Joshua Is Waiting For A Big Brother

 

dsc02643cropWhat is Joshua looking for in a Big Brother? “Basically, just someone who can throw and catch,” he says, matter-of-factly.

Joshua is a 10-year-old boy who loves sports and the outdoors. However, being an only child in a single-parent household, he is missing a male role model who could help him realize dreams and possibilities he has never even imagined. He is waiting for a Big Brother.

“Joshua is funny, smart, active and kind,” said his mom, Kay. “I see such potential for a positive impact from the right man who could be a friend and mentor to my son, helping him grow in new ways.”

Joshua is very bright, but like many kids his age, he sees academic pursuits as “nerdy” and uncool. “I hope a mentor can impact that part of his goal setting and vision for himself as well,” Kay added. “I hope that, ultimately, Joshua can seek to be both a scholar and an athlete.”

At this point in his life, Joshua focuses on football because that is the one area where he can consistently connect with his dad. Joshua needs a Big Brother who can offer support and expand his world view.

“A Big Brother would help build my confidence,” Joshua admitted.

His mother sees her son’s struggle and recognizes his need to connect with a constructive male influence. “I see it all the time in the ways he interacts with, and talks about, his science teacher, male coaches and more,” Kay continued.

Joshua dreams of fame, fortune and sports. He says he wants to be “an NFL star.” His mom finds the “star” part interesting because Joshua also enjoys singing and making people laugh. “I’m sure there are many things Joshua hasn’t even imagined that could be part of his life with the support of a great match.”

dsc02651Joshua knows exactly how long he’s been waiting for a mentor. It turns out he’s been counting the months.

Joshua and his mom connected with BBBS after seeing the positive results friends and co-workers had experienced from being part of the program. Now they are waiting for that same positive impact in their own lives.

“The need is great and the opportunity to have a magnificent, lasting effect on a kid’s life is huge,” Kay said. “There’s no way to overstate that.”

By making a monthly gift to BBBS as part of our new Game Changers program, you can change a child’s – and indeed, a family’s – life for the better, forever. Your support will provide Joshua, and the other children on our waiting list, with the mentoring relationships they so richly deserve.

As a Game Changer, you decide how much you’d like to give, and that amount will be automatically and securely deducted from your account each month. Each gift will be gratefully received and carefully used to create more mentoring relationships for children in Central Texas.

Be a Game Changer.  Join now.

Learn more here.

Finding Her Way

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Children are resilient, but they can reach a breaking point. Alyssa is a 16-year-old who is the youngest of 4 children. After experiencing a series of tragic events, Alyssa was losing her way – until she was matched with a Big Sister.

“She was on the wrong path. She had lost hope. You could just see it in her,” said her mother, Stephanie, who pointedly admitted that she feared her daughter would end up in jail or dead.

The difficulties began when the family’s home was flooded and they had to move. Six months later their house burned down and they had to move again. Not long after that, the family suffered through yet another flood, all within a two-year period. Alyssa was in the house during the most recent flood and it terrified her. These events began to take a toll on the teenager.

“Her attitude changed and she acted like she didn’t care about anything,” her mother continued. “She was getting into fights and had to be transferred to different schools. She was climbing out of windows to run away from school. It was really bad.”

Things started to change about 6 months ago, when Alyssa was matched with Rebecca. The two had an instant connection. Alyssa had found a friend who could help her get back onto a positive path. “They were both very comfortable with each other,” Stephanie said. “They found it easy to talk to one another.”

Rebecca became a Big because she remembered her own mentors and how they’d contributed to her life. “I wanted to be that person for someone else,” she recalled.

As a Big, Rebecca had two goals. She wanted to be someone Alyssa could open up to and talk to in a way that she couldn’t with her mom and siblings. Becca, as the family calls her, also wanted to support Alyssa in a practical sense by encouraging her to graduate, to find a career and to succeed. According to the family, both goals are being met.

“Now, oh my gosh, how Alyssa’s changed,” her mother continued. “She volunteers at the animal shelter. She is in FFA, a leadership program, at school. Becca got her out hiking. She just has a better outlook on life.”

