on his birthday last week,” Natasha added. “Sean did.”

“One of the things I appreciate most is the time Sean spends with Hickman,” Natasha continued. “He’s gone to football games, basketball games, and wrestling matches. He’s been such a blessing to my family.”

The match does impact the whole family. Natasha is a single mom raising Hickman and a young daughter while working. She is also trying to advance her career by going back to college.

“Our match helps Natasha by providing Hickman with a male friend who, while older, is still close enough in age to understand what he’s going through,” Sean explained. “High school isn’t easy. You need people you can count on to be there for you regularly, and who understand and sympathize. Natasha has a lot on her plate. I’m happy to support Hickman and, if nothing else, provide a fun escape from the normal routine of high school life.”

Natasha is a 10-year army veteran who was medically and honorably discharged from the service. Following in his mom’s military footsteps, Hickman is enrolled in his high school’s ROTC program. He plans to join the Air Force upon graduation.

Veterans’ needs are unique. Recognizing this, BBBS offers mentoring services to the children of veterans. The agency also actively recruits veterans to serve as Big Brothers and Sisters.

“Members of military families are not always home due to trainings, deployments, duty assignments, field exercises and more,” said Saul Espinoza, a veteran himself and a BBBS enrollment specialist. “This can be particularly stressful. A mentor can provide friendship, as well as a sense of stability, security and trust. A Big Brother or Sister can serve as an additional resource and role model when a member of the family is away.”

Having a Big Brother in his life proved critical for Hickman when he experienced a racist incident at his high school – a comment from a follow ROTC member. “Hickman kept it to himself for about 3 months,” Natasha said. “When I found out about it, I got right on the phone with Sean.”

“Hickman and I discussed what had happened,” Sean said. “We talked about how unfair and unfortunate it is that racism exists. More than anything, I affirmed that he had done the right thing by not retaliating, and I told him I was proud of him, which I very much am. It would have been easy and understandable for Hickman to have lashed out, but he kept his composure and brought the incident to the attention of the proper authorities.”

According to Natasha, each outing Sean and Hickman have together just “steps it up” for Hickman. She laughs about the days Sean picks Hickman up from school. “Kids look at them and ask Hickman ‘Who is that?’ and he just says ‘My brother,’ and leaves it at that.”

“Because Hickman is African-American and Sean is Caucasian, the kids look at him and wonder what’s going on. But I’m glad Sean is not African-American because many people are all about their race and my children are not raised that way. We’re military, and in the service you see all races. I want my son to continue to like everybody.”

Sean sees himself gaining as much from the match as his Little Brother. “Hickman is a great guy. I enjoy hanging out and joking around with him, whether we’re just grabbing a quick bite to eat or going to a mall or arcade. He has an awesome sense of humor and we laugh constantly. He’s one of the most respectful people I’ve ever met. He thanks me and tells me he had a good time every time we hang out, and I can tell it’s sincere. I enjoy our time together.”

One event Natasha particularly remembers occurred after a trip she, Hickman, and her daughter had taken to Galveston. “On the trip Hickman saw a two-door BMW that is his dream car,” Natasha recalled. “He posed by the car and we took pictures. Then Hickman told Sean about it. Three weeks later Sean picked Hickman up in the exact same car. Hickman was shocked. It turns out Sean’s dad owned the same kind of BMW and Sean had borrowed it just to take Hickman for a ride.”

“Hickman came back from that ride beaming,” Natasha added. “When I say there’s been nothing but good from this match, I try not to tear up. I couldn’t ask for a better Big Brother for my son.”

Learning Together

The numbers tell an impressive story at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas. Ninety-eight percent of BBBS’ Littles maintain or improve their grades in school, and 82.6% plan to attend college – almost twice the national average. Beyond the numbers and more important however, are the personal stories that support these facts – stories about matches like the one between Big Brother Cameron and his Little Brother Elian.

The pair have only been matched for about 10 months but there is already a strong bond between them. “I really didn’t know what to expect coming into this program,” Cameron admitted. “I was pretty nervous, but what surprised me was how quickly I became immersed and attached to Elian. After only a couple of hangouts, I genuinely began thinking of him as my younger brother. Granted, that’s not hard when you have someone as likable as Elian as your Little, but the depth of our match is far greater than I ever anticipated.”

