Zelda Botha on Coming to a New Place

“Our daughter and our lives were forever changed by the Big Brothers Big Sisters program of Central Texas,” began a recent BBBS Facebook post. “We were new immigrants with 4 children and 2 jobs each. We spoke Afrikaans at home. My daughter struggled…”  But there the message ended. Interested to learn more, we reached out to the mom who posted the comments and her family whose lives have been impacted by BBBS for over a decade.

Zelda Botha came to the United States from South Africa in 1994 with her husband and two children. “We were Afrikaners,” she said. “We didn’t speak English, only Afrikaans. We immigrated on religious visas. My husband and I are both ordained ministers.”

After landing in Virginia, the family quickly made their way to Central Texas and to jobs in Austin. “I always joke that Austin is the spot just before heaven,” said Zelda. “We really see ourselves as Texans and Americans.”

The Bothas were where they wanted to be, but that didn’t make the challenges of being an immigrant family any easier. “It’s really tough when you come as an immigrant,” said Zelda. “You don’t know the language. You don’t have family close by. You don’t understand the money. You don’t even know how to mail a letter back to family in South Africa.”

“Above all, you don’t have a social structure,” said Zelda. “In South Africa, when the schools are closed, all of the workplaces are closed too. It’s not like that in the U.S. Many times it was a real crisis for me because my kids could not go to school and I had no place to leave them while I was working because it takes time to make friends.”

Zelda and her husband often worked 2 jobs each to provide for their family. They even started their own business at one point. They worked for minimum wage and, in applying for jobs, were often treated as though they had just come out of high school, despite their professional credentials and degrees.

Bigger challenges came, however, when their third child was born. “I had an unusual complication during my pregnancy that resulted in the baby having less room to develop. Consequently, Mikayla faced challenges just to survive.”

“When she was born, she seemed premature even though she’d been delivered at full-term, and she was always a little behind other children her age developmentally. She didn’t start speaking until she was close to school-age, and the challenges were magnified once school began.”

“This is actually where my journey with BBBS begins,” Zelda continued. “At this point, I was very busy. I had two older children, I had Mikayla, I also had Lauren, who is a year younger than Mikayla, and I was working.”

Mikayla was having trouble learning to read and the school she attended provided her with a volunteer tutor. One day, a BBBS staff member contacted Zelda about enrolling her daughter in the program.

“A representative from BBBS called and told me that my daughter’s tutor wanted to be her Big Sister outside of school,” said Zelda.

Zelda arranged a home visit to talk with a BBBS staff member, and she talked with Mikayla about having a mentor. “After learning more about BBBS, I started feeling more comfortable with the situation.”

Zelda was concerned about Mikayla’s disabilities, which often prompted her daughter to behave impulsively. “We were at a crisis point in Mikayla’s life,” said Zelda. “I discovered that Mikayla was struggling so much in school that she was acting out by taking the teacher’s things. I found all of these pens and colors hidden under Mikayla’s bed, and I realized there was a real problem.”

Being matched with a Big Sister turned the tide for Mikayla. She wasn’t matched with her reading tutor after all, but with an older Big Sister named Cayla. “BBBS’ staff decided that Mikayla needed a more mature Big Sister,” said Zelda. “When the two started forming a bond, Mikayla loved it. Plus, having a Big whose name was similar to hers was a big deal. Our Bigs’ names became very important to my daughters.”

During her school years, Mikayla had several different Bigs, but each made a positive impact. “When she was younger, one of her Bigs had a disability,” said Zelda. “She also had a Ph.D.  That helped Mikayla understand that, even with disabilities, she could be successful.”

Mikayla’s younger sister, Lauren, wanted a mentor as well. “Lauren was constantly asking, ‘When am I going to get a Big Sister?’” Zelda laughed. “And she wanted a Big who had the same name she did, just like Mikayla’s Big had a similar name.”

“I thought, ‘This is going to be hard,’ but BBBS found a Big with a similar name and it was a perfect match. I was amazed.” said Zelda.

Mikayla and Lauren both started out with Bigs who had names that matched their own. Years later, they both had Bigs named Sara. Regardless of the names, Zelda credits all of the Bigs in their lives with motivating her daughters and offering them glimpses of lifestyles and opportunities that were different than the ones they knew at home.

