"Have you looked at the moon through a telescope lately? Driven a go-kart? Fished with worms? Talked openly about your fears?"
These are questions Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow recently asked his readers in a column about his Little Brother.
Not his biological brother, but the 12-year-old boy he mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas (BBBS). Blow was recently named the "Big Brother of the Year" for 2010, for the North and West Central Texas region.
In his column, where he humbly omits any mention of his award, Blow encourages his readers to sign up with Big Brothers Big Sisters to begin making a difference in one of the 2,500 children currently on the North Texas affiliate’s mentor waiting list. Blow says Michael Gonzales, his Little Brother, is a "boy who has faced a lot of challenges in life but keeps on plugging away." He says their relationship sometimes makes him "laugh out loud at unexpected humor." But other times, there are "gripping moments because life can still be very hard for him."
Blow is one of thousands of Big Brothers and Big Sisters who mentor young Texans each year. For more than a century, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been matching volunteers nationwide with young people to help them reach their potential and improve their perspectives. In Texas, as of October 2010, Big Brothers Big Sisters has helped more than 18,000 young people through mentorships. Members of the Texas State Association of Big Brothers Big Sisters include: Amarillo-Panhandle, Lone Star, Austin-Central Texas, El Paso, Galveston-Gulf Coast, Hereford, Lubbock, Midland and San Antonio-South Texas.
I had the privilege of serving as the Honorary Chair for BBBS of Texas from April 2007 to October 2010. In October I passed the chairmanship reins to rodeo champion Ty Murray and his wife, singer-songwriter Jewel, who have already begun promoting the good work of BBBS and raising awareness about the need for more volunteer mentors.
This month, BBBS members across the country will be working to sign up volunteers in honor of National Mentoring Month. BBBS goes to great lengths to find the best match for every participating young person. They conduct background checks to ensure every match is safe for the child, and they work to find pairs that are well suited for each other and have lasting potential. BBBS offers training and tips to help volunteers develop a solid, positive relationship. Independent research indicates that Big Brothers Big Sisters has a far-reaching, positive impact on the lives of the young people it serves. A nationwide study found that participating Little Brothers and Little Sisters were 46 percent less likely to begin using drugs, 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol, and 52 percent less likely to skip school, among other positive trends.
During National Mentoring Month, I encourage Texans looking for a positive way to make a difference to consider becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister. Your investment in the life of an at-risk child will have a lasting impact. Most importantly, you will gain a friend for life.
For Steve Blow, that friendship was cemented when his Little Brother tested the waters and told him, "My mom says we’re going to be friends for life." Blow didn’t hesitate with his response: "Forever."
Sources: Dallas Morning News; Big Brothers Big Sisters Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary, Agriculture, and Budget Committees.