Though Cameron is quick to deny credit for it, the fact that Elian’s academic performance has improved two letter grades since the match began is indicative of the positive impact of their relationship. “I’m incredibly lucky to be matched with someone who, when he puts his mind to something, goes above and beyond to get it done,” Cameron explained.

“That said, the importance of his education is always top of mind when we hang out together. We always spend the first part of our outings discussing how school is going, what’s going well for him, what’s challenging him, and anything else he might want to share about his day-to-day,” Cameron continued. “He wants to go to college, and I know he’ll do very well there. I just like to remind him of the importance of keeping his nose in the books if he’s going to do what he wants to do.”

One outing that reinforced Elian’s interest in college was a trip to see the 2016 U.T. vs. Notre Dame football game – a “nail-biter” of a contest. “Oh, it was unbelievable!” Cameron exclaimed.  “Elian had never been to a college football game before, so I made sure we got there a couple of hours early to walk around. I’ll never forget how many times he simply said, ‘I can’t wait to go to college.’”

Though that experience was exciting and eye-opening, it’s not the only educational experience Elian has had since becoming a Little Brother. “One of my favorite activities was rock climbing,” Elian said, “because it showed how we needed to rely on each other to succeed.”

In addition, since Elian is taking culinary arts classes in school, Cameron took him to a “How to Cook” workshop at Whole Foods. “It was great!” Elian said. “They showed me how to cut stuff and how to use the blender right. I learned how to make hummus. I love hummus now.”

Because of that experience, should Elian not get a basketball or football scholarship to college, he may turn his attention to culinary school and become a chef. He has an interest in owning a restaurant like his uncle does.

Elian and his siblings live in a single-parent household. Though there were male figures in his life, his mom, Bridget, felt that he needed a Big Brother. “He was at that teenage stage where he was not listening. He’d get angry. Since being matched, he’s become more positive and focused.”

“I was doing some stuff I shouldn’t have been doing,” Elian agreed. “I’d probably still be doing those things if it wasn’t for Cameron. He’s just such a cool guy. No matter what I’m going through, he’s so easy to talk to.”

“I think the world of Cameron,” Bridget said, “and so does everyone in our family.”

Meeting the rest of Elian’s family was a memorable experience for Cameron. “Elian and his mom were kind enough to invite me to their family reunion last year, and I had a blast!” Cameron said. “Family reunions are a foreign concept for me as I only have my siblings and parents, so I had no idea what I was getting into. After getting there and meeting everyone, my anxiety was completely washed away. Elian’s family was incredibly welcoming and the food was unforgettable. It was such a fun day. After that, I wanted to make sure Elian had a chance to meet my parents when they came to visit me in Texas. We had dinner together at The Olive Garden. Now, whenever my mom sends me a care package, she includes extra goodies for Elian too.”

Cameron decided to become a Big Brother because he wanted to give back to the community instead of focusing only on himself. He remembered how he had looked up to his older siblings, and he wanted to have the opportunity to be a role model for someone else. “Elian is a teenager and, while our experiences have certainly differed, there are still a lot of common themes that I can offer insight into.”

There are also some differences that can sometimes present challenges. “As much as I like to think I’m in touch with trends these days, I can’t help but feel like an old guy when Elian talks about what he and his friends are up to,” Cameron laughed. “High school has definitely changed since I was there, especially with all the technology and social media that are part of our culture these days. At the same time, a lot of the major aspects of Elian’s experiences are similar to things I was exposed to in high school.  Finding a way to communicate that without sounding outdated has been a unique, but fun, challenge.”

The educational benefits of this match work both ways. “The past ten months have exposed me to so many new experiences, and I’m very lucky to have an appreciative, kind, and fun Little Brother to share them with,” Cameron said. “When Elian tells me about his struggles, I want to help him. And when he shares good news with me, I’m genuinely proud of him and love helping him celebrate.”

Lately, there has been a lot to celebrate. In addition to having improved two letter grades in school, Elian recently received an academic award as well.

“Elian is an incredibly thoughtful, funny, and confident young man. He has the ability to light up a room with his wonderful personality, but at the same time, he possesses the maturity to ensure that those around him are taken care of. No matter what he chooses to do, I know he’ll do well,” Cameron concluded.