She also cites the Bigs as being an important source of support when her family experienced serious problems. Zelda and her husband divorced, and she was then diagnosed with cancer. “The girls’ Big Sisters were really a comfort. Their mentoring relationships were not just fun and games. Our family struggles were a real burden for the kids,” said Zelda. “If you have a big family, your family comes alongside you when you have troubles. Immigrant families don’t often have that. The girls’ Bigs were like extended family members the kids could lean on and learn from. They were people my girls could trust and share deep concerns with, and who were genuinely interested in their well-being.”

Now, after 10 years, as Mikayla’s and Lauren’s matches are winding down, evidence of the relationships’ impacts can be seen in the successes the girls are experiencing. Lauren holds a 4.2 GPA in the Austin Global Studies program at Austin High School, is the leader of the debate team, and spent the summer studying in Italy – an opportunity she applied for on her own with her Big Sister’s guidance.

Mikayla, who was initially identified as a student who was at risk to fail, graduated early from Austin High with distinction after taking 36 hours of dual credit, college level classes. She is enrolled at UT Tyler where she plans to study computer science.

“I challenge anyone to search their hearts to see if they can be a Big,” said Zelda, “because you can make a world of difference in a child’s life. And you don’t know the impact that child will then have in the world. All the wonderful people we have known at, and through, BBBS have impacted my kids’ lives in a positive way. These relationships have made a lasting, and important, difference.”

Across Two Generations: A Look at Mentoring’s Long-Term Positive Impact

It’s often said that a mentor makes a long-term positive impact on the life of a child. For former Little Brother Anson Wilkinson, however, this impact has influenced not only his own life. Its reach has extended into the next generation as a positive influence in the life of his daughter, and recently matched Little Sister, Azia.

Anson’s mother enrolled him in Big Brothers Big Sisters when he was a boy, not long after his father passed away. Having a Big in his life meant having a companion for playing video games and basketball, visiting museums and aquariums, and rooting for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

“I felt like I had a friend of my own,” says Anson.

His Big also offered “little lessons that became life lessons,” he says, teaching him how to change a tire, mow the lawn and fix things around the house. Perhaps the most significant impact of having a Big Brother, however, was having someone to talk with about his future, his goals and his outlook on life.

“He helped me look at life from beyond my own perspective,” Anson says.

Years later, with his daughter struggling through a difficult transition of her own, Anson returned to Big Brothers Big Sisters—this time as a parent. He knew from his own positive experience, that a Big Sister could become another trusted person in Azia’s life– someone she could talk to and feel supported by.

“I wanted to give my daughter the same opportunity to have her life influenced for the best,” he says. “I thought this would be perfect.”

And just as Anson anticipated, Azia has thoroughly enjoyed being a Little Sister.

It’s been just a few months since their match, but Azia and her Big Sister Audrey have already enjoyed some classic summer activities together, like cooling off with sno-cones and visiting the bowling alley. They’ve also sought out some new experiences, including a visit to the Domain shopping center to sample a variety of international foods.

“Azia enjoys the friendship and social outlet she gets with her Big,” says her father. “They do fun things together, but they also confide in one another.”

Anson feels confident that Azia’s experience with Big Brothers Big Sisters will continue to have a positive impact on her life, both now and in the long-term—perhaps even into a third generation.

Breaking the Ice with Your Little: Suggestions from a Long-Time Match

“I was pretty nervous,” says Big Sister Kathy Garin about her first meeting with 15-year-old Little Sister Rachelle three years ago. “I was looking for a way to break the ice.”

Kathy’s confidence grew, however, as she and Rachelle discovered that they shared an adventurous spirit, and both loved trying new things. Seeking out activities that were new to both soon became Kathy and Rachelle’s favorite way of spending time together.

“That’s how our relationship evolved,” says Kathy.

For their first foray into the unknown, Kathy and Rachelle decided they would seek out the best pies in Central Texas– an accolade they ultimately bestowed on the Texas Pie Company of Kyle.

Over their three years as a match, they’ve continued to discover new things together –new tastes (Korean kimchi fries), new places (Texas’ first cat cafe), new outdoor adventures (stand up paddle boarding) and much more!

