Today, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lane County (BBBS Lane) is the second largest youth mentoring agency in the State of Oregon, currently serving more than 300 youth this year, a three-fold increase from only two years ago. In 2010, the local chapter of BBBS and Committed Partners for Youth merged to become BBBS Lane; in July of 2012, BBBS Lane consolidated with the Patrick McCurdy Education Foundation, so both nonprofits can achieve their goal of reaching the broadest demographic of youth possible in Lane County. BBBS Lane provides mentoring programs under its two umbrella programs: Community-Based Mentoring Programs and School-Based Mentoring Programs.
In the summer of 2012, BBBS Lane and the Patrick McCurdy Education Foundation consolidated after eight months of careful exploration and strategic planning toward strengthening their mission in the community. Today, the Foundation serves as the fundraising arm of all mentoring programs provided by BBBS Lane, and BBBS Lane provides mentoring services to youth and teens across Lane County in both urban and rural communities. The Patrick McCurdy Education Foundation was founded in 2004 following the deaths of Patrick McCurdy and his daughter, Olivia. Patrick was a beloved guidance counselor at Pleasant Hill High School and its first mentor!
BBBS Lane has strong partnerships with area organizations, businesses, and schools to meet the needs of area youth for support toward long-term, lifelong success; to provide services; and to recruit and train mentors. Local entities partnering with BBBS Lane include the Eugene Police Department; University of Oregon; Lane Community College; the school districts of Eugene, Springfield, Bethel, Pleasant Hill, South Lane (Cottage Grove), and Harrisburg; and Lane County Juvenile Justice Center, among many others.
Twenty years ago Committed Partners for Youth (CPY) was founded by a local psychologist, Dr. Llew Albrecht. In 2009, CPY merged with the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters (then housed at the YMCA) to form Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lane County. Together, both organizations have been mentoring kids in our community for nearly 50 years. Below is Dr. Albrecht’s story about why she founded CPY back in 1991.
The first thing to know about how I started Committed Partners for Youth in 1991 is that I was in the right place at the right time. I was fifty-two years old and my life was missing a mission. It was a time of transition. My children had left an aching void in my heart when they went away to college, and my successful private counseling practice had lost its stimulating edge.
Always a seeker of educational opportunities, I attended a motivational seminar, The Landmark Forum, whose message was empowering: Dare to create dreams. Take action. Make a difference in the world. This challenge energized me. My attention was riveted on the trainer’s words as he described a mentoring program in Phoenix, Arizona, for juvenile delinquents who had been referred by the courts. Results showed an impressive reduction in drug/alcohol use, truancy, crime, and an increase in employment.
However, I thought about intervention versus prevention, and decided that catching at-risk adolescents before they got into trouble made more sense. From personal and professional experience, I knew how vulnerable middle school youth were to peer pressure and the lure of drugs, crime and school drop out.
My own son, Eric, was one of them. A single parent, I struggled alone with his difficulties, which involved drug and alcohol issues as well as eventually dropping out of school. In 1986, at age sixteen, Eric’s problems had escalated and our relationship became strained and unstable. He skipped school, defied homework and curfew rules. His attire transformed into a punk style—black leather, combat boots, chains, and a dramatic Mohawk. Angry offensive music blared from his room. After dinner he would often sail out of the house, ignoring my reminders about homework and being home on school nights. I had lost control. I had lost my son.
His father had moved out of state after the divorce, leaving a hole where a male role model should have been for our son. Eric had not bonded with teachers or coaches, and without grandfathers or uncles or adult male friends, there were no resources for him to learn how to become a man. I watched helplessly as he joined a group of tough-looking punkers and hung out downtown with the other “lost” kids.
Desperate for help, I scoured the community and his school for a mentor, but came up empty handed. I arranged for therapy. Neither individual nor family counseling were effective at changing his behavior. We were stuck in a cultural phenomenon—the fallout from divorces that left sons without fathers. These boys, needy and desperate, gravitated to their male peers for guidance and support.
Eric’s eventual recovery is a complicated story, a painful story that reverberated in my thoughts as I heard about the Phoenix mentoring program. I felt deeply certain that a mentor could have been a positive influence during this troublesome time.
At the end of the seminar, I felt breathless with excitement-laced anxiety. Trembling, I stood up in front of The Forum audience of several hundred and declared: “I am committed to bringing a prevention program for at-risk youth to Eugene.” That said, I was clueless about the hurdles that stretched before me.
I needed supporters to join me in the project. When I shared the vision, my passion inspired enough people to get on board, including the director of the Phoenix program, Mitch Aiken, who became our coach. Founding board members included: Winston Maxwell, Jean Tate, Bob Larson, Maryellen Larson, Christine Sullivan, Nancy Coons, Michael Bean, Anne Peterson and Mark Hansen, an attorney, arranged for our 501 (c) 3. Pam Whyte and Nancy Golden joined early on as well. Although more than a few people told me I was crazy to take on a project of this magnitude, nothing deterred me. I persevered, fueled by my mission. Many steps, challenges and breakdowns later, a group of us created a prevention program for at-risk youth. Our first program was in March 1992 with students from Kelly Da Vinci Middle School (see photo below).
By then, Eric was twenty-one—clean, sober, a college student—and an eager supporter of my project. I still feel moved when I remember the surprise of spotting his attentive face on the front row of a mentor recruitment meeting. He beamed as he said, “I’m proud of my mother for starting Committed Partners for Youth.”
Dr. Llew Albrecht
Photo Taken by Winston Maxwell:
March 1992, Record of the First mentor-youth Retreat by CPY.
The Emerald Valley Ropes Course with Kelly Da Vinci 8th graders.