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Big Brothers Big Sisters matches staying connected during pandemic

Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors are finding creative ways to socialize and provide guidance while staying safe.

BRYAN, Texas — The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people socialize. Many meet-ups now include wearing masks and social distancing, or just using online video chats. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Brazos Valley is also finding ways to stay connected while also staying safe. 

The mentorship organization serves dozens of children in the Brazos Valley, just like 14-year-old Fernando Olguin. 

"It’s actually a good experience to talk with somebody else, talk with somebody new," said Olguin, who has been part of the program for three years. "You can look up to them, you can also talk to them as a friend or someone you need advice from.” 

Robert Costello has also been part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for a while now. He got involved because he knows the need there is for young people to have positive role models in their life. 

“I know it has been proven that if they have a mentor, then they do better later in life," said Costello. "I wanted to be able to do that. People did it for me and I want to be able to do it for them.” 

Costello was asked if he could mentor Olguin and be his big brother back in June.

"I wanted to do that because at what other time does someone need someone else to relate to and be a mentor to than during a pandemic or a change in society," Costello said. 

Because of COVID-19, the pair has gotten creative on how to meet-up so they can stay safe. Most of the time it involves them doing activities outdoors, but always having a mask on. 

Olguin said the social interaction he got from hanging out with his "big" during the summer months will be helpful when school starts.

"When you go back you don’t have to act like this is your first time in, like, several months of talking to a different person other than your family members," Olguin said. 

Once school does get back into session for Olguin, he and Costello will use Zoom more often. They want to be able to catch up during the week and Costello can help Olguin if he has any homework problems.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Brazos Valley currently has 160 active matches. There are 97 kids still in need of a big brother/big sister. For more information on the program, email tdougherty@bigmentor.org.