Brooke Brock: former Little Sister

by Brooke Brock

My name is Brooke Brock and I am a former Little Sister from Austin, TX. And my Big Sister, my friend, Mrs. Jessica Roe-Harris is a BBBS hero and I’d like to share our story.

Brooke and Jessica's first match outing in February 2005.

Brooke and Jessica’s first match outing in February 2005.

I was raised primarily by my mother in a single-parent, low-income household. It was often just my younger brother and me at home. Then, in 2005, I was matched with Jessica.

Consistency is important to me now because I never had it growing up. During my junior year of high school, my mom went to rehab for 6 months, forcing me to be head of household. It was tough with school, work, and raising my younger brother. Jessica supported me through that time and I made sure to thank her for always being there.

To me, Jessica is what Alfred is to Batman. She is the behind-the-scenes supporter, caregiver, and the true brains of the operation. Jessica is the definition of a true friend. To me, she is more than someone who signed up to spend a few hours a week with some kid. She is the epitome of what Big Brothers Big Sisters stands for.

You never recognize how big your small acts of caring and kindness are. However, I think that is the beauty of this organization. It is pure selflessness. I wholeheartedly believe in Big Brothers Big Sisters and its mission—that is why I have continued to be involved in the organization over the years. It is also why I will continue to share our story, and encourage others to invest in the lives of our youth.

Brooke's college graduation

Brooke’s college graduation

Now, I am a college graduate of Texas A&M University going on to pursue my masters of communications. For me, that is the greatest accomplishment and you can bet Jessica was there to see me walk the stage and celebrate yet another milestone in my life—and she will be there for plenty more. I thank BBBS for giving me another family member, a best friend, and a lifetime supporter.

There is nothing in the world greater than having someone to show you that they care. There is nothing like building a relationship with a Big Brother or Sister.

The Importance of Bilingual Bigs

Habla Espanolby Cynthia Rodriguez, Enrollment Specialist

We are fortunate to have amazing Bigs who bring diverse skills and talents to each of their matches. These assets help create long-lasting, meaningful friendships between Littles and Bigs. One especially important skill that Volunteers bring to a match is a fluency in Spanish.

Forty-six percent of all Littles who apply to be in the program are Hispanic — and a large portion of them come from a home where Spanish is spoken as the primary language.

Although the majority of our Littles are bilingual, many of their parents are not, which creates a significant need for Spanish-speaking Bigs.

Matches can definitely flourish and be successful even when a Big does not speak Spanish. However, bilingualism can benefit a match in a number of ways:

  • First, it helps take a Little off the wait list! Many of our Littles who come from Spanish-speaking homes wait for longer periods of time (sometimes years) to be matched. A Spanish-speaking Big helps increase the likelihood that these Littles will be matched sooner.
  • Second, it allows a Volunteer to connect with a Little’s parent or guardian on a more personal level. Even a conversational grasp of the language can help develop your relationship with a parent, which strengthens your match in multiple ways.
  • Lastly, it provides Bigs and Little with the opportunity to participate in a wider range of activities during outings. Develop your relationship with your Little (and improve your Spanish!) by taking a “Yoga en Español” class, watching a Spanish language movie together, or attending a bilingual play.

Interested in becoming a mentor bilingüe? Apply online or call us at 512.442.4646 to learn more about how you can be the Big Brother or Big Sister that will make a difference in the life of a child.

Bullying Prevention: Mentors make a difference

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and groups across the country are coming together to combat bullying and raise awareness about what our kids are facing every day.

Mentors can help kids develop social and emotional competence, which has a positive ripple effect.

Mentors can help kids develop social and emotional competence, which has a positive ripple effect.

Originally launched by PACER’s National Center for Bullying Prevention in 2006, it’s grown into a national movement to not only raise awareness about the effects of bullying, but to also provide educational resources.

Naturally, it made me think of the effects of mentoring — and how our Bigs are, in themselves, a method of bullying prevention.

According to the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, children without a consistent, positive adult presence are “more likely to develop internalizing problems like depression and externalizing problems such as aggression — placing these youth at greater risk for violence and school failure.”

So what does that mean? It means mentors can help kids develop social and emotional competence, which has a ripple effect. That competence promotes self-confidence and ultimately helps children deal with situations in a healthy way. Children who are bullied could be reluctant to talk to someone for fear of making the situation worse, but their mentor can be a critical outlet.

Let’s also remember that bullies have feelings, too: anxiety, fear, guilt. Whether a child is a victim or a bully, mentors can help by providing growth opportunities, access to new ideas or information, and invaluable friendship. All of those things can change how a young person thinks about him or herself, their education, their relationships – their future.

It is important to be aware that not all bullying yields visible warning signs. It also happens online, often unbeknownst to adults in the child’s personal circle. According to DoSomething.org, nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online and with social media companies frequently changing privacy settings, it’s becoming increasingly important to have an open dialogue about bullying.

