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Big Brother Big Sisters of Greater Dallas Needs Men To Mentor More Than 300 Waitlisted Boys

"Big" Gustavo and Marco, the  "little" he mentors though Big Brothers and Big Sisters, which needs more men to volunteer.
"Big" Gustavo and Marco, the "little" he mentors though Big Brothers and Big Sisters, which needs more men to volunteer. courtesy of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Dallas
Despite a successful drive in October to recruit more male volunteers, more than 360 boys remain on a waiting list waiting for a mentor from Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Dallas.

The agency's “30 Men in 30 Days Campaign” ran throughout October and aimed to raise awareness for the need for male mentors, referred to as big brothers or bigs within the organization. The nonprofit recruited more than 40 big brothers during the campaign, surpassing the goal of 30.

BBBS matches "littles" between the ages of 7-14 with  "bigs," or volunteer big brothers.The average age of a little is 13-14 years old. Little brothers are waitlisted an average of two years before they are matched with a big. In some cases, little brothers have been on the waitlist since 2014.

“Being able to reach groups of men, communities of men, is always a challenge,” the organization's director of recruitment and match services Caprice Hawkins says. “Women volunteer more. It's in their nature to step up and volunteer when it comes to things like mentoring because it's a relationship. ... They [the kids] have come to us and asked for a mentor. Their parents have asked us to be part of their village to help with their child, that is a message that we want to get out.”

During the campaign, about 75 men inquired about becoming a big. The organization blames the lack of applications to fear of the time commitment for bigs.

Big brothers are asked to agree to a 1 year commitment to mentor their little. A big is expected to meet with their little 2-4 times a month. On average, bigs meet with their littles every other weekend.

“My message to the men is think about what your interests and hobbies are, what is it that you do on Saturday or Sunday? We ask you to just pick your little up and hang out with them and do those things.” Hawkins says. “It's about sharing time together. You don't have to go to the movies every weekend or Six Flags or some event that costs a lot of money; it's just hanging out and getting to know each other.”

The organization uses match support specialists to match littles with bigs. Match support specialists are degreed social workers who oversee relationship development to ensure that expectations are being met for all parties in a safe and healthy manner. Specialists match bigs with littles based on geographical location, personality, family history, hobbies and interests. Match support specialists serve as coaches to bigs to relieve pressures and see to it that bigs do not feel the need to have all the answers or broker resources on their own.

“Being able to reach groups of men, communities of men, is always a challenge." - Caprice Hawkins, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Dallas

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George Bordeleon has been a big since fall 2018. His little, Ja’Morian, was 8 years old when they met. Bordelon cites his relationship with Ja’Morian as a “friendship for life” that is nurtured with the resources provided by the agency such as newsletters, talking points and match support specialist.

Bordeleon, who also serves on the Big Leaders board for the group, says most littles, including his, are simply looking for a positive role model.

“His father is no longer involved in his life so he needed somebody besides his mom that he could talk to about school or a teacher giving him what he thinks is a hard time or how to talk to girls and stuff like that," he said. "It's just kind of like a sounding board.”

Latrice Wade, Ja’Morian’s mother, says Bordeleon’s relationship with her son has been a monumental instrument for his development.

“Ja'Morian was having a whole lot of problems. I almost lost my job at one point in time because I was getting so many phone calls from the school and if I don't go to work, I don't get paid,” Wade says. “Raising boys can be very difficult and it can be hard at times. Thank God for help. They [mentors] help me as far as the aspect of going into manhood, I can tell them [her sons] things, but it has to come from someone who's actually a mirror experience to what they're going through.”

Wade’s older son, Ja’Morian’s brother John, is also in the big brother program. Wade’s children have been able to have experiences such as going to the fair, going to a baseball game and even trying Chick-Fil-A for the first time through the program. Most notably, her sons have begun to express a thirst for another experience, college.

“Kids in our program do better in school,” Hawkins says. “They're less likely to get into trouble. They make better grades. They get along better with their parents, teachers and peers. They are more involved in school, [and] 98% of our kids that have mentors graduate from high school.”

In addition to the traditional mentorship program, the agency's offers Mentor 2.0 at specific partner high schools. Mentor 2.0 is a college readiness program for high school students designed to help students look past high school. The program is online and requires weekly emails between mentors and mentees plus monthly group events based on college preparation and career exploration curriculum prepared by the nonprofit. Mentors are asked to commit for two years to the program.

Mentor 2.0 is currently in place at New Tech High School in Lancaster, where it had a 100% graduation rate for the class of 2021. The valedictorian was a 10-year member of the traditional mentorship program. Mentor 2.0 is also in place at Irving High School.

“Volunteers provide that emotional wellbeing by just being a mentor.” Hawkins says. “By being there they are saying, ‘Hey, I'm here. I'm your friend, I got your back… I'll walk this journey with you. I'll be your advisor, your encourager.’ That's the difference maker. That's kind of the magic that happens within a match.”

Interested adults can apply to be a big on the Big Brothers Big Sisters website.
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Desiree Gutierrez is a music and culture intern at the Dallas Observer. Equipped with her education from Dallas College Brookhaven Campus and the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism, Desiree has transformed the ability to overthink just about anything into a budding career in journalism.