Spotlight on Emily Burdette

Just a few years ago, while working in the online marketing field in Nashville, Emily Burdette realized she was ready to make a change.

“I started thinking about how I wanted to be remembered,” she says, “and how I wanted to make a difference.”

Seeking time and space to consider new possibilities, Emily left Tennessee to teach English in South Korea and travel throughout Asia. Discovering meaningful and enduring new friendships along the way, she ultimately felt drawn to follow a new professional direction in the non-profit world.

Her move to Austin set her on the path that eventually led to her current position as a Customer Relations Specialist with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas.

Serving as the initial point of contact for the families and volunteers reaching out to BBBS, Emily gets the ball rolling logistically when people want to become involved with the agency. By keeping these first steps moving smoothly, she plays an essential role in supporting BBBS’ mission to help all kids succeed in life.

“I find a lot of satisfaction in knowing that I’m starting the process that ultimately leads to good outcomes,” she says.

Families and potential volunteers rely on her to learn the essentials about BBBS and to decide if the agency’s programs fit their needs. If so, Emily guides them through the necessary application and screening processes, finally bringing together clients and Enrollment Specialists in-person for intake interviews.

In her customer relations role, she generally sees just the beginning of a match relationship. After helping families and volunteers move on to the interview process, her first-hand contact with them lessens. Even so, she remains enthusiastically engaged in BBBS’ progress, proudly watching the numbers on the waitlist decrease and knowing that she’s played an essential role in helping Bigs and Littles find each other.

“That’s my favorite part of the job– connecting people,” says Emily.

At other times, however, her work is more challenging. Families approaching BBBS for the first time are often facing difficult circumstances and strong emotions. “They come to us for help in all kinds of situations,” she says.

As a result, at times she finds herself offering not only information, but also an empathetic ear.

Balancing work with a variety of outside interests, Emily makes time to travel, upcycle furniture, listen to live music around town, and spend downtime with her husband and their Rottweiler. Currently, however, her favorite way to relax is to float in a sensory deprivation tank.

“I wish I had one in my home!” she says.

She and her husband also pursue a shared interest in indoor and outdoor aquaponics, enjoying a bountiful harvest of kale, spaghetti squash, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers!

Relaxing and recharging helps Emily maintain her energy and enthusiasm for her vital role as BBBS’ first point of contact with families and volunteers. Creating a positive first impression, instilling confidence and extending empathy, Emily is undeniably helping to set the course for life-changing relationships.

Promising Futures: New Opportunities

As the school year comes to a close for most students, many high school seniors are making plans for the next chapter in their educational journeys.  Whether attending trade school or college, securing scholarships and resources to achieve their goals is key for most students. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ Promising Futures Scholarship Program is an important resource for Littles who want to further their educations.

BBBS’ scholarship program was founded in 1986 when the agency received a donation from an anonymous Central Texas donor to establish a program to encourage Littles to complete high school and pursue post-secondary education. The program was the first of its kind throughout the nearly 350 BBBS chapters.

Jacelyn Calderon, a health care student at Texas A&M University, is a recent scholarship recipient. “BBBS opened a window for me to continue my education,” said Jacelyn. “I appreciate that so much. The scholarship the agency provided helped me get the books I needed and enabled me to be successful in my classes.”

Jacelyn is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in health. After that, she plans to apply to nursing school to get her nursing degree. “Ten years down the road I plan to be working in my field and I hope to own a home,” said Jacelyn. “That would give me a sense of stability.”

Scholarships can fuel such life-changing goals. Since 1986, Big Brothers Big Sisters has promised nearly $5 million in college scholarships to 2,500 Little Brothers and Sisters in Central Texas.

This year, the agency has established two new scholarship opportunities for BBBS Littles: one that is being offered through a partnership with the Cagle Law Firm, and another that is being offered in association with the College of Health Care Professions (CHCP).

“We love presenting our kids with scholarship opportunities,” said Joe Strychalski, Vice President of Programs at BBBS. “Anything we can do to encourage our young people to pursue higher education, and to make it more accessible to them, is a good use of our time, energy, and resources.  We’ve made scholarships that range from $500 to $5,000 available to our youth, and we love helping them apply and seeing them awarded!”

The Cagle Law Firm of Austin reached out to BBBS to initiate a new scholarship opportunity last year. As a business dedicated to helping others, the firm was drawn to the lasting impact BBBS has on the lives of young people. Mr. Cagle, in particular, thinks very highly of BBBS, so when the company elected to offer a scholarship, partnering with BBBS was a natural fit. In 2018 the firm will grant two scholarships worth $1,000 each to two students who are part of the BBBS program. Each check will be made payable to the recipients’ schools to help cover tuition costs and related expenses.

Another new BBBS scholarship opportunity is being offered by the College of Health Care Professions in Austin. It is a matching scholarship for students interested in studying one of CHCP’s many clinical and administrative health care programs. BBBS Littles are eligible to receive up to $4,000 in scholarship funds through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ existing scholarship program. To support the agency’s mission, CHCP Austin will match this BBBS scholarship, in the amount of $2,000, which combined with the BBBS scholarship, could significantly decrease the cost to BBBS Littles attending CHCP.