Spotlight on Adriana Adams

One of the first groups you’ll talk to if you want to sign up with BBBS, whether as a Little or a Big, is the Customer Relations Team. This group will help you get started on the path to being matched. The person who supervises this team is Adriana Adams.

A 5-year veteran of BBBS, Adriana began work at the agency as a Match Support Specialist. For a year now however, she has been the customer relations supervisor. She and her team are there to answer questions about the work BBBS does, to help people find out about resources, learn how to get involved, and determine the steps to take if they want to be part of the mentoring process.

“I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at El Paso,” Adriana said. “After college, I started working at another non-profit and liked it, but I wanted to explore other career options.”

It was while exploring that she found BBBS and discovered that the agency was a good fit. “I knew I wanted to work at a non-profit and I liked the work BBBS was doing,” Adriana explained, “but I also really liked the people – the BBBS team. The agency also has good leadership.”

Adriana and her team are the first point of contact for people who want to volunteer to be Bigs and for those who want to find a mentor for their child. “Some people don’t have a lot of knowledge about BBBS. We help them understand how BBBS works, and what is involved in being in a match. We also help them with their applications,” Adriana continued. “Our work helps the process go faster and more smoothly.”

Helping is at the forefront of what Adriana does. “I really like helping the families for whom English is a second language,” Adriana said. “I also like talking to the volunteers. They are so excited and they want to make a difference. I have a lot of respect for their desire to do that and I want to make sure they know what to expect.”

“One of the challenges in my job is hearing about the difficulties some of the families we work with are facing,” Adriana admitted. “Every family’s situation is unique. They all have good reasons for wanting to have a mentor in their lives, and every child deserves to have a mentor.”

In her spare time, Adriana enjoys many hobbies. “I like photography, and I also take Salsa and Cumbia dance classes,” she said. She and her husband of 9 years also enjoy having friends over and fixing BBQ.

What’s So Special About $1,250?

If you’ve spent time around Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, you’ve probably seen or heard the number $1,250. It’s mentioned at Ice Ball, at Bowl for Kids, on our website, and in our printed materials. $1,250 is a big deal at BBBS. Why? Because $1,250 is what it costs to fund a mentoring relationship for one year.

But wait! Why does it cost money to match a child with a mentor if BBBS’ mentors are volunteers?

BBBS does use volunteer mentors as Bigs, but while it may seem possible to pair a child with a caring adult and have a mentoring relationship just happen, creating an effective match is not that simple.

BBBS spends a lot of time interviewing and pairing the right child with the right adult, nurturing the match between the child, the family and the volunteer, and supporting it with highly skilled, professional staff and programming. Quite simply, BBBS puts its money – its $1,250 –  where its mission is.

From the customer relations employee who answers inquiries about being a Big or enrolling a child in our program, to the enrollment team that conducts interviews and background checks, evaluates applicants, and puts matches together, to the match support specialists who reinforce and monitor these mentoring relationships, it’s this highly skilled, professional team that makes BBBS’ matches so successful.

“Our program staff are required to have Bachelor’s degrees in Social Work or a related field, and  employees receive additional training from our national office,” said Joe Strychalski, BBBS’ vice president of programs.  “That training, along with the sophisticated system and processes we use to monitor child safety, participant attitudes, a child’s academic performance and avoidance of risky behaviors, all set our agency apart. We work on lots of different levels, activities and strategies to help Bigs and Littles achieve positive results.”

“When a match is just beginning, we work on establishing effective communication between the volunteer, the child and the family,” said Diana Hernandez, match support supervisor. “At that point, our team is initiating a relationship between people who are strangers and it’s important to get things off on the right track.”

The quality of the relationship that develops forms the basis for a quality match. “Our work is all about what’s best for the child. Many of the children we work with face significant challenges in their personal lives and stability is important for their matches to be effective,” Diana continued. “Changing mentors because a Little and a Big didn’t bond well isn’t beneficial for that child.”

Consequently, match support specialists work to foster trust between the volunteer and the family as match outings are planned, often serving as a go-between for the volunteer and the guardian, especially when there are language barriers.

Specialists also keep volunteers up to date on dynamics within the family. BBBS works with many low-income families and when financial problems result in a disconnected phone or other issues that might make a match outing difficult, BBBS’ team members keep volunteers informed. Similarly, if there are issues with school work or external problems that impact the child and the parent needs the volunteer to know about them but doesn’t want to relay the information through the child, a match support specialist will help.