Their spirit for adventure isn’t all they shared, however. Over time, they discovered a common passion for music and choral performance that provided ongoing opportunities for nurturing their relationship.

“We were paired very, very well,” says Kathy. “We’ve discovered so many common interests!”

For Kathy and Rachelle, the creative explorations that began three years ago have fostered a relationship that remains strong. Although they may share adventures less frequently now that Rachelle is planning for college and Kathy’s job often takes her out of town, Kathy feels confident that her relationship with her Little Sister will endure.

“She can’t get rid of me,” Kathy laughs. “I know we’ll be in each other’s lives for a long time!”

For new Bigs and Littles, however, who may be unsure of how to get started, Kathy enthusiastically recommends a “choose your own adventure” approach for breaking the ice. Here’s a list of some of her and Rachelle’s favorite food and drink discoveries to inspire new matches:

Texas Pie Company – Take the scenic backroads to Kyle’s Texas Pie Company, where the motto is “Life is Short, Eat More Pie.” Choose from a wide selection of 4” individual sized pies, including Buttermilk, Southern Pecan, Strawberry Peach, Peanut Butter Mousse, Key Lime, and more, or take home a 10” pie to savor all week long! Just in case pies aren’t your thing, you’ll also find a tasty selection of other fresh, handmade baked goods, casseroles, quiches and sandwiches. 202 W. Center St., Kyle. Monday-Friday: 10:30 am-6:30 pm, Saturday: 10:30 am-4 pm, closed Sunday. (512) 268-5885.

Tiny Pies – Located in north-central Austin, Tiny Pies offers up yummy bite-sized pies, including sweet and savory classics, unique combinations (like Pumpkin Chai and Blackberry Balsamic) and rotating favorites inspired by seasonal ingredients.  With this seasonal emphasis, the menu is always changing, so be sure to call ahead if there’s something special you’re looking for. 5035 Burnet Rd., Austin. Monday-Friday: 10 am-8 pm, Saturday: 9 am-7 pm, closed Sunday. (512) 916-0184.

Blue Cat Café – One of Kathy and Rachelle’s favorite and most unique destinations, Blue Cat Café is Texas’ first cat café. Bringing together adorable, adoptable kitties with delicious food and coffee, the café’s prime objective is to find forever homes for stray and shelter cats. Visitors pay a $5 cover fee for the opportunity to mingle with and pet the cats, play board games, enjoy music and art or even take part in Kitty Yoga on Sunday mornings! 95 Navasota St., Austin. Monday-Thursday: 10 am-8 pm; Friday and Saturday: 10 am-10 pm; Sunday: 11 am-7 pm. (512) 766-5003.

Summer Moon Coffee Bar – Enjoy a cup of “coffee unplugged” at Summer Moon! This family-run establishment crafts custom coffee roasts using fair-trade, organic beans in a wood-fired, brick roaster they designed and built by hand. Rachelle loves to drink Mocha Moon, while Kathy’s favorite treat is the lemon poppy seed muffin. Locations in North and South Austin, Buda, Kyle, Westlake, Cedar Valley, San Marcos and San Antonio! Hours vary by location.

Andy’s Frozen Custard – One of Rachelle and Kathy’s first discoveries, Andy’s Frozen Custard in Round Rock, remains one of their favorite places to share desserts and catch up on life. They both enjoy frozen custard’s thick, creamy texture and smoother consistency than traditional ice cream and Andy’s abundant menu offerings. 1700 E. Palm Valley Blvd. #800, Round Rock. Open daily, 11 am-11 pm. (512) 687-2786.

Enjoy!

Ashley and Justin Yarborough: Our Ice Ball 2018 Chairs

When Ashley and Justin Yarborough agreed to be the Chairs for Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 2018 Ice Ball gala, it was a fast response that had been building over a lifetime. The lifetimes of three people, actually – Ashley, Justin, and Justin’s Little Brother, Jermaine.

“When Brent Fields approached us about chairing the 2018 Ice Ball Host Committee, it was a quick ‘yes,’ but it wasn’t,” Justin said. “For a long time we’ve wanted to have as big an impact as we can with BBBS. I think about the mark BBBS has made on me, and on us as a family, and about how much the agency has contributed to our understanding of ourselves, our city, and how to give to our community. We wanted to find a way to do more.”

