EL PASO, Texas - For 2nd Lt. Laura James, her first year in the
Army has been meaningful not only for herself but to Morehead Middle
School student Stephanie Garcia as well.
James and Garcia
have a special relationship only a handful of people in El Paso
could understand - they are each other's “big” and “little.” James
is involved in the Military Mentorship Program, part of the Big
Brothers and Big Sisters program in El Paso. James, who previously
lived in California, said she desired to be a mentor for years.
“I wanted to do it back in Los Angeles, but I didn't have a car,
and it's one of those programs you spend a lot of time with your
little (sister),” James said.
Second Lt. Laura James, a 212th Fires Brigade communications
officer, ice skates with Stephanie Garcia, 12, on November 4, 12 at
the Ice Rink, El Paso, Texas. James is Garcia's “big sister” in the
Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. James is one of 28 active
military volunteers involved with the Military Mentorship Program
the organization offers. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Summer Woode, 16th
Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
The BBBS' Military Mentorship Program was designed to
increase the involvement of service members and military
children, according to Beth Senger, founder of BBBS of El
Paso and an Air Force veteran. Senger said she believes the
program provides a support system for military families as
they are going through life's challenges.
mentors bring something special: the ability to be
resilient, face challenges, and to understand what it means
to just get the job done,” Senger said. “I think when you're working with
kids who come from different walks of life, that confidence
and competence every military member carries with them is a
really great example for the kids.
“It's proven to
help kids with academics and to have a positive emotional
and behavioral impact,” she added. “I really think the
element that makes the Big Brothers and Big Sisters
mentoring model so special is its emphasis on friendship and
really just being there to have fun together and have
someone to talk to.”
Having fun and talking are two
traits of the BBBS model that James and Garcia seem to have
mastered. The big and little talk with each other about
different activities they can do in El Paso, such as ice
skating, followed by a few slices of pizza for lunch.
Both claimed it has been awhile since they have skated,
especially for the second lieutenant. They held each other's
hand as they took turns leading the other on the slippery
ice, which James said was symbolic of the relationship they
“I think it's good not only for the kids, but
for the mentors as well,” said James, a communications
officer for 212th Fires Brigade, 1st Armored Division. “I
think we learn a lot from each other. As adults, we go so
fast all the time that we don't stop and think - to take a
step back and do something fun.”
Garcia described her
big sister as “fun to be around with, cool and funny,” but
the relationship between the officer and 12-year-old is
Only 28 active military members have been
involved in the Military Mentorship Program, since the
federal government funded the program a year ago. BBBS hopes
to increase involvement in January for the new quarter.
With only a short time until then, Senger wants people
to know the importance of mentoring.
philosophy is the more positive supports you can put in a
child's life, the better,” said Senger.
By U.S. Army Sgt. Summer Woode
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