ATLANTA, June 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Big Brothers Big Sisters of America this month will recognize two of the nation's top mentors at its 2010 Nationwide Leadership Summit. America's oldest and largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network has named Art Rasher of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Big Brother of the Year and Angela Rodriquez of Linden, New Jersey, Big Sister of the Year. Both have served as mentors to their mentees for more than eight years.
"Art and Angela are long-term mentors whose volunteer service exemplifies how Big Brothers Big Sisters' mentoring model, which includes ongoing support for our 'Bigs,' 'Littles' and their families, improves the odds for children to succeed in and out of school," said Big Brothers Big Sisters of America President & CEO Karen J. Mathis. "Each of these matches has continued from when the mentees were truly little to now when they are about to graduate high school. Our agency match support staff have been there every step of the way, observing first-hand what these outstanding mentors have achieved."
A national panel of judges selected the 'Bigs of the Year' from applications submitted by many of the mentoring network's nearly 400 agencies. The outstanding mentors will take the stage to accept their awards June 15 in Atlanta at the opening ceremony for the 2010 Big Brothers Big Sisters Nationwide Leadership Summit, which is sponsored by Comcast Corporation.
Comcast partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters nationally by sponsoring the Beyond School Walls(TM) program in several states. The Beyond School Walls program enables companies to give back to their communities by hosting and mentoring children from area schools at their offices. Comcast will expand the mentoring program to five additional markets by the end of this year.
"Volunteers like Art and Angela are an inspiration, and I hope it encourages others to participate in Big Brothers Big Sisters," said Charisse R. Lillie, Vice President, Community Investment of Comcast Corporation and Executive Vice President of the Comcast Foundation. "The feedback we have received from our own employees on their participation in Beyond School Walls has been remarkable, and we're very proud of the impact they are having on the lives of young people."
Comcast powers dreams in the communities it serves by providing access to innovative technology, volunteering, giving financial support and partnering with organizations to make communities stronger, such as their commitment to Big Brothers Big Sisters. The company focuses its community investment initiatives on building tomorrow's leaders, promoting community service and expanding digital literacy.
Angela Rodriquez, Big Sister of the Year
Angela Rodriquez, an assistant clothing store manager, said she has watched her Little Sister, Sabriyah of Newark, New Jersey, "grow from a 9-year-old shy little girl into a remarkable 17-year-old young woman." Sabriyah said her many experiences with Angela -- visits to monuments, book signings, beach trips, even creating an opportunity for her to work at a theater concession stand -- have shaped who she is today.
The teenager will begin college next fall and plans to become a lawyer. Sabriyah's mother, Sharonda Jones, who enrolled her daughter in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties when she was a third grader, said Angela, has been a constant and consistent inspiration to her daughter. A single mother, she wanted to provide her children with every opportunity to succeed. When Sabriyah heads off to college, Angela will continue supporting her Little Sister's family as Big Sister to Sabriyah's six-year-old sister, Zahiriah.
"I have never seen such a passion-driven individual who even in these trying economic times continues to mentor," said Chrissy Steed, the mentor manager who supports Angela, Sabriyah and her family in the mentoring match.
Art Rasher, Big Brother of the Year
Art met his Little Brother, Victor, 9 years ago in a Big Brothers Big Sisters school-based program in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Victor's grandfather, the most important male figure in the child's life, had recently died. The third grader was struggling academically and had even been left back when his class moved on to fourth grade.
A college professor, Art said his mentoring visits felt awkward and stilted at first. He questioned whether he was making any inroads. Then Victor's teacher told Art something that changed everything. He said he saw a marked improvement in Victor's academic performance and that he talked about his Big Brother all the time. Art took steps to transition the match to community-based, where with support from a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma match specialist, he would be able to continue mentoring Victor when the school year ended.
"Growing up without a father and living in an area where gangs are in control was a great challenge," 16-year-old Victor said. "If it was not for Art Rasher, I do not know where my life would have been. He showed me the way of working hard at school so my dreams can come true."
Victor's mother recently allowed Art to take her son to visit colleges. She said now that he has seen several schools, he wants to study engineering at Michigan State University, his Big Brother's alma mater.
About Big Brothers Big Sisters
For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. Most children served by Big Brothers Big Sisters are in single-parent and low-income families or households where a parent is incarcerated. As the nation's largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers ("Bigs") and children ("Littles").
Big Brothers Big Sisters provides a system of ongoing evaluation and support that is proven by independent studies to help families by improving the odds that "Littles" will perform better in school and avoid violence and illegal activities, and have stronger relationships with their parents and others. Headquartered in Philadelphia with a network of nearly 400 agencies across the country, Big Brothers Big Sisters serves more than 255,000 children. Learn how you can positively impact a child's life, donate or volunteer at BigBrothersBigSisters.org.
SOURCE Big Brothers Big Sisters of America