BBBS made its mark on Justin when he was in his early 20’s and freshly returned to Texas after stints working in eco-tourism in the Brazilian rainforest and in financial services at Morgan Stanley in New York. He had relocated to Austin to work at the Capitol and was looking for an opportunity to connect with a local nonprofit. “I was a self-absorbed, 25-year-old,” Justin laughed. “BBBS was a breath of fresh air.”

Justin was matched with a 9-year-old Little Brother, Jermaine. And 13 years later, the two are still close. Jermaine even served as a groomsman in Justin and Ashley’s wedding.

“I grew up in West Texas, near the border,” said Justin. “Like Jermaine, I was raised by a single parent. My dad left home when I was 8 years old. The first summer Jermaine and I were matched was so powerful for me, and I’ve learned so much from him. We could identify with each other right away because I had to assume the role of ‘man of the house’ at an early age, and Jermaine has had to grow up faster than many people his own age as well.”

Justin and Jermaine’s match also made an impact on Ashley, especially early in her relationship with Justin. She jokes that Justin and Jermaine were “testing” her when she traveled with them to West Texas to meet Justin’s family for the first time. “Justin and I had only been dating for about three months when we got into a car in Austin, along with Jermaine and his four siblings, and traveled six and a half hours to the ranch,” said Ashley.

“We were traveling to spend time with my family,” Justin added, “and as a Big Brother, my ‘family’ was extended, so it was only natural for Jermaine and his siblings to be there.”

That trip is one of many special experiences Ashley, Justin, Jermaine, and Jermaine’s family have shared over the years. “To think of all that has transpired since that day,” said Justin, “is just astounding.”

Justin and Ashley met when he was in law school and she was the reigning Miss Texas. Ashley grew up in Pennsylvania, but moved to Texas when she was in high school and fell in love with the state. “As Miss Texas my duties included visiting schools, and I came to recognize the need for kids to have people to look up to and to engage with,” said Ashley. “That helped me understand Justin’s desire to be a Big Brother.”

That understanding deepened at Ashley and Justin’s wedding. “Jermaine’s family was at our wedding rehearsal dinner,” Ashley continued. “They had been a little uneasy about it before that night, but then Jermaine and his older sister got up on stage to share their love and adoration for Justin and they were both in their element. Everyone was blown away by their sincerity and warmth.”

“It was a powerful moment,” Justin agreed. “By that point all of our friends knew Jermaine and his family, and they all doted on him. Jermaine has been an important part of our lives.”

It’s a relationship that has had a profound impact. Ten years ago, Justin’s younger brother, Taylor, passed away. “There was a moment after the burial when Jermaine and I looked at each other and he said ‘Hey, I’m your Little Brother. I’m here for you,’” said Justin. “That meant a lot.”

Unfortunately, it was a moment that was destined to repeat itself as Justin lost his sister, his mother, and his father over a two-year period. “In a short time, my biological family of five was reduced down to just me,” said Justin. “Having Jermaine there was important. There’s a unique part of our relationship that has always been a source of strength for me.”

“It wasn’t always easy, but Jermaine was always there… through the good times and the bad.” Ashley added.

Justin and Ashley reflected on the joys and sorrows they have shared with Jermaine as they scrolled through a digital album of photos that included everything from Thanksgiving dinners, to Easter celebrations, a ski trip, Jermaine’s and his siblings’ first experience with snow, ballgames, graduations, and more. “We’ve done a lot of life together,” said Justin.

It’s this “life” experience with mentoring that inspired Ashley and Justin to play such a major role in the upcoming Ice Ball gala. The couple had just welcomed their infant daughter Ava into their lives at the time of last year’s gala when they agreed to become the 2018 Ice Ball Host Committee Chairs. “The Ice Ball does such a great job of connecting BBBS’ mission to the crowd,” said Ashley. “There are a lot of great events in Austin, but every time I leave the Ice Ball my heart is on fire for the mission. I hope that we can be part of making people feel connected to the agency and the important work it is doing.”

“There are so many kids born into adversity and challenge,” said Justin. “There’s such a need in our city for those who are capable to engage with those who have less, and to engage in such a way that these kids know they are not just important to the city, but that their talents and contributions are essential to it. I believe in mentorship. I want people to know that it doesn’t take much to change someone’s life.”