Alyssa’s grades have also improved under Becca’s tutelage. “Last year she failed several classes, but this year she’s passing all of her classes and has gotten A’s in some,” Becca explained. “I’m so proud of her.”

Becca and Alyssa both enjoy the outdoors and going on hikes together. “We also really enjoy food,” Becca laughed. “So, we will often go to dinner for our outing.” One new place that Alyssa seems to like is the Hit the Spot Café.

“She also really loves animals and once a month we volunteer at the animal shelter,” Becca added. “I helped her apply to volunteer and signed up with her, but she’s kind of run with it. She now goes to help out after school. It’s something that’s become a part of her life and that she’s doing of her own accord. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of her for. I could see her working with animals as a career.”

Having a career wasn’t something Alyssa had even thought about until the pair took a tour of Texas State University. “Now she’s started talking about going to college and life after high school,” Becca said, “and I don’t even bring it up. I get excited when I see her making such progress, becoming more confident and starting to make goals for herself.”

Before being matched with Rebecca, Alyssa had never wanted to go to college. Now however she says, “I am going to go to college.”

“Becca has opened my eyes and helped me to see that no matter where you come from you can always aim higher,” Alyssa explained. Alyssa would be the first in her family to attend college.

Her mom, Stephanie, agrees that Alyssa has a new attitude about her future. “Alyssa really looks up to Becca,” she said. “Now Alyssa tells me, ‘I know what I’m going to do with my life and I’m going to get there. I’m going to make good money, and buy a house. I’m going to be somebody.’ I have never heard her talk like that before.”

As Alyssa makes her way to the life she envisions, she plans on having her Big Sister Becca by her side. “Yes, we’ll be friends for life,” Alyssa said.

Becca agrees. “Alyssa is wonderful and I look forward to hanging out with her. I really want to see her through high school and support her next steps.”

Such support is not lost on Alyssa. She knows what her Big Sister is doing for her. “Becca is a wonderful person who has really changed me,” Alyssa added, “and I really do love her for that.”

A Message of Gratitude From Our CEO

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“Gratitude can transform common days into Thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
—William Arthur Ward
 Greetings,

As we approach this season of Thanksgiving, we have so much to be thankful for at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas.

We have reached an exciting moment in our history with our move to our new facility – the Bennett-Rathgeber Mentoring Center. It’s a moment that has been 45 years in the making. A moment that connects our past, our present and our future. A moment made possible by the work, efforts and involvement of all who have come before us… all who have contributed to making BBBS what it is today.

This is a moment for gratitude.

As I reflect on this unique moment in time, I am grateful to all who have been part of our rich history, who have been part of our work and who have shared in our journey.

I am also grateful for our agency’s 45 years of impactful service in the community, and for the opportunity to continue this work as we move forward.

I am grateful for the creation of this new mentoring center, a place that has been a hope, a need, a dream and a passion for many people, in many ways, over many years.

I am thankful for, and excited about, the new ways this facility will impact our daily work and our work in the community. We are already seeing some of these impacts now:

  • For the first time in our history, our staff and belongings are all under one roof
  • At our October BIG Fall Carnival, our first event in this new location, our new space allowed us to invite all of our matches, volunteers, friends, associates, children and families on our waiting list, alumni, neighbors and others into ‘our house’ – something that has never before been possible.

As I look to the future, I am grateful that we now have the resources in place that will allow us to dream bigger and to think more aspirationally about the impact we can have as we go forward.

Finally, in this season of gathering with those we care about, what I am most grateful for is you. I am grateful for the opportunity to celebrate this moment with you, grateful for your role in our lives and our work, and grateful for the privilege of continuing this mission together as we work to improve the lives of children and families in Central Texas.

Warm wishes,

Brent Fields
CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas

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BBBS’ BIG Fall Carnival = Big Fun

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Popcorn, snow cones, inflatable slides, and hula hoops were all part of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ BIG Fall Carnival on Saturday, October 29. It was a fall celebration that welcomed an excited crowd of over 300 children, families, and friends to Big Brothers Big Sisters’ new Bennett-Rathgeber Mentoring Center in Rathgeber Village.

There were plenty of treats and smiles as many kids came dressed in their Halloween costumes to enjoy the day. “What a great kickoff event for our new facility,” said Brent Fields, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters. “It was a special day for our matches and guests alike.”

