Becky James-Hatter is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts in Educational Excellence for African Americans.
For almost 25 years I have been a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters. As the founder of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Louisiana to the Vice President of Program in metropolitan Atlanta and now President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri for 19 years, I have learned a lot of lessons along the way. In this time, I have been reinforced by so many individuals, including my family, business mentors, board members, colleagues, volunteers and donors, but it is the children and families who have taught me the most, especially my Little Sister of 15 years, KeSheara Ross-Eason.
With so many daunting realities facing too many children and families, I am not tired, I am strengthened. Despite the stresses of a growing organization, now the 6th largest Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate in the nation and consistently performing at the highest levels, I am not distracted, I am more steadfast in several core beliefs.
Every business -- for-profit or non-profit -- must know itself. It must be clear about its mission and vision. It must identify and understand the fundamental needs of its customer or primary client. It must be able to create sustaining value and articulate a clear definition of success. For years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has defined itself as the organization that “makes matches” and prevents young people from becoming teenage parents, high school dropouts and juvenile delinquents. But candidly, that is not enough! We must be about building trusting and enduring relationships and stand up to the “rotating door” of adults coming in and out of children’s lives. Actually, that is in great part the problem. And no parent, community or organizational leader can be satisfied with simply preventing; our children need to progress and prosper each day, each year, through adulthood.
With these ideas in mind, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri is determined to do everything within its power to build trusting and enduring relationships not only among our “Bigs” and “Littles” but with our parents and teachers. We believe deeply in the transformative power of personal relationships and how they can positively affect the whole child. In addition to our “built to last relationships”, we are relentlessly focused on our children ABCing: Attending School, Behaving when there and experiencing Classroom success in reading and math. We believe that this formula is our best opportunity to change our children’s lives for the better, forever and at scale.
Our experience shows that young people who have at least one positive and enduring relationship with a caring adult, and who focus on their ABCs, can:
For our children, community and country, we commit ourselves to facing, squarely, the burdens of our young people and families and not wavering, at any time or on any point, to go the distance with them; offering great love, support and encouragement.
Becky James-Hatter is President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri