AUSTIN - Phil Kearney and Malik Taylor are brothers – not biological – but through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas.
"People kind of see it as ‘oh you have a mentor?’ And I'm like, yeah I do,” Malik said. “He's helped me come long way."
Kearney became Malik's mentor when the 15-year-old's parents separated.
"Phil's been there ever since 8th grade,” Malik said.
Kearney is also executive assistant for Austin Police Dept. Chief Brian Manley.
He is excited to see Austin PD and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas partner to create the "Bigs in Blue" program.
"It was only a generation ago that if you asked any young person what they want to be when they grow up, police officer would probably be near the top of that list,” said Kearney. “I'm afraid that might have eroded a little bit and this is our chance to put that back."
The new initiative already exists in 20 cities. It matches officers as volunteer mentors to children in need.
About 600 kids are waiting to be matched.
According to BBBS of Central Texas, 67 percent of children served are from single-parent families.
“The data shows that kids who are in our program stay out of trouble,” said CEO Brent Fields. “Stay in school and often maintain or improve their academic performance.”
Chief Manley urges his officers to serve.
"Beyond the 911 call, beyond responding to the emergency … you have the ability to influence a young person's life and be that role model for them,” said Chief Manley.
BBBS said the program will help law enforcement better understand youth and vice versa. Relationships that could mirror Kearney's and Malik's.
"We're definitely brothers,” said Malik. “Not only with the program but family wise."
Mentors make a minimum year-long commitment to meet for an hour three times a month.
If you want to become a mentor visit www.bigmentoring.org/volunteer
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