“CHCP believes in helping students change their trajectories in life,” said Sara Rambikur, CHCP Austin Campus President. “There are many BBBS Littles who might benefit from a smaller college setting that has additional support services and career guidance in focused areas of study. We hope this scholarship eases the financial burden on BBBS students and helps them pursue careers in health care.”

“Big Brothers Big Sisters exists to help kids succeed in life,” said Brent Fields, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, “and we’re always looking to establish connections within the community that facilitate that goal. Partnering with The College of Health Care Professions opens a door for BBBS kids to enter the health care field that we haven’t had before. We are also grateful for our new relationship with the Cagle Law Firm. We appreciate their generosity in supporting the academic aspirations of our students.”

BBBS has established scholarship matching opportunities with a number of institutions of higher education in Texas as well, thereby helping Littles’ BBBS scholarship dollars go twice as far. For a complete list of matching opportunities and application details, visit www.BigMentoring.org or call 512-807-3642.

BBBS’ scholarship program provides significant support for Littles who are entering their college years and taking steps toward academic and career success. We are proud to partner with our Littles, Bigs, families, community partners, businesses, and academic institutions to help BBBS Littles develop their talents and pursue their dreams in the world.

Bowl for Kids 2018: A Win-Win for Everyone!

It was all hands on deck for Big Brothers Big Sisters’ pirate-themed Bowl for Kids celebration at Highland Lanes April 27th and 28th!

There were eye patches and hooks aplenty as the annual event raised over $136,000 to help Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas match more kids with caring adult mentors, changing their lives for the better, forever.

More than 1,000 participants enjoyed the spirited festivities complete with costumes, refreshments, souvenirs and prizes. A generous crew of fundraisers– including businesses, individuals, families, volunteers, staff members, and Bigs and Littles, all joined in for two days of bowling fun.

“Bowl for Kids is a good time that ultimately makes a huge impact for kids and families in our community,” said Brent Fields, CEO of BBBS of Central Texas. “This is one of our signature events that gets children off our waiting list and connected with mentors who can make a positive difference in their lives. With over 400 children waiting to be matched, every contribution matters.”

Pirate flags, parrots, mermaids and other buccaneer décor contributed to the festive mood, while a large-scale pirate ship constructed by Rhonda Karcher-Logan of Pape-Dawson Engineers and her merry crew provided a creative photo backdrop for capturing memorable moments.

Even the youngest of participants took part in the fun, donning tricorn hats and wielding foam sabers as junior pirates-in-training. Everyone came together, including many bowlers who have participated in this event for years, to have fun and help kids.

Essential to the event’s success, Bowl for Kids’ 2018 business sponsors included financial consulting firm RSM US LLP – the event’s Kingpin Sponsor, computer technology company ARM, Wells Fargo bank, and Bridgepoint Consulting, as well as our generous host, Highland Lanes. RSM, ARM, Wells Fargo and Bridgepoint Consulting all fielded bowling teams as well, and were joined by a variety of other teams and sponsors from Central Texas architecture, printing, construction, gaming, healthcare, technology, legal and media companies, among others.

“This is the first time my co-workers and I have participated in Bowl for Kids,” said April Justice of General Motors. Her team, Jolly Roger and the GM Gals, really got into the spirit of things by dressing up in pirate hats and specially decorated bowling shirts.

“Wearing the group costumes helped us become more immersed in the event. We had a great time learning more about Bowl for Kids, interacting with other companies, and learning why they are involved with BBBS,” said April. “It also gave us the opportunity to bond outside of work and to do it all for a great cause. It was really the best of all worlds.”

It was especially exciting to see so many fundraisers earn ‘Very Important Bowler’, or VIB, status by raising $1,250 or more.

“This year we had eighteen fundraising teams earn VIB status, which was really great” said development associate, Sara Grauerholz.

By reaching, or surpassing, this fundraising level, VIBs provide the funds needed to support a mentoring relationship between a Big and Little for an entire year. In recognition of their exceptional fundraising efforts, and the difference their contributions make, VIBs enjoy special perks and prizes.

Although the pirate flags have come down, the swords have been put away, and many of our participants’ ships have set sail for other lands, BBBS’ Bowl for Kids 2018 isn’t quite finished. Team fundraising pages will remain online to accept donations for another week or two, meaning there’s still time to contribute to the important work of helping children achieve success in life.

By any measure, Bowl for Kids is a ‘win-win’ for everyone.

Special thanks to our event sponsors: RSM US LLP, iHeartMedia, KVUE, ARM, Highland Lanes, Wells Fargo, Bridgepoint Consulting, Austin Emergency Center, HDR, IE2 Construction, Moody National Bank, O’Connell Robertson, Pape-Dawson Engineers, The Portley Family, Twisted Pixel Games, The Austin Chronicle, Do512, Los Comales on 7th Street, Mueller Living Magazine, and MyEventIsTheBomb.

To make a donation, go to www.bowlforkidsaustin.org

See our 2018 event photos here

See our 2018 photo booth photos here