Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas Invests Almost $1M in the Educational Futures of Area Students

On Saturday, June 15th, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas held it’s 33rd annual ‘Promising Futures’ scholarship ceremony to recognize the educational achievements and aspirations of nearly 200 students in the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program.

$403,000 in scholarship funds were made available to 124 of the agency’s graduating seniors, and $539,500 in scholarship funds were committed to 166 newly eligible Littles, to be made available when they graduate high school.

It was a day of celebration for BBBS’ Littles, their families, friends, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and BBBS staff as they gathered at the For The City Center in East Austin.

Alejandrina Guzman, 2017 – 2018 University of Texas Student Body President, was the keynote speaker for the event. Alejandrina was the first Latina Student Body President at UT Austin, and the first physically differently-abled Student Body President in the Big Xll Conference.

“Yes, you’re capable of great success,” Alejandrina told BBBS’ students, “but realize that you’re going to make mistakes along your journey. You’re going to experience setbacks that will make you question everything. But the key to succeeding is knowing that those setbacks don’t define you. It’s how you respond that defines you.”

Alejandrina described some of the setbacks and challenges she experienced herself as a first-generation college student at UT… challenges beyond the physical obstacles she faces everyday as a differently-abled young woman.

“You’ll never feel completely ready,” she said. “If I had focused on the doubts in my head, the thoughts that people were going to be better than me, that my parents had never graduated from high school much less college, or that I’m the first in my family to pursue a college education, I would never have applied to UT.  The reality is, you have to embrace jumping in, and trust that when you face challenges, you’ll have the strength to handle them… strength that comes from the inner you.”

“You are capable,” she said again. “Your stories of immigrant parents who sacrificed everything for a better life, of the siblings you inspire, of all the beautiful moments you have shared with your Big Brothers and Big Sisters… these stories make up your strength. You have already overcome challenges in your lives and demonstrated your inner strength. Today we’re here to celebrate all that you’ve already accomplished, and all that we know you are capable of achieving.”

Jamie Avila, a member of BBBS’ Executive Board, Foundation Board, and a former Big Brother, presented the awards to each student as they crossed the stage. Lauren Petrowski, former news anchor for Fox 7 Austin and a former Big Sister, was the emcee for the event. Speeches were given by Alejandrina Guzman, and BBBS of Central Texas CEO Brent Fields.

“This scholarship means a new future,” said Little Sister Carolina. “I’m looking forward to getting out there and living life.” Carolina is planning on studying web development and computer programming. Her Big Sister Anna attended the ceremony with her.

“I’m super proud of Carolina,” said Anna. “It is exciting seeing her graduate and move on to the next step, going to college, making her own life, and becoming an adult.”

“The scholarship ceremony is one of my favorite days of the year,” said Brent Fields, “because it so clearly reflects our investment in the power of mentoring. Seeing our students receive their Promise medals and scholarship papers is just a beautiful reminder of what we do to help kids reach their greatest potential. We know their futures are bright, and we can’t wait to see what they do next.”

“It is such an honor to partner with our students, their families and all of our Big Brothers and Big Sisters around this journey of educational attainment” Brent continued. “Thanks to our unique BBBS Scholarship Foundation – founded back in 1986, as a powerful incentive for students in our program to graduate high school and pursue higher education – we are able to help lots of young people think differently about their futures and offer some practical, direct financial assistance to help them.”

Since the Scholarship Program’s inception, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas has promised and awarded more than $5 million in scholarship support to over 2,500 students. In addition, 10 schools in Texas now generously match the agency’s scholarship dollars for BBBS Littles.

“The Scholarship Ceremony is so unique for our agency because it’s one day of the year when we get to collectively celebrate our Littles and their accomplishments, as well as the success of our mission: to help children succeed in life!” said Candace Bunkley, Scholarship Program Coordinator. “Seeing Bigs, families, Littles, board members and staff interacting and sharing a communal pride in our Littles is a special thing.”

Following the ceremony, group photos of the Promisees and graduates were taken, with many students also requesting and posing for photos with Alejandrina. Attendees were then treated to a selection of snacks and treats provided by Primize Catering and Edible Arrangements. Families were also able to create memories in an onsite photo booth provided by MyEventIsTheBomb.

Special thanks to the representatives from Austin Community College, BBBS’ Big Futures Program, The College of Health Care Professions, College Hub, Financial Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, and Peloton U, who provided students with additional information. And thanks to the volunteers who joined us from IBC Bank and the Young Men’s Service League as well.

Learn more about BBBS’ Scholarship Program here

See event photos here

See photo booth photos here

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