Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Growing Up and Giving Back

This is the story of three at-risk kids who grew up to give back in very meaningful ways to the organization that helped them grow up successfully.
Russell and Mario

Russell was 11 when his mom asked him if he wanted to be in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. He describes the impact that his Big Brother, Mario made on his life as monumental. They did so much together, camping, Fiesta activities, and "just hanging out," through which Mario provided Russell with a ‘sense of worth” and helped him “face my anger, sadness, fear, and guilt and replace it with forgiveness and understanding when my own father abandoned us.”

Russell speaking at a luncheon
 The pair have been together for 17 years now, staying in touch even after the formal part of their Big Brothers Big Sisters relationship was over. Mario continued to provide advice and guidance for Russell during college and while Russell tried to find a teaching job. Russell also stayed connected with the Big Brothers Big Sisters agency, serving on its Alumni Board, speaking at events and advocating for the mission. This semester Russell started teaching at South San High School, continuing to pay it forward and honor his mentor, Big Brother Mario.

Mo supporting Brianna in choir
Brianna’s mom felt that having a Big Sister would be a stabilizing influence after Brianna’s father disappeared. Brianna was matched with Big Sister Mo in 7th grade. She was so thrilled to visit Mo’s home the day they met and wrote all about Mo’s dog and four chickens in her journal. Over the next 5 years, Mo supported Brianna through middle school, high school and her first year of college. They did all kinds of things together which Brianna really feels expanded her interests and broadened her horizons. They cooked with fresh vegetables from Mo’s garden and ran in a 5K (Brianna can now run a mile in less than 10 minutes!).

Brianna was in ROTC all 4 years of HS

When she graduated High School Brianna received the Tyree Williams scholarship through the Big Brother Big Sister program and enrolled full time at Alamo Colleges while working part-time at Belk Department Store. Shortly after that Brianna moved on to Schreiner University and was presented with an opportunity to give back to Big Brothers Big Sisters as an employee. Brianna is currently working as a Service Delivery Coordinator through a grant from The Callioux Foundation, paying it forward everyday in honor of her mentor, Big Sister Mo.

Julio and Keith in the workplace
Julio's mother enrolled him in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program after they moved away from his father and a troubling home environment. Julio credits his Big Brother, Ross, with shaping who he is today. He describes Ross as a "really nice guy" who gave him an example that was vastly different from previous male role models in his life. Julio tells stories about hanging out with Ross at the ballpark where he learned compassion and rooting for your team even when they are down, and going to an ice cream shop all the time where the same cute girl always seemed to be working (who later became Ross' wife.)
Julio and fellow board members

When Julio grew up and became a successful, contributing adult with a job, he began donating to Big Brothers Big Sisters through the United Way over many years in several jobs in different cities. He said that no one ever called and asked why he was donating to the agency until he moved to San Antonio. After sharing his story with Big Brothers Big Sisters staff, the next thing he knew he was on the board, and then chair of the board! He also got his company, Clear Channel Communications, now iHeart Media, to participate in the workplace mentoring program where he and almost 50 of his co-workers became Bigs. Julio has been matched to two Littles, Keith and Daniel, paying it forward in honor of his Big Brother, Ross.

These are the stories that inspire me to continue with this work.