“We also coach Bigs on how to connect with Littles who are quiet or who don’t trust adults. We help volunteers and families address issues that come up, suggest activities related to interests Bigs and Littles share, and organize match events that allow Bigs and Littles to connect with other matches.”

Sometimes events occur not only in the Little’s life but in the Big’s as well, and BBBS’ match support specialists must work to keep the pair connected. “Our volunteers may get married, have a baby, get a new job or have a schedule change,” Diana said. “When these things happen, we help participants develop strategies to keep the match, and the relationship, working.”

It’s a lot to keep track of as each match support specialist manages an average of 85 – 90 matches – with each match involving 3 to 4 individuals. Specialists work on building and maintaining relationships with all of these individuals to keep them engaged, and to ensure that the match is truly benefitting the child.

To that end, specialists monitor each match on a regular basis. “During the first year, we talk with everyone in the match once a month,” Diana explained. “After that, we touch base with participants quarterly.”

The team also compiles reports, completes required match surveys, provides information for grant reporting, implements workplace mentoring for a local middle school and high school, coordinates monthly enrichment activities and outings, and offers a scholarship program for Littles.

All of these activities, combined with the care, expertise and experience BBBS’ staff members bring to their work, produce life-changing impacts for children, volunteers, family members and the community as a whole.

To make this kind of difference, BBBS relies on funds raised through events, grants, and individual contributions.

“People often assume that there’s no cost associated with our services, or that funds for our work are  covered by the government. Neither is true,” said Brent Fields, BBBS’ CEO. “There are costs associated with what we do, and we don’t have any sort of automatic funding source.  And, unlike many great nonprofits, we don’t offer a fee-for-service product. We don’t charge for what we do. There’s no membership or participation fee for the year-round services we provide.

“While $1,250 may sound like a big number, the truth is that many people spend more than this on coffee over the course of a year. For this same amount of money, we can put a child on the path to success. And, as that child goes on to attend college, get a living wage job and give back to the community, the return on this investment is enormous,” Brent added.

For BBBS $1,250 is a magic number.

It’s the cost to fund a match for a year, but the benefits of that match are priceless.

Life Lessons: Ellen and Montse

Together they’re going to break the cycle. Little Sister Montse is going to be the first in her family to finish high school, with her Big Sister’s help. It’s a goal that has faced more than one challenge as Montse has moved to two new schools in the past two years.

“The first move was difficult, but Montse was younger and she adapted quickly,” Big Sister Ellen said. “But the second move occurred right before her freshman year of high school. It was a shock because she was set to go to the school where her friends were going. She found out a few days before school started that she was going to be moving to a charter school that had different rules, that she would have to wear a uniform, and that she didn’t quite “click” with the people there.”

Ellen helped Montse focus on the positive aspects of the move and talked with her about her concerns. “I talked with her a lot. It’s definitely been harder for her at this new school, but she will come out on top,” Ellen remarked. “Montse’s a wonderful person. We have goal-setting sessions once in a while and her number one goal is always to graduate from high school. It’s very important to her.”

Part of that motivation comes from hanging out with her Big Sister. “I don’t think she would have had the support to do as well as she’s doing in school without a Big Sister,” Ellen admitted. “It’s not my telling her what to do. It’s just hanging out with me and knowing that I went to college and that I make decisions for myself.” Having Ellen as a role model has helped Montse avoid making the same choices her female relatives made when they dropped out of school.

“Doing something different is hard. It raises a lot of questions and uncertainty, but she is persevering,” Ellen said. “Montse is very artistic and wants to pursue her interest in special effects makeup. I have a movie producer friend who has a studio for that type of thing and we’re going to take a tour.”

Special activities like this and other outings with her Big Sister provide Montse with positive ways to escape the stresses of her day-to-day world. “Technically, she’s homeless. Her family is living with her aunt and cousins, and I know that’s hard. She shares a room with two other girls which is not conducive to getting homework done,” Ellen added. “We take breaks by going hiking, walking dogs, and volunteering.”

It’s this time together and the small things in their relationship that seem to have the biggest impact. “Things that I don’t think are of importance, Montse learns from and internalizes. She sees that even the small decisions I’ve made in my life have made a difference and impacted my happiness, and she emulates that,” Ellen said. “But Montse also teaches me new things every single time we meet. I’ve grown exponentially because of her influence on me.”

