Friday, January 27, 2012

One-to-One Mentoring Friendships Prove Successful: an Interview with Rhonda Staley-Brooks

In January, our nation spotlights the importance of mentors and the need for every child to have a caring adult in his or her life. Hundreds of organizations, nonprofit groups and government agencies are doing their part during National Mentoring Month to support our young people.

The California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) understands the significance of mentoring and recognizes that its benefits often include reduced criminal behavior. CalVCP took a moment and met with the well-known, long-standing mentorship organization Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). Here, in edited excerpts from a conversation with Mrs. Rhonda Staley-Brooks, President and CEO of the Sacramento chapter, Mrs. Staley-Brooks shares her beginnings with BBBS and the program’s positive impact.

Q. What led you to work with BBBS?
A. That is a rather funny story. I was a sophomore in college and my dad told me I needed to get a job to pay for my social life. I found the BBBS job on the CSUS job line, but I did not think I would make a career out of it. Now, almost 19 years later, I still love what I do! I get to see the impact of the lives we have touched; I have seen thousands of children benefit from the services we provide.

Q. What is your favorite Little/Big story?
A. The first match I ever paired lasted 6 years. Ian (Big) and Brent (Little) had both lost their fathers to tragic accidents. Ian had a Big Brother when he was a young boy. Brent graduated from high school and went on to UC Davis and received his degree in Electrical Engineering. The two are still in touch today.

Q. Funding must be challenging as most of it comes through grants, events and donations. Describe one or two of your signature fundraisers.
A. Bowl for Kids' Sake is an annual event where teams raise pledges for and awareness of BBBS. This year, Bowl for Kids’ Sake is scheduled for February 25. We also host Big Disco 6, an annual dinner to celebrate the Big of the Year recipients, dress in groovy attire, dance, and have a silent and live auction. This year, Big Disco 6 is scheduled for November 2.

Q. Studies show that having a Big Brother or Big Sister offers tangible benefits for youth. Little Brothers and Little Sisters were less likely to have started using drugs or alcohol, felt more competent about doing schoolwork, attended school more, got better grades, and had better relationships with their parents and peers than they would have had they not participated in the program.1 What are some of the most significant benefits you see from the one-to-one mentor relationship?
A. I see more children staying in school, staying away from drugs and alcohol, and fewer teen parents.

Q. What has been the most rewarding part of your job since you started with BBBS?
A. It is always moving to see Littles come back and become Bigs themselves.

Rhonda Staley-Brooks serves as the current President and Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sacramento. She has served in that capacity for ten years and has been working with BBBS for 19 years. In that time, Brooks has gone from a caseworker, earning her degree at CSU Sacramento, to program manager, and finally holds the position of local chapter executive officer. 

1 Tierney, Joseph, P., Grossman, Jean, B., & Resch Nancy, L. (1995). Making a difference: An impact study of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Retrieved from