Sister-to-Sister Workshop: ‘My Cyber Life’

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On Saturday, July 25th, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas hosted a Sister-to-Sister workshop entitled Girl Talk – My Cyber Life. The program, presented by GENaustin (Girls Empowerment Network), was designed to help girls learn how to make the most of social media, while avoiding some of its darker and more troubling aspects.

“Social media impacts our lives a lot,” said Miranda, a Little Sister who attended the program. “We will all continue to use it because technology keeps advancing so much, so it’s important to learn how to use it appropriately.”

Appropriate use was the focus, as over 20 Bigs and Littles gathered to listen to information on how our online lives impact our real lives. Specific instruction was given on how to handle difficult situations that can arise.

GENaustin Program Coordinator Claudia Arellano led the group in a discussion of the challenges and benefits of social media. Challenges the girls noted and discussed included lack of privacy, cyber bullying, and the use of social media as a substitute for personal interaction. The benefits they listed included using social media as an educational tool, as entertainment, and as a way to stay in contact with family and friends.

The group then reviewed some cyber-specific terms such as “digital footprint,” “online cruelty,” “online identity,” and “online privacy.” After developing a common understanding of these terms, the girls examined a number of online scenarios and determined which situations were actually dangerous – such as someone posting inappropriate photos, and which might simply be considered forms of “drama” – such as being “un-friended” online.

“We have to watch what we post, and think about how it might impact our future success,” Miranda concluded. This sentiment was echoed in a list of recommendations attendees created regarding how to use social media wisely.

Their suggestions included:

  • Every time you post something, think about who might see your post
  • Nothing disappears online, so be careful what you put out there
  • Think about how your post might impact a future job
  • Try not to be too absorbed in social media
  • Be careful who you add as a friend

“The mission of GENaustin is to support and guide girls in making wise decisions,” said Arellano. The Girl Talk – My Cyber Life program provided a great starting point for helping Little Sisters make wise decisions about how to use social media safely and effectively. Our thanks to GENaustin for partnering with us to present this important program.BBBS photos - 14

About GENaustin

Organized in 1996 by 12 concerned mothers raising adolescent girls in Austin, GENaustin’s mission is to support and guide girls in making wise choices and building self-esteem as they navigate the unique pressures of girlhood. The Girls Empowerment Network offers a broad range of programs throughout Central Texas, including many after-school programs and camps. They also provide a ‘We Are Girls’ conference in Austin and will add a second conference in Houston this year. Last year’s Austin conference was attended by over 1700 girls. For more information about GENaustin, go to www.genaustin.org

Connie & Bill Nelson, “Big Couple” and Host Committee Chairs for Ice Ball 2015

 

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When Connie and Bill moved back to the States in 2009, after living and working overseas for 20+ years, they chose Austin as their home. Once settled, they began looking for ways to get involved and make an impact in the Austin community, in addition to their volunteer activities at Riverbend Church. Their oldest son, Bill, reminded them of his years serving as a Big Brother in Austin (while attending UT) to a young man in the BBBS program and what a rewarding and life-changing experience it had been. A light bulb went off – Bill and Connie contacted Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas and within weeks had become a “Big Couple” to their Little Brother, Thomas. This summer they are celebrating four years together in the BBBS program.

Connie and Bill have been amazing champions for Thomas and have become increasingly involved with BBBS and the Ice Ball gala, the organization’s largest fundraiser. This year, Connie didn’t hesitate to say YES when asked to chair the 11th annual gala, pledging to make this year’s Ice Ball “bigger, bolder, and brighter.” Indeed, the event is on track to be the most successful Ice Ball yet. Bill joined her at the end of May.

When asked about how BBBS has impacted their family’s life, Connie doesn’t hesitate. “It’s huge,” she says. “And not just for Bill and I, it impacts our whole family, because our kids love hanging out with Thomas.”

Connie and Bill were wanting to make a difference and have found that difference with BBBS. “Volunteering with BBBS is easy because of the blessing that comes back to you,” she says.

What is hard is looking back over the many weekends they’ve spent with Thomas and trying to pick out only one favorite experience. “There are so many favorites, but I guess some of the best times are during the holidays,” said Connie. “Spending Christmas Eve with Thomas, decorating cookies, going to Christmas Eve service, just having a ball.” Then Connie remembered another special outing. “Taking Thomas Christmas shopping for his family with the money he’s saved from his allowance through the year,” said Connie. “He manages his own funds and he wraps all the presents he has chosen himself. That’s a huge highlight.”

The gifts don’t stop with the family. Connie and Bill helped Thomas set up a “giving back box” where he can save money and give back to his community – money the Nelsons match in kind. “We asked Thomas who he wanted to help with this money,” said Connie, “and he didn’t hesitate. He wanted to give to BBBS. So every year he presents a donation to Brent Fields, BBBS’ CEO. That’s his way of giving back.”

Bill and Connie bring a wealth of experience to the Ice Ball, having each founded and run successful businesses and chaired events and community efforts in the U.S. and overseas. When asked why they have continued to get more involved with BBBS and the Ice Ball, they say “what could be more important to the future of Austin, Texas or the world than its kids?”                               

Connie Bill Scholarship Ceremony 2015

“A Match Made in Heaven”

Guest Post by Ashley Aldridge

Spanish Teacher, Round Rock ISD

When I was 11, my world as I knew it came to an end during a phone call during which my dad told me that he and my mom were divorcing.  I took the news very, very hard and struggled to adjust for some time thereafter.  My mother looked into Big Brothers Big Sisters and decided to enroll me to be matched in order for me to have another trusted adult I could lean on.

In the fall of 1987, I was matched with a vibrant, amazing high school teacher named Tammey.  One of our first meetings took place at a high school volleyball game, and I could tell right away how beloved she was by the students because they all came up to tell her hello. I learned right off what an exceptional person she was.

Tammey immediately took me under her wing and made me a part of her family.   We ran errands, we’d cook, eat dinner, and go to the movies.  They were all normal things, but they were done out of love.  She later became pregnant with her second son and delivered him on Christmas Eve.  Upon receiving the news, my mother drove me to the hospital where I was the first extended family member to hold her new bundle of joy.  It was an experience I will never forget, and one that further solidified our bond.

Though Tammey had lived nearby up to that point, she and her family moved to Plano where they lived for several years.  That could have put a huge damper on our relationship, but it did just the opposite.  I’d fly up occasionally and spend time with her.  I still recall how much fun we all had.

It wasn’t too long after that that a job transfer called Tammey’s family to Wichita, Kansas, where they still live.  We haven’t been able to see each other quite as often as we’d like, but our sisterhood remains steadfast to this very day.  She and her family made it down to Texas to see me get married.  She also came down to help and support me during my ex-husband’s rehabilitation after a near-fatal motorcycle accident.  She’s always welcomed me with open arms, and almost 30 years later, we are a match made in heaven.

I can’t thank BBBS enough for the positive difference it has made in my life.

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Editor’s note: And, coming full circle, Ashley has also been a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters as a Big Sister herself, and, like her own Big Sister, Tammey, Ashley has also become a high school teacher.