Little Brother and recent high school graduate Oswaldo won a shopping experience at his local Express through their #DreamBig Project. Express, a national partner of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, is focused on post-secondary success, empowering young people to reach their full potential.
Over the last year, Oswaldo has worked tirelessly on his FAFSA, college, and scholarship applications with BBBS Program Coordinator Ninfa. His hard work, determination, and positive spirit got him nominated to win this $500 shopping spree!
As the first in his family to graduate high school and continue to college, Oswaldo was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to pick out some professional outfits for his next chapter. In the fall, he’ll attend Portland State University to major in Business and Nursing. He wants to give back to the Latinx community by providing bilingual services.
Thank you to Express and the #DreamBig Project for recognizing this incredible young man! #BigFuture #BeTheFirst #Express #DreamBigProject #ItsBigTime
On Thursday, May 19th, the Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest community came together at OMSI to celebrate the graduation of matches from the class of 2022. The hosts of the evening, Jaasyel Monroy, Match Support Specialist, and Ninfa Rodriguez, Program Coordinator for Futuros Grandes, led the bilingual ceremony for families and supporters to enjoy.
As an agency, we were so thrilled to bring our community back together for the very first in-person graduation celebration since before the pandemic. Being together that night lifted our spirits and filled us with hope for the 35 graduates who are embarking on their path into adulthood.
We had the pleasure of hearing from Alumni Little Brother, Gerardo Morales, who shared more about his 15-year-long match with his Big Brother Adam. Their match started when Gerardo was just 7 years old after his father had been incarcerated for the first time. Knowing that Gerardo would benefit from having a positive male role model in his life, Gerardo’s Mom signed him up for our program. Skeptical of his new mentor, Gerardo admittedly took a while to open up to Adam, but Adam’s patience, consistency, and friendship helped to build trust with Gerardo. As their friendship has grown, Adam is often the first-person Gerardo turns to for advice on how to navigate life as a first-generation college graduate, now out in the working world.
One of the best moments of the night came when the graduates took the stage. Proudly sporting bright green graduation stoles, each graduate walked the stage with their Big, parent, or guardian. Of the 35 graduates, 13 students applied and won scholarships of $500 to begin their new journeys. With a 92% graduation rate this year, compared to the state rate of 80%, everyone in the room beamed with pride in celebration of all the Littles commemorating this special day. Thank you to everyone who made this special event possible, including our event sponsors OnPoint Community Credit Union, and Flowbird.
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Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest announced today an unprecedented gift of $1.5M to transform mentorship in the Portland and Vancouver Metro Area. The gift, from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, supports the organization in furthering its mission to ensure young people have access to transformative mentoring experiences that empower them with a plan for their future and a mentor whose impact lasts a lifetime.
Today, nearly 11 million kids live in poverty and more than 13 million young people experience emotional, behavioral, or developmental conditions like depression. And during the height of the pandemic, 20 percent of youth served by Big Brothers Big Sisters nationally lost contact with an important adult in their lives. In Portland, OR alone, there are more than 226 young people, known as “Littles,” waiting to be matched with mentors, known as “Bigs.”
“We are incredibly grateful for Ms. Scott’s investment in our work. Her belief in our mission that all children can achieve their greatest potential through a 1:1 professionally supported mentor relationship feels fantastic. The BBBS CNW team works diligently to support youth and their families. Through the pandemic, our staff was on the front lines with our families who were hit the hardest. To be one of only 38 out of 237 Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies across the country to receive a gift from Ms. Scott is an absolute honor.” said Beach Pace, CEO of BBBS Columbia Northwest.
This unprecedented investment is the largest donation from a single individual in Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia NW’s 20-year history and serves as a powerful message in recognizing the importance of investing in mentorship to build and strengthen communities and society as a whole.