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“This event perfectly reflects the new opportunities that our mentoring center will make possible,” Fields continued. “This new space will allow us to serve larger numbers of kids, families and volunteers, to partner with other organizations, and to bring community members together in new ways.”

“We could never have had an event like this at our old facility. We’ve expanded our space and, in so doing, we’ve expanded the kinds of opportunities we can offer those we serve. It’s going to be exciting to see our carnival grow year to year, to watch our organization grow, and to see our impact on the community grow as well.”

“A special ‘thank you’ to Katharine and Ted Barnhill, a former Big Brother and board member, whose generous sponsorship made this event possible.”

Bigs, Littles and employees alike had a great time Saturday. “The best part was watching the kids run up and down the line of games,” laughed Saul Espinoza, one of BBBS’ match support specialists. “You could tell that some parents wanted to slow down a bit, but the kids were having a great time and they just wanted to try everything. I overheard one kid saying ‘I just keep winning!’ He was excited about doing so well at all the different games he was trying.”

The free event was reminiscent of an old-fashioned country fair. Activities included a cake walk, an inflatable slide, a basketball toss, a bean bag throw, an inflatable wrecking ball game, hula hoops, face painting and much more. There were also lots of special treats.

Numerous sponsors and agency partners provided refreshments. Honest Tea supplied drinks. Wells Fargo Bank and BBBS’ board member Carlos Barbosa made freshly popped popcorn, and Edible Arrangements owner and former Big Sister Reva Enzminger provided delicious ‘ghost pops’ (ghost shaped pineapple slices dipped in chocolate) that were quite ‘pop-ular.’

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“The chocolate covered pineapples were probably the biggest hit! Ok, maybe that was my favorite,” Big Brother Abraham Salas remarked. “My Little Brother, Kevin, enjoyed the snacks as well as the football ladder game and the bean bag throwing game. Although we didn’t join in on the inflatable wrecking ball, we enjoyed watching others participate. All of the inflatable games were awesome.”

Representatives from Austin Fire Department Station No. 14 and Austin Emergency Medical Services were also on hand to talk with children and to show off their trucks and equipment.

BBBS’ carnival brought together a diverse group of participants: Bigs, Littles and their families, children and families from BBBS’ waiting list, BBBS’ alumni, board members, staff members, former staff members, and friends, along with children from the Austin Children’s Shelter.

“This was a historic event that marked an important moment in time for our agency,” Fields concluded. “This is the first time in our 45-year history that we’ve been able to invite all of the people connected with BBBS to our space… to our ‘house.’ Our new mentoring center is, and will be, a gathering place…a meeting place… a place to bring people together. And bringing people together is what our organization is all about.”

A Little Goes A Long Way

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He may have been the smallest player on the football field, but he made a big impact at the Colt McCoy Football Camp. Seven-year-old BBBS Little Brother Dajuan Jessie impressed everyone as he competed with 16-year-olds and came away with the #1 Draft Pick award at the camp this past July.

“On the first day of the camp I was sitting up in the stands when they announced they were going to select someone as the #1 Draft Pick,” said Joel Luton, Dajuan’s Big Brother. “I thought, ‘I wonder who’s gonna win that.’ And only two hours into the camp, out of approximately 200 students, they chose Dajuan.”

Dajuan was very “chill” about winning the award and the games during the camp, Joel explained. But his grandmother, Christi, who he lives with, said Dajuan couldn’t stop talking about the event and winning the award after it was all over. When Dajuan was asked how he won the event he simply shrugged, glanced at his grandmother and said, “I eat my carrots.”

dajuan-5“In one game I just went up the middle and they were trying to get me but I stiff-armed them and slapped their hands away,” Dajuan continued, reliving the moment. When his grandmother asked if the other players could catch him, he replied simply, “No.”

People who know Dajuan are not completely surprised. Match Support Specialist, Rah-Taja Doggett, who supported Joel and Dajuan’s match said, “Dajuan may be small in stature, but he is very fast. He’s also very smart with a very high reading level and he’s been playing in the city league since he was five.”

