Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas is expanding its reach into San Antonio’s military community thanks to a $150,000 grant from the Texas Veterans Commission.
On Wednesday, the nonprofit announced an engagement campaign through which it hopes to recruit 150 military personnel and veterans to mentor at-risk youth.
At a ceremony Wednesday morning, Gen. Edward Rice, former commander of Air Education and Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base, commended the mentorship program and recalled the many individuals who had influenced his life's direction. He said every person in the military has valuable experiences they can pass along to young people.
“Whether it’s showing up on time, whether it’s to be disciplined, whether it’s organizational skills or understanding how to be part of team - those things that make people by successful by virtue of their service," he said.
Rice said Big Brothers Big Sisters is one way active duty personnel and veterans can continue on the path of service.
For Allison Brewton, a Marine Corps veteran, mentoring was a centering experience after the service. Since November, she said she's developed a close bond with her mentee, who's getting ready to start high school.
"A lot of times after you’ve left your service in the military, you kind of get lost," Brewton said. "Being able to mentor as a veteran, it gives me a new job basically. As military, I think, we want to fix things. We want to make things correct or right."
Big Brothers Big Sisters wants to get active military members involved for their children’s sake, too.
“So dad may be deployed, mom may be deployed. There may be that missing link at home. Or maybe because they’ve moved so many times, they have issues making friends or whatever," Brewton said. "As veterans, we understand what the kids are going through, too.”
Brewton's own son felt the impacts of regular moves and other setbacks inherent in military life. She said mentors can be a stabilizing presence for kids like him.
"We bounced around, we bounced back and forth," Brewton said. "I got deployed. My fiancé was killed in action. So there were a lot things that he went through. He needed an outlet that he could talk to, one who wasn't going to discipline him because he had a bad day at school, wasn't going to make him to do his homework and chores. Just somebody that he could talk to. As a military child, that's so important."
Armen Babajanian, chief operations officer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas, said the nonprofit is currently about halfway to its recruitment goal.