Big Brothers Big Sisters Celebrates 50 Years of Quality Mentoring
|Sandy Morales is the fifth CEO of Big
Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County
in its 50-year history.
attended other events as well. He’s a really nice guy. He talks very fondly about his big brother, Paul Tierney, who passed away. One thing that
he has told me is how his relationship flourished with Paul and with the rest of Paul’s family as well. He is still very much connected to the
Tierney family 50 years later. That is amazing. He worked with his big brother’s actual brother. That is how he got one of his first big job
Big Brothers Big Sisters has also made its mark through the accomplishments that graduates of its program — littles who graduate from high
“We had a breakfast almost two weeks ago called the Matchmaker Breakfast,” Morales said. “And we had a former little come to our breakfast
and talk about his experience. His name is Brian Jensen. He is the CEO of Fishidy, one of our local start-ups in Madison. He is originally from
Sun Prairie. He was matched with his big brother when he was nine-years-old. Now he’s in his mid to late 30s. But part of his story is that his
big brother was with him since the beginning and spent a lot of time with him, and guided him in making the right decisions in school. He really
credits his big brother with where he is today. It’s just amazing to hear these stories.”
The Big Brothers Big Sisters movement got its start providing mentors to young men whose fathers went off to fight in World War I. Whom it
serves has changed over the years, both nationally and in Dane County.
“Here in Dane County, it’s kids who are coming from single-parent households and the majority are kids of color,” Morales said of the over 600
youth who are served each year. “However, Big Brothers Big Sisters serves kids all over the country, so in some affiliates, that could be
completely different. They could be serving rural communities where there can still come from situations where there are economic disparities
and lack of access to education. Even in rural communities, the family unit isn’t always complete. We see that everywhere, but here in Dane
County, based on the statistics and the racial disparities that exist, our target is single-parent households and kids of color. It matches the
While Big Brothers Big Sisters is always experiencing the tension between quantity and quality — it has a waiting list of over 300 youth — it
puts its resources into making the matches meaningful, relevant and safe for all involved.
“We do a lot of screening,” Morales emphasized. “By the time they are in the face-to-face interview, they are pretty much past the initial
screening. The interview is more about getting to know them and also figuring out what they are looking for in a little to spend time with. That
helps us determine who they will be matched with and also add time to how long they will wait to find the right little child to spend time with
and guide them. We are very careful in how we do the match. Safety is one of our number one priorities. Again, we are dealing with children.
The child is our priority. But then there is the parent and the volunteer as well. We have a responsibility to the volunteer to make sure it is a
meaningful volunteer experience. And we have a responsibility to the parent to make sure that their child is safe and their child is getting the
guidance that they need to help them succeed in life.”
By Jonathan Gramling
It’s hard to imagine what the Dane County area would be like without having a Big Brothers Big Sisters
chapter for the past 50 years. During its history, Big Brothers Big Sisters estimates that it has served
over 12,000 littles — the term for youth who are mentored through the organization.
It is said that out of a small acorn a mighty oak shall grow. Big Brothers Big Sisters had humble
beginnings as well.
“When the chapter was founded here, it was really small,” said Sandy Morales, Big Brothers Big
Sisters’ CEO. “It was just a couple of people who started the organization. Our first little brother, Jim
Rose, was matched with someone. He was part of a family of four and his father had passed away. At
the time, his mother was looking for someone to serve as a role model at the same time that Big
Brothers Big Sisters was founded.”
In many ways, Big Brothers Big Sisters is about making family for children for children who need a
guiding hand in their lives. For Jim Rose, that family has lasted a lifetime.
“Jim Rose now works at Baker Tilly Virchow Krause,” Morales said. “He has been there for quite
some time. He was a board member in the past and he is still very much involved with the
organization. He is very supportive of the organization. He was here for our open house and he has