“I work for a non-profit and we do good things for lots of people, but I never understood the importance of making an impact on one person’s life so deeply until I became involved with BBBS. Realizing that the smallest things I do or say have such a huge impact on someone else – that’s why I’ve done this for 3 years and it’s why I will never stop being Montse’s Big Sister,” Ellen concluded.

“People want to save the world, but I think helping one person is so much more powerful. I can’t save the world, but I can help Montse change hers… and that’s significant.”

Contributions to BBBS create relationships like this, changing children’s lives for the better, forever. Learn more about how you can support BBBS with a one-time or monthly gift here

Exploring Careers With Facebook

Bigs and Littles had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with Facebook employees, learn about their jobs, and tour their downtown Austin offices at a recent Big Brothers Big Sisters ‘Sister 2 Sister’ event. Matches got a glimpse of the daily experience of working for the internet giant, along with career and life skills education.

The outing was arranged by Match Support Specialist Lauren Dolan, whose friend Christina is a Facebook employee.

“I wanted to create an event focused on career exploration,” Lauren explained. “I chose Facebook because I wanted to give our Little Sisters a chance to see that there are women like them working in these amazing jobs at tech companies. Women are underrepresented in the tech industry. I felt it was important to expose the girls to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), for them to meet women who are working in these areas, and for them to find out how these women got into the positions they have today. It’s important for our Little Sisters to know that these kinds of careers are a possibility for them.”

“When Lauren contacted us about holding an event for BBBS, we wanted to be involved,” Christina said. “Facebook is super interested in engaging with the community and connecting with Austin youth. Plus, we wanted to share what we’ve learned, since we were all middle schoolers once too.”

Many matches were interested in connecting with the Facebook group as well. “My Little Sister is an avid Facebook user and I thought this would be a great opportunity for her to think about her career and academic goals in a fun setting,” Big Sister Wajiha explained.

“I wanted to give my Little the opportunity to see the Facebook office and to hear a panel of women discuss their professional experiences,” Big Sister Anna added. “The panel discussion was the biggest hit for her. She loved hearing from these women because they were all so different. She appreciated the differences in their backgrounds, ethnicities, and experiences.”

The matches had an opportunity to pick up some snacks and beverages before heading into a large conference room for the panel discussion. Gwen, Facebook’s head of entertainment industry and the panel moderator, explained that she was going to focus on information she wished that she had known when she was the same age as BBBS’ Littles.

The panel members, Gwen, Kelsey, Guadalupe, Mefah, and Emily, began by telling the Littles about their backgrounds, the individual journeys that led to them to work for Facebook, and their current roles. They also highlighted the strengths and skills they use in their jobs every day.

“It’s so important for young women of color to see a diverse group of women they can identify with,” Wajiha remarked. “My Little Sister saw women of color who have succeeded and who are making way for the next generation of young women to succeed. Each panelist provided information on how they navigate working in an environment that is perceived to be dominated by men.”

The last question the panel addressed – If you could go back in time, what would you say to your 13-year-old self? “My Little really liked that question,” Anna laughed. “And she liked hearing that it’s okay to fail. I think she gained a sense of hope from the information these women presented.”

Key take-aways included:

  • It’s okay to fail – failures are learning opportunities.
  • Dream big, but realize dreams can change.
  • Don’t hate your parents or role models – respect them. They are looking out for you and want you to be your best self.
  • Speak up and be bold in standing up for yourself.
  • It’s okay to be different.
  • Show leadership skills – be willing to take on projects.
  • Be friendly – learn to have conversations.
  • Do your homework and show up prepared.
  • Think about what you bring to the table that is different. What do you bring that no one else can?
  • Learn what you are passionate about – it is easier to take risks then.
  • Get out of your comfort zone – if it’s not a little scary, you are not pushing yourself.
  • Seek out mentors – you can have more than one and they can come from anywhere, be a guiding resource, and offer another point of view.

“This session was inspiring and it gave my Little new perspective,” Big Sister Katherine said. “She got out of her shell a bit, asked questions during the tour, and learned about functions within the tech field that she didn’t realize existed.”

