Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas is on a roll.
Over the last six years, they have more than tripled their service output, experienced double digit financial growth, and developed the most diverse donor base of individuals, corporations, foundations, and government contracts in their history. They continue to expand their outreach from San Antonio, with established satellite offices in Kerr, Guadalupe, Comal, and Nueces counties with plans to expand into Webb County in the coming months and continue to put up high match rates, matching 1,920 children in one-to-one mentoring relationships in 2005. They are on course for matching 2,500 children this year, marking a 77 percent increase.
Their efforts and accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. Just recently, Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas was honored at the BBBS 2006 National Conference held June 27-30 in Indianapolis, IN. The agency was awarded the “large agency of the year with the highest revenue growth in 2005” and “large agency of the year with the highest level of sustained growth 2004, 2005” awards, while Elizabeth Myers, the president and CEO of BBBS of South Texas received the highly competitive CEO of the Year award in the large agency category.
“To be named CEO of the Year is pretty amazing,” said Myers. “To first be nominated by my staff and then being selected knowing the caliber of my peers is such an incredible honor.”
Myers has been with BBBS of South Texas since 1996, serving first as the director of program services until 1999 when she was selected as president and CEO. Since then, Myers has played a crucial role in the growth and development of the agency.
“At the time of her appointment as President and CEO, the agency served 538 children,” said Melissa Vela-Williamson, the Recruitment and Public Relations Coordinator of BBBS of South Texas. “Determined to serve more children, she doubled the operating budget in only two and a half years and is on target in 2006 to have doubled the number of children served for the second time.”
Under Myers leadership, BBBS of South Texas has also diversified their funding sources resulting in a 38 percent increase in funding between 2004 and 2005 and a total revenue of $1,980,190 last year. Additionally, at $880, their cost per match is considerably lower than the national average.
“Elizabeth Myers is one of the foremost Big Brothers Big Sisters CEOs in the country,” said Judy Vredenburgh, President and CEO of the national organization. “Her high level of performance is her signature. Under her leadership, Myers has led her agency to double digit growth not only in the number of children served, but also in revenue generated. She is a leader in our field and truly deserving of this award.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas:
Helping Youth Expand their Horizons One Relationship at a Time
A branch of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the oldest and largest mentoring organization in the country, BBBS of South Texas has been working to help children ages 6 to 18 reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships since 1978. Mentoring has long been viewed as an effective method of assisting youth in making healthy life decisions in order to achieve success.
By providing a listening ear, a compassionate heart, and positive encouragement, mentors can truly make a lasting, positive impact in a child’s life.
That is the goal of BBBS of South Texas’ mentoring programs. They seek to achieve this goal through three basic program models:
Community-based: Volunteers visit with the child once a week, incorporating them into their day-to-day routine (i.e. running errands, grocery shopping, cooking dinner) as well as special outings such as going to the movies, playing in the park or going out to eat.
School-based: Volunteers meet with their Little Brother or Little Sisters for up to an hour once a week at the child’s school. Volunteers and children can share activities together such as eating lunch, playing games, or visiting the library.
High School Bigs: High school students are matched as Big Brothers or Big Sisters with an elementary or middle school Little Brother or Little Sister during the duration of a school year. The Big Brother or
Big Sister serves as a role model for their child by spending individual time with him or her.
These programs are designed to facilitate the creation of a one-to-one relationship that can assist a child in putting their life back on course for success. To make this connection easier, each match is handled by a trained professional that strives to match each child with a mentor that is not only safe for them emotionally and physically, but that is also well suited to the child’s needs. They also provide necessary training and support for mentors in order to make them more effective in developing relationships and handling situations. This system has been a proven formula for success. BBBS mentoring programs have been shown effective in strengthening participating youth’s social skills (peer relationships, trust, respect), self-esteem and self-worth (hygiene, appearance, self confidence, ability to say no and express their opinions) and their family and school life (family relationships, school performance, etc.).
A study conducted by the Public/Private Ventures of Philadelphia from 1992-1995 found that youth taking part in BBBS programs were:
Additionally, information tracked by BBBS regarding youth served in the Alamo Area in 2000 revealed that:
“BBBS of South Texas and its programs are successful because we have the right people on board in terms of staff and board of directors,” said Myers. “We have really focused our energy on attracting and retaining the right people- people that are driven and ambitious and who are committed to making us successful in positively impacting the community.”
With a proven track record and solid funding base, BBBS of South Texas will be embarking on new initiatives in the coming year. In partnership with the Office of the Governor, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the One Star Foundation, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas, BBBS of South Texas will be working to facilitate one-to-one mentoring relationships between a child of an incarcerated parent and a caring adult through a new statewide program, Amachi Texas. The program is designed to halt the intergenerational cycle of crime and incarceration through compassionate mentorship. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 7.3 million children in America have a parent in prison, on probation, or on parole. Without one-to-one intervention, statistics show that 70 percent of these children will follow their parents into prison.
“Bexar County has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country,” said Vela-Williamson. “Amachi Texas will help BBBS of South Texas provide these children with a different path.”
BBBS of South Texas will receive $430,909 of the $3.78 million awarded from the Office of the Governor. They hope to make 200 Amachi matches by August 2007.
BBBS of South Texas was also one of 15 agencies awarded a $35,000 grant from BBBS of America to incorporate the Hispanic Mentoring Initiative into its programming. The goal of the initiative is to recruit a greater number of Hispanic volunteers, especially men in order to fill the significant gap between the number of Hispanic youth and Hispanic mentors. Currently, 55 percent of the children served by BBBS of South Texas are Hispanic, while only 30 percent of the volunteers/mentors are Hispanic. In order to implement the model, BBBS of South Texas has formed a Hispanic Advisory Council to assist in creating strategies for serving the community’s Hispanic population through mentoring. Specialized marketing materials, recruitment tools, and training will be developed in order to further the initiative.
With the development of new programming and mentor initiatives, their expansion into Corpus Christi and Laredo, and a course set for matching 7,000 youth by 2010, the future of BBBS of South Texas and the children it serves is bright.
“We’ve only just begun,” says Myers. “We are 100 percent certain that we in fact change the lives of at-risk youth. We have an obligation to do more. This is what drives us to make it happen.”
For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas, to become a Big Brother or Big Sister, or to enroll your child in the program, please visit their website at www.bigmentor.org.