By Rosanne Fohn
Last week, 40 students from the Kipp Academy rode buses to the UT Health Science Center San Antonio to meet new friends. Waiting for them were 40 faculty and staff members and students who will be their mentors through the Big Brothers Big Sisters' (BBBS) InspireU program.
InspireU matches middle school and high school students (“littles”) with mentors (“bigs”) at San Antonio workplaces. Mentors and protégés through the Health Science Center program will meet on campus once a month for lunch and mentoring activities.Introducing the possibility of higher education
“Having the students come to the Health Science Center demystifies institutions of higher learning and allows them to see themselves as potential students of the future,” said Irene Chapa, Ph.D., director of recruitment and science outreach, and the Health Science Center’s liaison to BBBS.
“We hope this new program will provide the students with the motivation to stay in school, get good grades and follow their life’s dreams,” Dr. Chapa said. “And for our faculty and staff who are mentors, we hope that this will provide a unique avenue to make a positive impact on the lives of local youth who will surely benefit from the positive role modeling they will receive.”Paying it forward
“The reason I decided to become a mentor was to help a child in need,” said accounting clerk Brett Moon. “So many kids in our city are at risk of not graduating high school and have no one to look up to or guide them through the process of achieving that goal. I thought that if made an impact in just one child’s life, it would be worth it. If my “little” grows up to be successful and I had a part in doing that, maybe he will realize what one person can do and pass that on to someone else who could use a hand in completing something important in their life.
|Cindi Adcock stands behind her “little,” Riqui, who is holding the left side of the banner. These students are sixth graders at Kipp Academy, and are shown with their Health Science Center mentors.|
“Some of these kids come from rough backgrounds — broken homes, being bullied at school, or even at home by older siblings. Having someone they can look up to and talk to without worry of judgment can really mean a lot to them and help them with anything from self-esteem issues to behavioral problems,” he said.
“My 'little,' Juan, is an awesome kid. We bonded very quickly as we like some of the same things, and I have been through what he is going through right now. So having some things in common really helped him open up to me quickly,” Moon added. Positive role models
Dr. Chapa also is serving as a mentor. Although she has contact with thousands of students each year who come though her office for campus tours, mentorships or the annual Science Expo, she rarely sees them more than once or twice. “This program will give me the opportunity to impact the life of one student over an extended period of time,” Dr. Chapa said. “I hope to provide guidance and friendship, and to be a positive role model in her life.”
“Tiffany is wonderful!” Dr. Chapa said. “She would like to become a sonographer one day. She hopes to improve her academics and get advice about how to get into college. I think ultimately, that she is just hoping to have someone to talk to and to learn from. I have a feeling that I will be learning a lot from her, too.”Making a difference for one child at a time
Another mentor is Cindi Adcock, administrative assistant in the Office of the President. “I used to be a high school youth minister, so I have always been comfortable working with young people,” she said.
“I just met Riqui last week, so I don’t know a lot about him, but my first impression is that he is extremely bright, very talkative and open to learning and experiencing life,” Adcock said. “He lives in a single-parent home as an only child, so he is very excited about this new friendship.
“After we parted at the end of our visit he chased me down to give me a big hug and to say thank you. It was a very emotional moment for me. I walked away feeling very special and lucky that I will have the chance to be there for someone who may need a little more support and encouragement,” she said.
“Making a difference and creating change in this broken world begins with small steps and embracing opportunities,” Adcock added. “I am looking forward to making a difference through this experience.” Look for more articles and pictures about InspireU in future editions of HSC News or on the portal.