The Facebook staff gave BBBS’ matches a complete tour of the offices which included some quirky murals, a large lounge, snack areas, balconies with views of downtown Austin, and game areas. “Facebook’s offices are like a kid’s hangout. The environment is like a playground,” Big Sister Anna commented. “If kids decide to go into the tech field, this is the type of setting they will work in versus traditional cubicle work stations. I wanted my Little to see that.”

The matches really enjoyed the whole experience. “It was a powerful event,” Anna said. “It was an experience that will resonate with these girls throughout their lives.”

The Facebook staff also hope the event will stay with the Littles for a long time. Kelsey, a Facebook Community Operations Specialist, said, “In six years, we hope to see you back here.”

“We are so thankful to Facebook for hosting us and for putting together such an excellent panel of women to speak with our matches. Having women from a company like Facebook, that is recognizable to everyone, talk about how their skills and education got them where they are today really made an impression on the girls,” Lauren concluded.

Big Brothers Big Sisters plans social, educational, and recreational events for matches throughout the year. These activities provide Bigs and Littles with opportunities to interact with other matches, have new experiences, develop new skills, and deepen their relationships.

In addition to regular Sister 2 Sister and Brother 2 Brother events, other special match activities include Open Nights in the Youth Activity Center at BBBS’ new mentoring center, Hobie Day, a day of sailing on Lake Austin, Adventure Quest, as well as an annual fall carnival and holiday party.

Learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters and sign up for our newsletter at www.BigMentoring.org

 

Spotlight on Christina Snell

Christina Snell fell in love with human behavior in college. In her words, she “just like[s] people”, especially kids. That passion resulted in her not only changing her college major, but in literally walking out of a college classroom and into a Big Brothers Big Sisters office. Ten years later she is still sharing her love for people and kids, but she is now in BBBS of Central Texas’ office, where she works as a match support supervisor.

Starting out as a pharmacy major at UT Arlington but soon switching to child psychology, Christina found herself working at a women’s and children’s shelter one summer. “It was too tough. There were many things there that I couldn’t shake off,” Christina said. “I realized I wanted to be on the light end of the tunnel. I wanted to be on the positive side of things where I could see healing happen.”

As a senior, she’d just left one of her UTA classes when she saw a girl wearing a BBBS t-shirt and asked her about the program. Following that encounter, she walked to the local BBBS office a few blocks away, asked if they had any openings – they had 3 – and a week later interviewed for all three positions and was hired. “I started there and never looked back,” she said. “I fell in love with it.”

Today, Christina oversees a staff of 5 match support specialists. She supports her team with any match-related issues: giving guidance, making sure compliance measures for national standards are met and that special events are staffed. In addition, she has elected to keep supporting many of the matches she started when she first joined the Austin office as a match support specialist. “I have had a long-standing relationship with these Littles’ families and these Bigs,” Christina explained. “Continuing to support these matches helped me maintain a balance when I made the transition from being a match support specialist to becoming a supervisor.”

Understanding both sides of the job is a real plus according to Christina because she knows what her team is going through every day, all the different “hats” they have to wear in their jobs, and the load that they are carrying. Much of her team’s success depends on the responsiveness of the families they are working with – families that are often dealing with significant difficulties.

These challenges fit well, however, with another of Christina’s passions. “I love empowering people,” she admitted. “Whether it’s encouraging a Big when a match gets difficult, or reminding parents that we’re here to help, or empowering staff to help a match through difficult times.”

One of the toughest challenges in her position is having to explain the unexplainable. “It’s hard when I have to explain to a child that I don’t know why their Big left,” Christina continued. “I have to explain it in a safe way. I have to let them know that sometimes life happens to people and that it happened to their Big, but that we’re going to find another Big for them.”

To help balance the challenges, Christina enjoys spending time with her husband and four kids – three girls and a boy.  She also loves singing karaoke, hiking, and creating special wall hangings. “I make things out of reclaimed fence wood. Neighbors will call my husband and say, ‘Your wife is in the driveway with a circular saw, what is she doing?’” Christina laughs. “But I love building things with old wood just for fun.”

Just don’t ask her to cook. “It’s still a New Year’s resolution that has never grown legs,” Christina said. “So luckily, my husband grills a lot.”

Since she’s been with BBBS for 10 years, people often ask her what her plans are. “I don’t have any plans to leave,” Christina said. “BBBS is like a family to me and the mission of the work we do is still alive for me. It’s been great.”