2021 Promising Futures Scholarship Ceremony Recap

It was hot, masks were worn, and social distancing was observed, but everyone was all smiles as Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrated its 35th Annual Promising Futures Scholarship Ceremony on Saturday, June 12. The gathering was a chance to honor graduating Little Brothers and Sisters who are BBBS scholarship recipients, as well as scholarship Promisees.

This year, over $­­­­234,500 in scholarship funds have been made available to the agency’s graduating high school seniors, and an additional $82,000 in scholarship funds have been promised to newly eligible Littles (‘Promisees’) for use after graduating high school or earning a GED.

For the second season in a row, due to COVID-19 precautions, BBBS was unable to hold its normal scholarship ceremony. Instead, students participated in a “drive-through” celebration where they received their certificates of achievement, along with treats, special graduation swag, and a yard sign they can display to let everyone know about their special accomplishment.

“This is one of my favorite days of the year,” said Brent Fields, BBBS CEO. “Getting to see these amazing students achieve maybe the biggest academic milestone in their lives. I mean, what’s not to like? It’s the culmination of years of great mentoring and staff support, just a village of people, including great moms and dads, family members, and Bigs, who help these kids get to the finish line. We’re honored to celebrate them today, and we can’t wait to see what they do next.”

“It was such a great turn out,” said Dana DeLeon, BBBS Scholarship Program Coordinator. “We had twice as many students attend as RSVP’d. Plus, everyone stopped by the photo booth to capture the moment!”

It was also a day of reunions, as many Bigs and Littles had the chance to see each other and to be together in person for one of the first times since COVID hit. “The best part was I got to see Sasha, my Big,” said Little Sister Mackenzie.

Mackenzie plans to attend ACC before transferring to another university to pursue studies in robotic engineering. She and her mom, Nicola, enjoyed having the opportunity to catch up with Sasha. “I’m so happy for Mackenzie,” said Nicola. “She got to see Sasha, she graduated, and I’m just excited for what the future holds. This was an excellent match. BBBS did an awesome job!”

Rain, and her mother Sue, also expressed appreciation for Rain’s match. “Rain and Alyssa (her Big) are like peas in a pod,” said Sue. “She has been such a great mentor. They’ll be matched for life!”

“She just helps me so much in life. I go to her for advice,” said Rain, who was sporting a sweatshirt from her college of choice. “Alyssa’s the best thing, and we look alike. So, it feels like she is my actual sister.”

Alyssa has supported Rain throughout her journey to graduation and on to college. And where is she going to school? “Texas State!” shouted Rain, with a big smile on her face. She plans to major in Business and Finance.

Not only were graduates present, but Promisees attended as well. These high school students are promised a BBBS scholarship upon graduation. Brianna attended the event with her Big Sister Brooke. “From the beginning of when we were matched, we got along so well,” said Brianna. “I’m very happy she’s my Big.”

“I’m thrilled to have her as my Little,” said Brooke. “It’s not things you could put on paper, we just get along. We like listening to music really loud and singing, having deep conversations.”

“But it’s not that we like the exact same activities,” she added. “I think our match has helped us both grow a bit. I’m super chatty and Brianna is not so much. So, I’ve become a better listener and she’s come out of her shell a lot.”

One of the things Brianna has been more talkative about are her future goals. She plans on using her future scholarship to pursue a college degree as a writer or to attend cosmetology school. “We spend time investigating both of these interests when we spend time together,” said Brooke.

The BBBS Foundation Board oversees the Scholarship Program. One former Foundation Board member, Thessaly Startzell, has been attending BBBS scholarship ceremonies since her son was a toddler. He was present at Saturday’s event as a teenager, helping the Westlake Young Men’s Service League distribute gift bags to BBBS students.

BBBS graduations truly do have far-reaching impacts, as Thessaly can attest. “My sister, who is in the army, was a Big to Little Sister Gracie when she was stationed in El Paso,” said Thessaly. Though the two moved several times, which in effect dissolved the formal match, they remained in touch.

Two years ago, when Thessaly’s sister was promoted to Major, Gracie was at the ceremony. “Two and a half weeks ago, Gracie graduated from high school,” said Thessaly, “and my sister was there. So, even though they aren’t formally matched, they’ve remained family to each other. We’re still family, together.”

And this year’s event? “It’s totally amazing,” said Thessaly. “These kids are amazing.”

We couldn’t agree more. BBBS’ Littles rank well above the national average for students who intend to attend college, with 76% of Littles planning to pursue post-secondary education, compared with 45% nationally.

Created in 1986 by a generous endowment from a local Austin family, the BBBS Scholarship Program has promised over $5 million in scholarship funds to over 2,500 Littles since its inception. In turn, 9 schools in Texas generously match these scholarship dollars. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas was the first BBBS agency in the nation to offer a scholarship program and is pleased to have operated the program for over 34 years. The promise of a scholarship is a powerful incentive for students to graduate high school and pursue higher education. It also offers very practical, direct financial assistance to Littles and their families.

A special thank you to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Edible Arrangements for contributing doughnuts and cookies for our students. Thanks to Blue Collar Recruiters who attended the event and offered resources and information regarding their own scholarship program for HVAC, electrical and plumbing certification. And a huge shoutout to MYEVENTISTHEBOMB for providing their Halo photo booth as well. Finally, we also want to thank the volunteers from the Westlake Young Men’s Service League who attended the ceremony to help distribute scholarship materials and information to our students.

It was truly a special day for celebrating achievements, marking milestones, and creating lasting memories, together.

Learn more about our 2021 graduates and Promisees, and see this year’s Scholarship Ceremony keynote address, on our web page here.

See our 2021 Drive-Through Scholarship Ceremony photos here.

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