“Ms. Scott’s recognition of our unrelenting commitment to our youth and families means so much. Her insightful funding of this unrestricted gift allows us to focus on service itself vs the reporting of the service. We are focused on the mentorship of youth in a child-centered, equity & diversity-informed way. MacKenzie Scott’s donation allows us to expand programs and increase recruiting efforts to do just that.” shared Korede Alabi, Chair of the BBBS Columbia Northwest Board of Directors.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest believes no one person, organization, or gift alone can drive the significant impact mentorship can have on a young person’s life. It takes a village of mentors, volunteers, and donors to positively impact young people’s lives. This investment in Big Brothers Bigs Sisters Columbia Northwest and its community is an invitation for more people and partners to join in transforming mentorship for young people today and for generations to come. We invite the Portland community to invest in our local youth by supporting our mentorship programs and to consider signing up to become a Big today.
To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest and get involved as a mentor, volunteer, donor, or community partner explore our website: www.itsbigtime.org.
We have been celebrating some of the amazing women in the BBBS community. Meet Ambassador Board Member, Karen Foster. The average age of a Little Sister in our program is 13 years old, so we asked Karen what advice she would give to her 13-year-old self:
“There are many things I would tell my younger self. First and foremost, I would tell her that she belongs everywhere! All places. All spaces. Nothing is off-limits. Be your own cheerleader. Don’t seek validation from other people. Hold on to fruitful and elevating friendships. Your circle should make you better. You can be kind AND still set boundaries. Put 10-15% of your money in a savings account. Celebrate EVERYTHING. Life just isn’t long enough. Saving nothing for later.
Lastly, I would say, never stop learning, growing, and evolving. There will be situations and circumstances beyond your control… Some will be incredibly heartbreaking, and some will be filled with joy. Ride through the waves knowing that YOU decide your response to the unpredictability of life. Build the life you want with the freedom to edit along the journey.”
Karen is one of 18 Ambassador Board members helping BBBS forward our mission to match youth with caring adult mentors. To learn more about the Ambassador Board, please email Darcie at [email protected].
Mizael Buron, Co-Chair of BBBS’s Ambassador Board and current Big Brother, recently led a Financial Literacy class for high school Littles in our program! Mizael is the Branch Manager for Umpqua Bank’s Pearl District location and has a passion for helping people with their finances.
During this workshop, Mizael gave high school students a tour of some vital life skills ranging from how to start a checking and savings account, through the importance of credit scores. He had a wonderful way of breaking the down each concept and using real life examples that Littles could relate to.
During this hour long session, students asked great questions like:
“How do taxes work?”
“How do students go about getting their first credit card?”
“How do people boost their credit score?”
“What do you think of crypto currency and NFTS?”
Mizael covered other topics like budgeting, the importance of saving, he explained tax brackets, and the responsible use of credit cards. He stressed the importance of staying current with your bills and paying more than the minimum balance on credit card statements to avoid high interest rates.
Near the end of the workshop, Little Brother Juan asked, “If you had the opportunity to give advice to yourself. What would it be?”
Mizael replied, “Save, save, save!” explaining that saving a portion of your earnings each pay check will really help in the long run.
Little Brother Josue was very thankful for the workshop sharing, “Thank you I definitely learned a lot today!”
Big Brothers Big Sisters Program staff member Ninfa Rodriguez, works with high school Littles all year round, organizing monthly workshops like this one! She works with students on their college applications & essays, the financial aid process, and even helps them with job interviews! Just a few of the many ways we empower the potential of the youth we serve.
In November of 2021, we relaunched our Ambassador Board here at BBBS Columbia Northwest. These local professionals are helping our agency create and support one-to-one relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth by collaborating with the Board of Directors and staff, to strengthen and grow the impact of our mission in our community.
Over the last six months, we have grown the Ambassador Board to 16 members, with current Bigs, former Bigs, and community members all serving alongside one another. We are thrilled to announce Mizael Buron, the Branch Manager at Umpqua Bank’s Pearl District location, and Keenan Ordon-Bakalian, an attorney with Jordan Ramis PC, as this year’s co-chairs.
Mizael has been a Big Brother for almost three years to Little Brother Misael, a high school student who has dreams of becoming a dentist. Mizael shared that he has really enjoyed being a Big Brother, “Being able to help someone grow through their formative years and to provide guidance has been very rewarding.”