Plus, he just loves football, which also makes him a perfect match with Joel. “When I interviewed to be a Big I asked to be matched with a younger kid who was active, liked sports, and had a sense of humor,” Joel said. The two have hit it off perfectly, spending time going to UT baseball games, UT football scrimmages, and even going bowling.

“They put the bumpers up when we went bowling,” Joel added. “Dajuan had never bowled before and he was really pleased that he was beating me.”

Joel says that he can see that competitive spirit in Dajuan when he participates in anything and that it’s part of what helps the youngster succeed. “He takes (football) very seriously,” Joel explained. “Dajuan was one of the smallest kids at the camp, but he was the one who caught a bunch of passes in a row.”

During the camp the players were placed on teams and in divisions by age. There were five teams in Dajuan’s division and his team won all their games and received a gold medal. “I asked him if he was the reason they won,” Joel said “and he confidently said, ‘Yes.’”

Dajuan also applies his competitive spirit to his academics: on his most recent report card he scored all A’s.

dajuan4He participated in the Colt McCoy Football Camp with tickets donated to BBBS. “When BBBS offered the camp openings to any match that wanted to participate, I jumped at the chance,” Joel said.

Joel got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters over 20 years ago in Houston when he took over a match for a friend who was being transferred out of the country. He eventually had to move and end the match himself. A couple of years ago, however, when he retired in Austin, he began to think about what he wanted to do with his time. He knew he wanted to volunteer and, being familiar with BBBS, he signed up to become a Big.

“I took Dajuan to a UT scrimmage. He had never been in DKR Texas Memorial Stadium and he was just entranced by it,” Joel said. “This is what I enjoy most about being a Big Brother…. seeing these things, the stadium and the football players, through the eyes of a kid. Seeing that excitement.”

Dajuan’s sense of humor is something else Joel enjoys. The two were on one of their first outings riding around in the car when Dajuan told Joel that his grandfather had passed away and that he was an angel in heaven. He then asked about Joel’s parents. “I told him my father was in heaven too but that my mother was still alive and that she was 96 years old. And there was this pause in the conversation and Dajuan said, ‘That’s just not right,’” Joel laughed. “I told my mother and she got a chuckle out of it too.”

The Texas Longhorns are Dajuan’s favorite team right now and he hopes to grow up to play for them. “I want to be a football player when I get bigger,” Dajuan said. “And I’m gonna play in the NFL. But when I play in the NFL I’m gonna get hit.”

He may get hit if they can catch him, but Dajuan is already showing he’s got the skills to pursue his dreams and come out ahead.

 

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Spotlight on Diana Hernandez

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From the outside Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas may seem “low key,” but behind the scenes there are a lot of moving parts. One of the people who keeps these moving parts flowing is match support supervisor Diana Hernandez.

A 4-year BBBS veteran, Diana came to the agency after interning at Texas Health and Human Services. “I’d heard about the organization while there and had some families connected to both groups,” Diana said. “I started reading about BBBS. I really liked the goals of the agency and applied for a position.”

Diana is responsible for supporting the Match Support Specialists at BBBS – the team who oversee and facilitate all of BBBS’ mentoring relationships. “I’m there to support and encourage the team,” Diana continued. “I assign new matches to specialists, answer questions, oversee schedules and help balance the workload.”

It can be an extensive workload as staff are tasked with overseeing hundreds of mentoring matches and preparing numerous reports. As a supervisor Diana understands the workload and is there to help. “One of the skills needed for this job is that of being super organized,” Diana explained. “I work on making sure there is a system in place to help staff and communicate with the team to make sure no one is overwhelmed.”

Having support systems in place will be very important in the coming months as the department has challenged themselves to try to make 140 new matches by the end of the calendar year.

“I know we can do it,” Diana said. “And we are working to make the challenge fun, rewarding the team with prizes along the way as we achieve our goals.”

With all the hard work comes a lot of satisfaction. “I get satisfaction from hearing the stories of our Littles. For example, when a Little doesn’t have a positive female role model in her house, but I hear that her new Big Sister is fulfilling that role in her life, or I hear from a mom how a Little is doing so much better since being matched with a Big Brother or Sister. That keeps me going. I know we are making a difference.”

