The Ride of a Lifetime: Kaden and Jennifer

Bigs often say that they get as much, if not more, out of their mentoring relationships as the Littles they mentor. A part of that can be attributed to the pleasure of watching their Littles grow up to experience new and exciting adventures. Big Sister Jennifer recently witnessed such a change when her Little Brother Kaden finally grew tall enough to be in the driver’s seat.

“The first time we went go-karting was in August of 2015,” Jennifer said. “Poor Kaden wasn’t tall enough to touch the pedals himself so he had to be whisked around the track by me (not cool). Then we went again this last April, stopping in on a whim. As we walked up to the go-karts I said, ‘I hope you’re tall enough little guy.’ With a deep breath of confidence, he walked up to the height stick and, luckily, he was just tall enough.”

The outing proved to be a memorable one. According to Jennifer, Kaden’s was the first go-kart in the lineup. As soon as he pushed the pedal down he raced forward and crashed straight into the retaining wall.  The attendant had to help him back onto the track.

“I yelled, ‘What happened?’” Jennifer said, “and he yelled back ‘Hey now, I’ve never driven before!’”  We raced around the track for two whole rounds since there were not a lot of people at the park that day.  I captured the best pictures of Kaden as we crashed into each other on the track. I will cherish those photos forever!”

Theirs has been a great match, though not a conventional one. “I am so thrilled with my relationship with Kaden,” Jennifer added. “My fear has always been that at some point he wouldn’t think it was cool to hang out with a 30-something-year-old woman, but that hasn’t happened. Kaden is always excited when we go on our outings. We talk about life, school, college, and the kind of job he might want to have when he grows up.”

Go-karting is just one of the outings the pair has had where Jennifer has emphasized that Kaden can do anything he sets his mind to. “Kaden is a smart, smart kid,” Jennifer continued. “He’s going to take this world by force as he grows because he’s not afraid to try new things. If an activity is not his thing, then at least he has attempted it and we check it off the list. On one of our first outings we went to a rock climbing wall. Kaden was nervous about climbing too high, but by the end of the day he was ringing the bell at the top and had the biggest smile.”

Jennifer recognizes the value of having a mentor when she thinks of her grandmother. “I spent my summers with her in New York City, and those months were the best in my life. She told me the most fantastic stories, and took me on little adventures all over the city,” Jennifer recalled. “She taught me the importance of giving children memories that last a lifetime.”

“I have seen Kaden grow and change, and I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to experience life with him. We only have one shot to set kids up for success and to give them the memories and skills that childhoods should be filled with. Our time is special.”

Monthly contributions to BBBS make relationships like this possible.  Become a Game Changer.

Learn more at www.gamechangersaustin.org

Taking Risks: Audrey and Lizzet

Sometimes it’s something as simple as going ice skating that reveals and releases the inner potential of a child. Big Sister Audrey made that discovery when she took her Little Sister Lizzet to the local ice skating rink to experience an activity she’d enjoyed as a child. She saw Lizzet’s “can-do attitude” overcome uncertainty and help her skate across the ice without help.

“She’s such a great kid. She’s so curious about things in life,” said Audrey, who’s only been matched with Lizzet for a couple of months. “On one of our first outings we went to Starbucks because as an 8-year-old she’s very grown up and thinks she drinks coffee. So, we sat down and made a list of a lot of things we wanted to do. Ice skating is something I wanted to show her and Lizzet was excited to try.”

Lizzet’s willingness to try new things made the experience particularly meaningful for both of them. “Thank goodness that curiosity stuck with her even after she’d been struggling to learn to skate for almost an hour,” Audrey said.

The rink has a wide section at one end where there are no handrails to hang onto and skaters must venture across the ice on their own, or try to hang onto the wall or a helper. “The first few times we crossed that part Lizzet was nervous and held onto my hand the whole way, which frankly I just loved because she is the cutest,” Audrey laughed.

After that, Lizzet would let go of her Big Sister’s hand, fall, get help to get back up, and go again. “Finally, she felt ready to try this section on her own. She let go of my hand and it was just awesome,” Audrey recalled. “She made it to the middle of the ice and I could tell that she had started to panic. I told her that she could do it, to slow down and take a breath. She stopped, took a deep breath, and then she looked forward, and I could just see the fire in her eyes that said ‘I’m going to do this!’”

Making one little movement of her skate at a time, Lizzet made it across the ice and didn’t fall. “We had a party on the other side of that rink,” Audrey said. “People must have thought she’d landed an Olympic-type jump because I was jumping up and down and she was so excited. It was a really great moment, a moment of seeing her determination to succeed really pay off.”

“She was so afraid of falling,” Audrey continued. “One of the big discussions we had was that everyone falls, even those experienced skaters doing spins and jumps. One thing I constantly reiterated was that falling is not failing. If she never wanted to skate again that would be okay, but at least she would have tried it.”

Once Lizzet realized that falling was okay, she was willing to try skating by herself. “I can’t tell you that she learned to ice skate completely or that she’s going to want to go again,” Audrey said, “But I can tell you that by the end of our outing she was not afraid to try something new and risk being unsuccessful.”