Keenan has been a Big Brother to Little Brother Titian for two years. Titian is nine years old, and they have had a great time getting to know one another by taking trips to Blazers games, OMSI, and other adventures around Portland. Keenan shared that he has always been aware of the impact that mentorship can have on a young person’s life, and he is honored to be part of Titian’s support system.
We are excited to announce the launch of the BBBS Black Youth Ambassador Group, created and led by Amaya Gustave, Program Intern, and former Little Sister.
“To me, establishing a community where you are seen, uplifted, and championed is everything. BBBS Columbia NW gave that to me as a little, and I wanted to aid in continuing to further what we can do for our Black youth within the agency,” shared Amaya.
The Black Youth Ambassador Group is a group of high school aged Littles who are actively creating and celebrating a space for Black youth empowerment and advocacy within BBBS Columbia NW. Together they participate in community engagement and active discussions and workshops surrounding the Black experience. Students are given the space and encouragement to discuss ways they can contribute to strengthening the community not only amongst themselves but within the Portland metro area and any space they may find themselves in.
For their first meeting, they explored topics like:
Kimberle Crenshaw’s framework of intersectionality.
Social movements within the Black community
The impact of the Combahee River Collective and what intersectional feminism means to them
Environmental justice movements, the impacts of food deserts, and redlining in Portland.
“By having these active discussions, learning from not only the workshops but one another, we are further celebrating and validating our Blackness and our lived experiences. We are learning how we can advocate for ourselves and how we are seen in the world. We tell our Littles that they can reach for the stars, and this group furthers that notion! My hope for the Littles involved is that, as Black youth, they understand and know that the world is their oyster. As we grow and develop our collective efforts within this group, we will not only continue to empower one another, but continue to create community through discussion, explanation, and active participation,” said Amaya.
Next month the Black Youth Ambassador Group looks forward to discussing radical self-love and ways in which they, as Black youth, can show it to themselves. They will also dive into the themes of self-esteem, self-worth, aiming high, goal setting, and how to stop negative self-talk. We look forward to all of the amazing work they will embark on together this year. A BIG thank you to the Oregon Department of Education for funding the work of the Black Youth Ambassador Group.
In Korede’s professional life, he leads as the Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President at General Sheet Metal. He is a multi-faceted finance thought leader with a proven track record of driving growth and increasing efficiency. Having worked for large companies like American Airlines, General Electric, and Vestas, Korede has developed his entrepreneurial energy and sharpened his focus on driving businesses to the next level.
As a strong advocate for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Korede is excited to contribute his expertise to the organization’s growth and impact in the community. Korede is committed to investing in the next generation and serving as an ambassador for the organization’s mission to defend the potential of youth through one-to-one mentoring relationships. We can’t wait to see all of the wonderful things we accomplish together under his leadership for the youth in our community.
You can learn more about becoming a Big on our website www.itsbigtime.org/become-a-big/
Meet Big Brother and Ambassador Board Member Hector, who shared why he decided to become a mentor:
“I am a mentor to my Little Brother Kevin who is 16 years old. We have been matched for a year and a half and even though our match is fairly new, I have learned so much from him already. I decided to become a mentor because growing up I felt extremely fortunate to have the support of those around me telling me “You can be whatever you want to be!” As I’ve gotten older, I realize that not everyone has that support and it made me want to give back. In Kevin’s company, I am constantly seeing the world through a different lens. He has shown such strength through difficult times and that resilience inspires and motivates me to be a better person.”
For Little Brother Kevin, his match with his Big Brother Hector could not have come at a better time. Upon enrollment, Kevin’s Dad shared that he was struggling in math. As a devoted Big Brother, Hector met with Kevin every week. The two would watch YouTube math tutorials during each meeting. After homework, they would play their favorite video game, Call of Duty. The extra time and attention Hector was able to offer Kevin helped him improve his grades in math and helped build his confidence overall.
