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Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Brazos Valley expands into Robertson County

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The reach of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Brazos Valley has expanded into Robertson County with the first matches established in the Hearne school district.

“Expanding out to Robertson County, there’s a huge potential to make an impact in the kids’ futures out there. They haven’t had an opportunity like this before,” said Kirsten Acosta, mentoring services manager with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Acosta is overseeing the Robertson County expansion, which includes Hearne and Calvert, though she has not established matches yet in Calvert. The expansion is the first outside Bryan and College Station and is the result of a grant awarded to the organization in the fall.

She said beyond a person to connect with, she hopes the program also gives the youth of both communities a different perspective on the world by connecting with their mentors and receiving additional guidance from them.

The first matches in Hearne, she said, are within the school district, training Hearne High School students to mentor Hearne Elementary School students. The mentors are all members of the National Honor Society at the high school.

“They just really want to impact a child’s life,” Acosta said of the mentors. “They really just seemed interested in being that support and being impactful in these little kids’ lives.”

She said the high school mentors are going to learn how to develop relationships and friendships, and said many of the younger students simply wanted someone to listen to them.

“I think it’s going to be really good for them just to have that support and that extra role model that they can have that isn’t connected to their nuclear family; (it’s) someone outside of their normal circle,” Acosta said.

Terry Dougherty, the director of the local Big Brothers Big Sisters branch, said by showing up when she promises and being there for both the mentors and the mentees, Acosta is modeling relationship building.

When the students first met in mid-May before the end of school, Acosta said, there was a lot of excitement, nervousness and happiness from her, the mentors and the elementary students.

“I told the bigs, no matter what you do, you’re going to make an impact on these kids,” Acosta said.

While they may feel discouraged at times or like they are not making progress with their mentee, she said, she encouraged the mentors to be patient and ask her for any advice if they need. She said the students will appreciate people showing up for them consistently, saying that is the advice Dougherty gave her also when she first took over the program last fall.

“I just want to be as much of a support,” Acosta said. “This is their program. These kids are the first to do this program, so I want them to have a say in it. We want them to feel like this is their program as well.”

Christopher Guerrero, a sophomore at Hearne High School, said he was both nervous and excited to meet his apprentice, saying he was excited to begin the program but nervous if he would be a good mentor.

Through the program, Guerrero said, he is excited to learn more about the community he grew up in and the situations younger students encounter. He said this opportunity will allow him to better understand what is happening elsewhere in the community.

“I’m glad that a lot of kids have this opportunity that we didn’t have, and I’m glad that they’re being offered this opportunity,” he said.

Fifth grader Aspen Bryant said she is excited to be part of the program and learn more about what it is like to be in high school and what awaits her after elementary and junior high school.

Bryant’s mentor, Yasmin Lozano, is a sophomore at Hearne High School and said she hopes the program is one that will continue because of the opportunity it presents to older and younger students.

“It’ll be like a day we can look back to,” she said when she first met Bryant on May 10.

I’Yana Moore, a sixth grader in Hearne, said she wanted to participate in the program because she wanted someone older to look up to. She said it’s encouraging to have adults and older students want to put time into the program and bring it to Hearne.

“It feels good knowing we have older adults wanting to help you achieve something,” she said.

Moore’s mentor, Lizeth Tellez, a sophomore in Hearne, said she hopes to learn new things from all the participants, make more connections and improve herself as a person as well.

Acosta said the Hearne program is where she hoped it would be with the matches established before the summer break, so the relationships can continue developing going into next school year.

Acosta said she hopes to add in community-based matches in the future that will allow community members to become mentors to students from elementary through high school. Community mentors must be 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license and vehicle insurance, be motivated and have the time with a minimum commitment of one year to meet with a student two to four times a month. There is also an interview process and training.

She said she would like to have 10-15 matches by the end of next year.

“Our whole goal is just for these kids to realize their full potential and help them build a bright future, and having that relationship can be a huge stepping stone in that,” Acosta said.

For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Brazos Valley, go to bbbsbrazos.com or contact Dougherty at tdougherty@bigmentor.org or at 979-224-3660.

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