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.

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