Local educators joined officials of the Brown County Big Brothers Big Sisters at a breakfast Wednesday where the benefits of the national mentoring program that opened in Brown County last year were extolled.

“The Brownwood Independent School District is committed to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and I’ll make the assumption that all seven school districts in Brown County are, too, even though I’ve not spoken to all the superintendents,” Brownwood Superintendent Reece Blincoe said. “It’s an easy assumption to make, because it’s a win-win-win proposition.”

Other hosts included Bangs Superintendent Bill Foster and Early Superintendent Brett Koch.

Blincoe said the Big Brothers Big Sisters program benefits the young person involved, benefits the local schools and benefits the community.

“It’s about community,” Blincoe said. “It’s about taking charge and moving forward. I believe in this community. The Brownwood community is different, but different in a good way. People support people, and I love that.”

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program improves morale of the “Bigs” who take the time to become involved in the lives of young people, and it also promotes team-building, Blincoe said. In addition, he referred to studies showing that mentoring young people perform better in school and in their careers.

“When kids succeed, our schools succeed,” Blincoe said.

Three “Bigs” were also on the program to urge the business leaders attending to either volunteer to do likewise, recommend someone who might be interested and invite program officials to make a presentation at their location.

Tammy Robinson, a member of the Big Brothers Big Sisters board and who helped organize local support to bring the program here, told how much a mentor meant to her as a 10-year-old child of divorced parents, left at home alone with her mother because her older siblings moved away.

“Thankfully, I became part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program,” Robinson said. “(The mentor) was the only one I had to turn to. Looking back, she was such a huge impact and helped make me who I am today.”

Robinson said she was concerned that the community might see this program as overlapping the mission of the already established Brown County Boys and Girls Club, but she recognized its executive director, Danny Willingham, and offered the comparison he had told her.

“He said it’s like mustard and ketchup on a hot dog,” Robinson said.

She urged even busy people to consider volunteering.

“You are busy, but that 30 minutes or an hour commitment a week means so much,” Robinson said. “You can’t have lunch one time a week with a child who needs you? As adults, you don’t realize what the children are going through. They need somebody and we can be that somebody.”

Vince Ornelas said he was placed with his “Little” two weeks ago, and after two meals with him at fast food restaurants and a movie, he has never been happier.

Noting that the room held no other Hispanics, the Brownwood native said that when he was growing up, he had been told he needed to “know his place.”

“I know my place now, and it’s helping kids,” Ornelas said. “I’m busy, but I couldn’t sidestep my responsibility. I think we all need to get involved.”

Holly Jones, who was introduced as the local program’s first “Big,” described how she volunteered because of the suicide of her teenaged son.

“No one had a clue what was going on in his mind,” Jones said. “My desire is to make myself physically and emotionally available to anyone who needs to talk. You think you’re in the loop as a mother or father or brother or sister, but you’re not.” A mentor, she said, can make the difference.

Executive director Amber Moore, who has been a school teacher for eight years in several area schools, said all her students needed her, “but some needed me more than others.” She described the situation she had with one elementary school age student whose father was not a shining role model, and how much he needed to have one.

“If we band together as a community, we can make a difference,” Moore said. “All it takes is some time. As teachers, we see that too. We have a great mission. We have great partners.”

Information about the program is available on the Web at www.bbbstx.org, or by calling the local office in the Family Services Center building at 643-5600.