Ashley and Justin have seen first-hand the difference mentoring can make. It is why they hope this year’s Ice Ball will be another high-water mark in BBBS’ history.

“I don’t think Jermaine or I will ever let the other get too far away from our relationship. I came in to the relationship as a Big Brother thinking ‘I’m going to impart so much wisdom on this young fella, all the valuable lessons I’ve learned,” Justin laughed. “Turns out, he taught me a lot more.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 2018 Ice Ball Gala will take place August 25th at the Fairmont Austin. Go to www.AustinIceBall.org for details.

Spotlight on Nancy Reiter

It’s no surprise that the life-changing mentoring relationships of Big Brothers Big Sisters are widely-celebrated and often in the public eye. Less well-known, yet no less essential to the vision that all children succeed in life, are the day-to-day administrative operations that keep the agency running smoothly. Taking on a multi-faceted role as Vice President of Finance and Operations, Nancy Reiter clearly demonstrates the significance of this behind-the-scenes work at BBBS.

A substantial part of Nancy’s work involves overseeing essential financial responsibilities, such as managing cash flow, creating financial and grant reports, reviewing contracts, budgeting, auditing and, everyone’s favorite– managing payroll!

But she deals with more than just numbers.

As human resources manager, Nancy also focuses on the interpersonal needs of the workplace, such as recruiting and staffing, managing employee compensation and benefits, and coordinating workplace education and training.

But wait– there’s more.

On any given day, she might also be found reviewing facility construction plans, coordinating building maintenance or addressing IT issues. She’s even been known to clean popcorn machines.

“Wearing multiple hats is often part of working for a small company,” she laughs.

Although Nancy considers the ‘numbers’ side of her job to be her primary strength, she also appreciates the workplace balance that her human resources responsibilities offer.

“The human resources side of my job is something I have to work a little harder at,” she says, “but I enjoy being challenged.”

One particular challenge she’s taken on since joining BBBS in 2015 has been to address employees’ desires for more workplace training.

As a result, she currently coordinates two educational sessions each month, keeping a very intentional focus on employees’ expressed needs and interests. While one training each month addresses general workplace skills, another focuses more specifically on BBBS’ work with children.

General trainings have concentrated on time-management skills, computer software training and 401K planning, while recent trainings focused on youth have included child development, social-emotional learning and LGBTQ awareness.

In addition to enjoying the challenges of her human resources role, Nancy also feels gratified to see this work leading to tangible, positive outcomes at BBBS. With the additional focus on engaging staff and meeting their needs, employee retention has increased significantly; and in response to positive employee feedback, the Austin Business Journal honored BBBS with a ‘Best Place to Work’ award in 2017.

“I can see the positive impact,” she says,” and I feel really proud to be a part of that.”

Although this behind-the-scenes work at BBBS may draw less public attention than the inspiring stories of Bigs and Littles, without the operational support provided by Nancy and the rest of the administrative team, the life-changing work of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas just wouldn’t be possible.

Kristie Gonzales on The Power of Mentoring

There are thousands of TV stations across the country, but only 16.5% of them have female general managers, and very few of them are minorities since less than 8% of all general managers are minorities. One of these talented women is KVUE-TV President and General Manager Kristie Gonzales. Kristie is a community leader who will tell you that her success is due, in large part, to having a mentor.

“Mentors have had a huge impact in my life,” said Kristie. “Those of us who are in leadership roles in this business have had a lot of people who have opened doors for us, lifted us on their backs, and made the difference in our careers. If I hadn’t had mentors early in my career, there’s no way I’d be sitting where I am today.”

Kristie started her professional life as a college student working as a production assistant for the local PBS station in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A straight-A student in high school, her favorite pastime was painting but she soon realized that that was not going to pay the bills. “I didn’t recognize my own potential. I was following the path of least resistance,” said Kristie.

“As a student, I wasn’t worried about money because I had a full scholarship, but then I graduated and started looking for a job. I’d always been interested in journalism and television, so I took a TV 101 class. The teacher was an executive producer at KNME-TV and he said, ‘You have a real knack for video editing.’ He then hired me for my first television job when I was 19 years old, and it was a paid position, which was rare. That experience was pivotal, and it is why I am sitting in the general manager’s chair now. Early on, someone saw a talent in me and changed my path forever.”

