Spotlight on Jessica Buentello
Even before Jessica Buentello joined the Big Brothers Big Sisters team two years ago, she was contributing to the well-being of the Central Texas community.
“I’ve always liked working with non-profits,” she says. “Before I came to BBBS, I worked as an overnight manager at the Salvation Army’s Women’s Shelter.”
And because she especially enjoys working with children, moving to her current position as a Bilingual Match Support Specialist was a great fit.
Supporting matches means Jessica is an ongoing resource to Bigs as well as Littles and their families. She typically divides her workday between responding to questions and concerns from volunteer Bigs in the morning and reaching out to families and Littles in the afternoon.
“Lately, Bigs have had a lot of questions about how to stay connected with their Littles since they can’t meet up like they used to,” she says. “It’s especially challenging for Bigs who are matched with younger kids who aren’t very interested in talking over the phone.”
As a result, Jessica and the rest of BBBS’ Match Support team have come up with quite a few new and innovative ways to help matches communicate and maintain close relationships. Suggestions to Bigs and Littles have included reading books together over Facetime, watching movies and chatting together using Netflix Parties, and creating and sharing art projects over video chat.
She also works with matches who have found creative ways to continue sharing the same activities they enjoyed in pre-COVID times, like Big Brother Mike and Little Brother Reyes.
“They have a very special connection,” she says. “Because Mike is a professional chef and Reyes is an aspiring chef, they’ve always had a great time cooking and baking together.”
To maintain their culinary connection from a distance, the two challenged each other to a friendly “Virtual Cake War” and began swapping photos of each other’s homemade desserts. Mike also sent Reyes a care package with baking supplies and recipes to keep encouraging his Little Brother’s passion.
During non-COVID times, Jessica especially enjoys meeting her matches in person and having the opportunity to learn more about the dynamics of their relationships.
“One of the favorite parts of my job is meeting matches and their families at BBBS events, like our annual Holiday Party at the Austin Public Library and Hobie Day at the lake,” she says.
However, her work with matches can be challenging as well.
“I really don’t like it when matches close,” she says. “It’s hard, but I understand—life happens.”
At other times, however, Jessica concludes her relationship with matches on a more positive note.
“Last year I had about 10 matches transition into our Big Futures program,” says Jessica.
In this program, Littles continue their relationship with their mentor after they graduate from high school, although they move on to a different BBBS team member for match support. By keeping their Bigs in their lives during the transitional years of young adulthood, Big Futures participants continue to benefit from the support, stability and guidance that a mentor offers.
And even when she’s not at work, Jessica continues to make a positive difference in the life of a child, enjoying the time she spends reading and crafting with her young daughter.
Zumba dancing, a high energy workout that combines several different dance styles, including cumbia, merengue and salsa, is also a favorite pastime.
“It makes me feel alive and closer to my culture,” she says.
Jessica brings an enthusiastic energy to her role as Bilingual Match Support Specialist as well. Committed to helping ignite the power and promise of youth, she is an essential member of the BBBS team and we’re fortunate to have her with us.