You can help spread the word about National Bullying Prevention Month. Here are a few easy ways to do that:

  • Talk to your friends and family about National Bullying Prevention Month
  • Open or continue a dialogue with a child in your life – whether that be a family member or your Little Brother or Sister
  • Share this blog post or information from some of the web sites below
  • Last, but certainly not least: If you or someone you know would make a great Big Brother or Sister, tell them they can apply online at BigMentoring.org/Volunteer to start making a difference to a child.

Together, we can help our kids navigate their toughest years… Safely and happily.

Additional Bullying Prevention Resources:

Bigs, Littles and Teamwork: Adventure Quest 2013

Welcome to Adventure Quest 2013!

Welcome to Adventure Quest 2013!

by Christine Kwak, BBBS Intern

On Saturday, October 5, 2013, Adventure Quest was held at Concordia University where Bigs and Littles had to work together to overcome a series of checkpoints consisting of obstacle courses and challenging puzzles. The weather was beautiful and the campus was full of laughter and words of encouragement as teams made their way through the race. 

Thank you Austin Association of Facility & Maintenance Engineers (AAFAME) for supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas in promoting teamwork and building trust. A special thanks to all the sponsors who helped make this event possible.

Ever wonder how it feels to run around in a human hamster ball?

Ever wonder how it feels to run around in a human hamster ball?

The event coordinators and staff of volunteers were super friendly and kept the event running smoothly like a well-oiled engine. It was also great to see that Bigs and Littles were not the only ones tackling the course; parents were also involved in the action. It was heart-warming to see the interaction between the Bigs and Littles. Even though everyone’s shirts were drenched with sweat, their momentum could not be stopped.

The teams with the best times in their age bracket received awesome trophies. But everyone left a winner as Bigs and Littles made memories that will last a lifetime. Be on the lookout for Adventure Quest 2014, we hope to see everyone there!

(See more photos on Flickr and the AAFAME Facebook page)

Thanks to R11 Studios for creating this awesome video for us!

Dr. Andrea Campaigne: former Little and former Big

The following guest post is by Dr. Andrea Campaigne: a former Little, former Big and a current BBBS Executive Board Member. We invited Dr. Campaigne to share her experiences from her past, present and future with us.

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My dad left when I was very young. My mom raised me and my sister by herself. I am so grateful to have had a mother who knew about, and enrolled us in, the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

Andrea as a child, with her Big Sister "Bert"

Andrea as a child, with her Big Sister “Bert”

I don’t remember the first time I met my Big Sister, Bianca (we called her ‘Bert’), but I have countless childhood memories, big and small, that she is in. She was directly involved in my life for about seven years, and has never lost touch with my family over the almost 20 years since. Some of my clearest memories are simple pleasures: learning to bake cookies together, playing mini-golf, laughing, dancing. But I know that there were bigger things too: trips to the beach, attendance at my school events and performances.

Bert was everything a big sister (no capitalization) should be. She was always there when she said she would be, she was a part of the family, she was kind, she let me be me. But she was more. She was an incredible role model without ever having to “teach me a lesson”. By being in my life at such an impressionable age, I very clearly recall her stories of moving up from the Rio Grande Valley, putting herself through college, getting her first job at a bank, and buying her first car (a dark purple Mazda RX7 that we named “Raisin” and that I loved to ride in).

Since those times, I knew I wanted to be a Big Sister myself. My best friend in college was a Big throughout our college years, but somehow it didn’t fit for me then. When I started medical school, I knew it was time. I know most people think that medical school would be a crazy time to add something like “volunteering” to my plate, but I was thrilled to get out of my groove of studying and go play with a great kid every Saturday.

Andrea with her Little Sister Ashley.

Andrea with her Little Sister Ashley.

I do very clearly remember meeting my Little Sister Ashley for the first time. She was an only child and her home was much humbler than mine was growing up. I wondered if we had anything in common; I wondered if she would like me. She was shy for at least 6 months. The beauty, the gift, the work of mentorship is to build a relationship over time. So I started doing all the things Bert and I had done, or really a version that suited me and Ashley. There was still learning to bake cookies and mini-golf. There was still dancing and laughing. There was going to smell every candle flavor in Yankee Candle Co. There were trips to Fiesta Texas to ride roller coasters. There were craft projects.

It wasn’t hard. It was fun. Ashley and I were matched for about seven years just like Bert and I were. And she and I have also never lost touch.

Andrea's college graduation.

Andrea’s college graduation.

Now, my involvement in the mission of this unbelievable organization remains active, in the form of service on the Executive Board. It is a great privilege to be behind the scenes with the people who make this organization run: to make matches happen and keep them supported, to raise money to continue to reach new kids at risk/in need, to spread the word in the community to reach more adults willing to volunteer to make a difference. For this work, I am still grateful. I am Andrea Campaigne – a smart, independent, strong woman, raised by a single-parent, the first in my family to graduate from college, a physician, a wife, a former Little Sister, a former Big Sister, and a proud voice of BBBS.