1215 LH3 Photo by: Karen Castillo Farfán/ Brooks Institute

Local Hero

Ashley Evans — the hope of a Big Sister

By Karen Castillo Farfán 12/15/2011

According to CNNMoney, the 2011 state spending plan cut almost $40 million on programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Project Hope, which pairs mentors to kids of incarcerated parents.


Kelly Dooley, program coordinators for Project Hope of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County, understands the impact these cuts have on children.


“Just because the money ends doesn’t mean the need ends. On the contrary, it makes it worse,” said Dooley. She continued, saying many children in foster care have parents who are incarcerated. These kids later fall into jail or don’t seek post-secondary education.


Project Hope faces another concern; there aren’t enough mentors to pair. In Ventura County, 75 kids are waiting for a pairing and have for at least a year. “These kids need a consistent person guiding them to new possibilities, like college,” explains Dooley.


Currently, Project Hope exists through fundraising efforts and devoted volunteers like Ashley Evans, a Big Sister for Project Hope who works with nine-year-old Destiny.

 
Destiny is the youngest of seven living with her single mom. The family is going through difficult hurdles and having Evans is crucial.


“It’s the simple things that make a difference,” said Evans, who began reading with Destiny when she saw the need and even volunteered in Destiny’s classroom.


“When children come from disadvantaged homes, it’s hard for them to see a future,” she said. Evans helps Destiny practice envisioning her future.


The program is designed to give kids individual attention to their needs. “It’s the difference between a child in a classroom or a private tutor,” said Evans. “The goal is to find a comfort level that works for both mentor and child. Then the magic begins.”

 
Evans has seen Destiny’s self-esteem improve and will continue to mentor until Destiny needs her no more. Even though federal funding isn’t available, people like Evans continue to make a difference in kid’s lives.

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