The Rockland County Legislature recognized three mentors and mentees for their years of participation in the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) on Tuesday night in the Legislative Chambers.
BBBS is a program that establishes a match between children and adult volunteers, who reserve at least four hours a month for activities with their new “little brother” or “sister”.
Legislative Chairwoman Harriet D. Cornell presented certificates of achievement to Olivia Collins and her mentor, Elizabeth Fuertes; Kyle Cea-Eardley and his mentor, Stuart Raskin, and Eric Aurelien and his mentor, Brian McCann, who was unfortunately unavailable to attend.
Legislators Edwin J. Day, legislative liaison to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Frank Sparaco, a member of the Board of BBBS, spoke about each pair’s accomplishments, commending their intent to stay connected even though their partnership had ended.
Elizabeth and Olivia have been companions for the past three years. Their partnership began after they received a Fostering Positive Futures grant. Elizabeth is a Guidance Counselor at North Rockland and a wife and mother-to-be from the Bronx. She was introduced to the program by her friend who had spoke of it highly.
Olivia, who is 17, is from Spring Valley. She currently volunteers and works at the Martin Luther King Center in Spring Valley.
“I think I liked just being able to talk, having a different feel with someone older,” says Olivia of her experience in BBBS.
“It’s nice to have a friend like Olivia,” says Elizabeth. “It’s been rewarding - a very rewarding experience.”
Eric and Brian also had a positive experience with the program. Eric’s mother noted that her son found unconditional friendship with Brian, a lawyer with the Cavalli & McCann Law Firm. Eric plans to major in Athletic Training at Springfield College, which he will enter as a freshman this fall.
Day applauded one mentor in particular, Stuart Raskin, for not only his nine years as a BBBS mentor, but also for a life of service.
“Stu and I go back a long way to Little Tor Elementary School,” said Day. “I am certainly not surprised that Stu has moved on and is now consistently involved in doing the right thing for our young people.”
Stuart and Kyle were honored for the length of their match and the bond they achieved during that time. Stuart helped Kyle with his summer job and college applications. Kyle’s mother saw her son’s grades go up, and attributes his success to Stuart’s influence. Kyle now works at Stop & Shop and will attend SUNY Rockland next month.
“It helped motivate me to get a job,” says Kyle of Stuart’s support. “Stuart is a very helpful guy. He gave me helpful advice.”
Kyle, who is 18 and from Pomona, joined BBBS 12 years ago. He began with a different mentor, for two years, until he was paired with Stuart. He remembers the Nets basketball games as his favorite Big Brother - Little Brother activity.
“To do so many great things for him,” said Day, in honor of his friend, “it’s just a justification of what Stu is all about.”
BBBS of Rockland presented each mentor and mentee with a gift before the closing of the ceremony.
President/CEO of BBBS Gillian Ballard thanked the county legislature for its 27 years of support.
"This is a momentous occasion for all of us," said Gillian. "It's very rare in today's age that you have such dedicated volunteers, volunteers that really only sign up for one year."
Gillian noted BBBS of Rockland county would not be able to provide for the community without the continuous support of the legislature.