When she’s not at BBBS, Diana enjoys spending time with her own two children – Julieta, age 8 and Israel, age 5 – and her husband, Ever. “We enjoy going to the park, playing board games and having movie nights,” she said. Diana also spends free time helping youth outside of BBBS as the youth coordinator for her church.

Game Changers: Growing Support For Children in Need

toni-schach-headshot-cropBig Brothers Big Sisters’ mentoring services are often life-changing for the children, families and volunteers involved.

The impacts of our program are great, but the need is even greater. BBBS serves approximately 1,000 children each year, but for every child we serve, there is another child on our waiting list longing to be matched with a caring mentor of their own. And, as our population grows, the demand for our services grows with it.

To address this need, BBBS has developed a new program called Game Changers.

“Game Changers is a program that encourages individuals to make monthly contributions to BBBS,” said Lauren Portley, BBBS’ vice president of development. “Individuals who sign up to become Game Changers will receive regular communication regarding how their contributions are impacting children and helping BBBS make new matches, and, as members, they will also be invited to participate in unique networking and social events throughout the year.”

The program offers a great opportunity for people who can’t spare the extra time to be Bigs to contribute, as well as providing an introduction to giving. “A lot of people are at an early stage in their careers and can’t afford to give at a ‘gala’ level, but they’re looking for ways to give back,” said Toni Schach, operations manager for The HT Group and BBBS’ new Game Changers committee chair. “Maybe they’re not ready to be a Big but they have some extra money that they could contribute. With Game Changers, gifts of any size make a difference. Anything from $5 to $50 a month or more goes a long way.”

In addition, Game Changers will allow more people to be involved with BBBS on an ongoing basis. The new program will provide a continuous source of income for the organization and lessen its dependence on fundraising events that happen just once a year. “Events like Ice Ball and Bowl for Kids are important, but BBBS needs money and participation year-round,” Toni explained. “With Game Changers, BBBS can host smaller events more frequently, provide a wider range of giving opportunities, and foster new relationships.”

Relationships are central to BBBS’ work, so it is only natural that they play a part in raising funds for the organization. Game Changers will take interpersonal connections to new levels as unique events are planned for existing members and to recruit new members.

“We are planning a kickoff event in November that will include networking with a twist. It will be fun,” Toni said. “We’re also thinking about holding a scavenger hunt around Austin or possibly conducting a brewery tour. Activities like these will allow participants to bond with people they wouldn’t normally meet, have a great time, and raise money for a great organization.”

BBBS is looking for volunteers to help plan and organize Game Changers events, businesses that want to participate, and most importantly, individuals who want to sign up to become Game Changers. “We’re looking to build a community,” Toni added. “I also believe that when new or prospective members come to a meeting and hear how children’s lives are being changed, they will want to be a part of BBBS’ mission forever.”

The notion of starting small and building up mirrors Toni’s personal association with BBBS. Her job requires her to work varied hours, so she has been unable to commit to being a Big. However, since signing up to help with Ice Ball in 2015, her involvement with BBBS has steadily increased.

“I had heard about BBBS growing up and I’ve always thought it was a great organization. I don’t have children, but have always loved them,” Toni admitted. “I can’t hang out with a Little first thing in the morning or at 10:00 p.m. when I get off work, so my committee work is a way to help the children in our community.”

“I see the difference BBBS’ one-to-one mentoring makes,” she said. “I was fortunate to grow up with parents who had their own business, and I got to spend a lot of time with them. But I also had a lot of friends who didn’t have that stability and I saw the direction some of their lives took.”

Toni believes that one-to-one bond is priceless. “Nothing can replace having someone to go to for advice and support.” And the impacts of BBBS’ mentoring program bear this out. “When I hear about the numbers of Littles who stay in school and graduate, it’s amazing and very motivating.”

It is also a positive cycle. “The more children we get off the waiting list and into mentoring relationships, the more children graduate and start contributing to the community, and these children often become Big Brothers and Sisters themselves,” Toni said. “BBBS is a perpetual-motion kind of organization. Getting kids off the waiting list is a big priority, and Game Changers is an important way to make that happen.”

Sign up to become a Game Changer here

Contact Lauren Portley to learn more