After graduating, Kristie got hired at a local news station in Albuquerque where she became one of the best editors despite facing enormous challenges in her personal life. At 23, Kristie left an abusive marriage. A few weeks after her divorce, her younger brother died. “At that point I felt like my life was over, not just beginning,” said Kristie. “To deal with my personal struggles, I worked. It was a distraction and it filled up my time. As a result, the station made me chief editor.”

Kristie’s editing skills ultimately took her to one of the strongest TV stations in the country, WPVI in Philadelphia. She was hired for her production skills, but needed to write for the promotion department as well. “They didn’t know I couldn’t write,” laughed Kristie, “because I told them I could. I just had to figure it out on the job. I had to have some confidence to be able to do that, and I think it came from surviving some of the violence I experienced growing up. Those early struggles taught me that I could survive, and even thrive.”

It was in Philadelphia that Kristie connected with another mentor who influenced her career. “The general manager there, Rebecca Campbell, is someone I looked up to,” said Kristie. “I finally had a chance to have lunch with her and I said, ‘I want to find out how you became a general manager. How did you get to where you are in your career?’ Rebecca then took me under her wing and became my career sponsor for the next 10 years.”

As Kristie climbed the corporate ladder, Rebecca gave her a challenge. “She said, ‘You know what I did for you. Now, go and do that same thing for other women and minorities.”

It’s a challenge Kristie took to heart. Looking back at her high school years, she says she didn’t realize that she needed to maximize what she was learning in school. She didn’t know what she needed to do to succeed. It’s why she sees such value in mentoring today.

“In order to develop your own potential, you need to have conversations with people who can teach you how to get to where you want to go and who can show you new paths.”

“That’s why BBBS is so important,” Kristie continued. “BBBS exposes kids to different lifestyles and to new opportunities, and that is huge. Otherwise, kids have no idea that life can be different from what they experience every day.”

Kristie is quick to point out that mentoring is not a “taking,” but rather a reciprocal, relationship. She encourages young people in mentoring relationships to do their homework, to identify goals and to try to be specific about what they want to achieve. “When you’re younger, just being exposed to different paths that are open to you is important,” said Kristie. “For instance, it’s important to understand that you may start a media career as an editor, but that you don’t have to be an editor forever. You can become the news director or the general manager one day, because the people in those roles started out in the same place you did. But you wouldn’t necessarily know that without having someone there to show you what you are capable of and how to get where you want to go.”

Kristie also encourages kids to ask adults about their lives and careers. “If you see someone doing something interesting, ask them how they did it. Be curious and interested in the people and the larger world around you. You never know what kinds of doors your questions might open.”

Even though she is currently a general manager, Kristie is still working with mentors in the media business and still has goals to achieve. “My CEO is now mentoring me,” said Kristie, “because I’ve told him that I want to be a CEO one day.”

Being responsible for the ins and outs of a TV station is a demanding position, but Kristie says she handles it by having a good circle of friends and by giving back to the community and mentoring others, which is where her kinship with BBBS surfaces. Kristie will be speaking to BBBS’ high school graduates and incoming freshman as the keynote speaker for the agency’s 2018 Promising Futures Scholarship Ceremony on June 16th.

“I’m very excited to share my story at the Scholarship Ceremony,” said Kristie. “I feel a connection with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas. I grew up in a difficult, and often violent, household. I know what it’s like to face hard circumstances and to have to figure out how to survive and thrive. That’s when mentors can make the greatest difference and offer hope.”

Kristie was able to find hope and strength despite her struggles. And, with the help of her mentors, she developed survival and work-related skills that have helped her later in life. “In this industry you have to have a strong voice,” said Kristie. “As a child, I developed a strong voice in response to the violence I saw at home. I have turned that into a gift because now I’m not afraid to be on stage, to face a room full of people, or to fight against social injustice.”

“I refuse to be limited by my past. And that keeps me pushing forward and sharing my story.”

And, as Kristie continues to move forward in her own life and career, she is committed to making it possible for others to do the same.

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.