Little brother, who dreams of adult male role model, has had a big wait

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

JANESVILLE—When Francisco Corona's three sisters spend time with their big sisters through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rock, Walworth and Jefferson Counties, Francisco gets upset.

“I feel a little bit sad,” he admitted while cuddling Doodles, the family dog.

The soon-to-be Wilson Elementary School third-grader has been waiting for two years to be matched with a big brother through the local mentoring program.

He dreams of tossing a football, fishing and riding bicycles with a male figure to avoid boredom and “so I can be more active,” he said.

Having a male role model is important, said his mother, Candice Hokett, 34.

“A man can teach him things a mother can't,” she said.

Francisco isn't alone.

He's one of 55 boys waiting for a big brother through the local Big Brothers Big Sisters.

The program is looking for more adults to volunteer.

For every boy and girl between the ages of 6 and 14 being helped, many more need somebody, said Richard Lowe, executive director.

“We have a harder time getting Hispanic and black males to volunteer. There is a great need,” he said.

Adults who volunteer have a positive experience, Lowe said.

“People often start as a big brother or big sister thinking they want to make a difference in someone's life. What they end up finding out is it also makes a difference in their lives. You get back way more than you give, which is a double benefit,” he said.

Volunteers, who are asked to make a commitment of at least one year, know they make a difference but find it hard to measure, Lowe said.

One place it shows up is in the classroom, Lowe said.

“Seventy-seven percent of teachers who have a student in their class who is a little sister or little brother say they see a significant difference in the first year in the areas of peer relationships, family relationships and relationships with school and authorities,” he said.

Hokett and her daughters notice other benefits.

“I try to fit one-on-one time with my children into my busy schedule, but honestly sometimes it doesn't work.”

That's why she enrolled Francisco's three youngest sisters in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

“They have another adults they can confide in, and as a single parent you need that other person," she said.

Their big sisters expose them to different lifestyles, cultures and career possibilities, Hokett said.

Lowe wants to dispel the myth that being a big sister or brother requires a lot of time.

“It's a commitment, but this is a small investment of time that pays a big dividend,” he said.

Lowe said it's not about how much a big brother or sister gives.

“It's that somebody cared, somebody noticed and somebody asked how you feel. Having a relationship with a role model makes all the difference in the world,” he said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters conducts background checks on potential volunteers and interviews children and adults to get the best possible matches.

“We want to make sure we have two people with similar interests. If they have more in common going into the relationship, it tends to last longer," Lowe said.

"That retention is important especially with kids who have not had a lot of permanent relationships growing up. They need somebody there they can count on for a very long period of time."

Last updated: 12:32 am Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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