The presence of a Big Brother has also been immensely helpful for Kevin’s father, a single Dad who also has a younger daughter to care for. Hector helps the family by lending a hand as an attentive adult in Kevin’s life. He is always up to taking Kevin out to get some fresh air and exercise, by going on hikes and other outings, giving Kevin the extra care and support he and the family needed.
You can learn more about becoming a Big on our website www.itsbigtime.org/become-a-big/
The month of January is National Mentoring Month. All month long we are proudly introducing a few of the amazing Bigs carrying out our important work. Meet Big Brother and Ambassador Board Member Keenan, and learn why he decided to become a mentor:
“My Little Brother Titian and I will be celebrating two years matched in February. I chose to become a mentor because I have a strong desire to give back to my community and those around me. I have been blessed with some incredible opportunities in my life, due in no small part to strong role models and mentors who have guided me along the way. Seeing the positive impact that mentors have had on my own life, I am now committed to play a similar role in Titian’s life and support him in all his endeavors, big or small. This experience has taught me just how fulfilling it can be to work with youth. They are so full of joy and optimism and being able to play a small role in encouraging Titian to achieve his goals has been incredible. Some of our favorite activities include attending sporting events and exploring our community through hikes and activities. Titian also has a deep love for dogs, especially huskies, and so we spend a lot of time with my Siberian Husky, Copper.”
Did you know that at BBBS have 5 times more boys on our waiting list for a mentor than girls? #JointheVillage by becoming a #mentor today! You can learn more on our website www.itsbigtime.org/become-a-big/
To help us celebrate “I am a Mentor Day,” Big Brother Mizael shared with us why he decided to become a mentor:
“My Little Brother, whose name is also Misael, is 18 years old, and we have been matched for two years. He is a smart young man who has dreams of becoming a dentist. I decided to become a mentor after a conversation with a BBBS staff member at a Latino networking event in Hillsboro. She told me there was a BIG need for male mentors, which intrigued me to look into what that involved.
Growing up, many of my role models were authors I looked up to, but nothing beats having someone in person that you can directly connect with. After researching Big Brothers Big Sisters, I was thrilled that I could help in this way, to help a young person during their formative years. Two years later my Little, Mizael, feels like my actual little brother. He has taught me so much during our time together, like how to be a better listener. I truly believe he has made me a better person; I know he looks up to me and that drives me to keep improving myself.”
Mizael also volunteers his time serving on Big Brother Big Sister Columbia Northwest’s Ambassador Board. Members collaborate with the Board of Directors and BBBS staff to strengthen and grow the impact of our mission in the community, to help us serve more local youth in need of a caring adult mentor. You can learn more about the Ambassador Board by reaching out to Darcie at [email protected].
Little Brother Martin and his Big Brother Sean have been matched for almost two years, and already, Sean has had a BIG impact on Little Brother Martin’s life. Together, the two started an annual tradition of sitting down to establish their goals for the year ahead.
Last January, in his junior in high school, Little Brother Martin set a goal to improve his grades so he could apply to colleges. He had been struggling with his studies, but thanks to the encouragement of Big Brother Sean, he focused on his school work and raised his GPA from a 2.5 to a 3.5!
Providing transportation to the BBBS office, Big Brother Sean was on a mission to help Little Brother Martin work on his college application, essay, and the financial aid process. As a result, Little Brother Martin was accepted into Portland Community College and will be the first in his family to attend college in the Fall of 2022!
By supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest, you are helping to empower youth in our community to reach their greatest potential. Little Brother Martin and Big Brother Sean’s story is another example that “It takes a village to raise a child!”
You can help us match a child or teen with a caring adult mentor that empowers their potential and resilience today! Click Here to make a donation
Today Big Brother Rich and Little Brother Jayden’s friendship continues to flourish. Jayden dreams of one day becoming a chef. He and Big Brother Rich have been sharpening their culinary skills, trying out new recipes together. This year, Jayden was excited to join a special culinary program at his high school and is excited to build upon his future career. One thing we know for sure is that Little Brother Jayden is destined for BIG things!
You can help empower the potential of Littles, like Jayden, by investing in mentorship today!