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

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

Jess And Rebekah

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They’ve only been matched for a short time, but Jess and Rebekah are already busy enjoying their time together.

“As a Big Sister, I was looking forward to building a special relationship, being a role model, and also learning from my Little,” Jess said.  “I think relationships are reciprocal, especially in terms of growth.  And with Rebekah being a teenager, our relationship has been more like hanging out with an adult. It’s been really fun.”

The two have been exploring city trails and doing a lot of hiking, something Rebekah enjoys but doesn’t get to do with her family. “We like to do a lot of outdoor activities,” Jess continued, “but we also enjoy playing games and cooking.”

Rebekah was looking forward to having a Big Sister she could talk to and who has gone through some of the things she’s struggling with. “Rebekah is very wise and has a good head on her shoulders,” Jess added. “She knows that there are things she wants to improve upon, and she realizes her friends aren’t always going to be the best ones to help her with those things.”

As Jess points out, the more positive role models we all have in our lives, the better.

“It’s easy to get caught up in being adults and worrying about our full-time jobs, about insurance… about all of these things… and losing track of the child within us,” Jess concluded. “Being a Big helps me step back and say ‘What are the things in life that I really enjoy?’ It helps me appreciate the little things in life and allows me to have a relationship with a young person in which we can both learn from one another.”

Monthly contributions from our BBBS Game Changers make relationships like these possible. To learn more about how you can become a Game Changer, go to www.gamechangersaustin.org.

Game Changers: Olivia

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Olivia is an Austin professional who has become a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters for a second time. She has also become a BBBS Game Changer.

“When I got involved with BBBS of Central Texas and saw all of the programming and resources that this chapter offers Bigs, it blew my mind,” Olivia said. “BBBS provides programming, support and community partnerships that create great experiences for Bigs and Littles, allowing matches to focus on building strong relationships, rather than worrying so much about planning activities.”

Recognizing the significance and impact of these resources motivated Olivia to become a Game Changer. “I understand the difference that these resources make, but I also realized that they don’t just come naturally,” Olivia continued. “There has to be funding. As a Game Changer, I provide a small amount of money each month – about what I’d spend on a few cups of coffee –  but these funds have a huge impact.”

Olivia’s monthly gift contributes to BBBS’ ability to hire more staff, provide support to Bigs and Littles, and, ultimately, change children’s lives for the better, forever.

“The resources and support BBBS provides are a huge part of what makes BBBS’ mentoring relationships so successful,” Olivia concluded. “It’s easy to get caught up in our own day-to-day dramas, but most of us really don’t have anything to be concerned about. A lot of the kids BBBS serves don’t have anything. They need our help.”

Thank you to Olivia and all of our other monthly donors for making a contribution that makes a difference for children in our community.

Become a Game Changer here

Sophia is Waiting for A Big Sister

sophia-game-changers-1a-2016Every child has a dream. Having the resources to make that dream a reality however, is not a part of every child’s life.

Sophia is a 9-year-old girl who dreams of working with animals. “When I get older I know I want to help at the animal shelter,” Sophia said, “because I want to be a vet.”

Esmeralda, Sophia’s mom, wants to help her daughter achieve these dreams, but as a single parent that can be a challenge. Esmeralda and Sophia are waiting to be matched with a Big Sister.

“I think having someone around who is not a family member will really help Sophia in a positive way,” Esmeralda remarked. “A Big Sister will give Sophia someone to look up to, someone who can help her be more independent and someone who can inspire her in new ways.”

Esmeralda knows how powerful a mentoring relationship can be because she had the opportunity to experience one herself. “When I was in elementary school, I had someone come in and work with me,” Esmeralda continued. “I know that feeling of having another adult come around and spend time with me. It meant a lot just having someone dedicate their time. Time is very valuable.”

Time is valuable to those who give it, but it is also important to those who receive it. It is especially important for a child whose dreams and hopes can be fueled simply by having an adult spend time with them.

sophia-game-changers-2b-2016“I look forward to having fun with a Big Sister,” Sophia said, “and not just staying home and doing nothing.”

“Going back to my own time with a mentor and the things I’ve read about Psychology and Human Growth and Development, I think it helps to have another adult involved in a child’s life who is not a family member. Kids don’t always like to listen to their parents,” Esmeralda continued, “so if a child hears another adult talk about achieving goals, it can inspire them and give them hope.”

Hope is essential to keeping dreams alive. This is something Esmeralda knows as she and Sophia wait for a Big Sister to come into their lives. “I am thankful that there is a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters,” she said. “We are eager to find the right Big Sister for Sophia. We waiting, but we are hopeful.”

You can be that hope for a child.

Your gift to BBBS can change a child’s life for the better, forever, by allowing us to match more children like Sophia, and the other children on our waiting list, with the mentors they need and deserve.

You can make a meaningful, one-time gift here

Or, you can make a monthly gift as a BBBS Game Changer here

No matter how you choose to give, every gift to BBBS will be used to create more mentoring relationships for children in Central Texas, providing hope, and help, to children and families in our community. And there’s no greater gift than that.

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.