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amachi texas provides mentors for at risk kids

For more information
or to register for any
event contact Darrin
Jones at 817-952-5211.

Latest News

The latest news from the Amachi Texas Team

Children of Big Brothers Big Sisters dance in celebration of MLK day

DALLAS, TX (January 19, 2009) – The Dallas Bar Association’s Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon focused on mentoring children effected by incarceration and highlighted a partnership with Amachi Texas. Children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Amachi Texas program preformed dances in celebration of MLK day and Dr. W.Wilson Goode, Sr., was the keynote speaker. Dr. Goode himself was a child of an incarcerated father. Dr. Goode spoke about the mentors in his life that encouraged him to be all he could be. He credits these mentoring relationships as the key to his success. Dr. Goode got a College education, doctoral degree and served two terms as the first African-American mayor of Philadelphia from 1984 to 1992. He was a co-founder of a mentoring program named Amachi and now serves as a national spokes person for mentoring children. He spoke to the Dallas Bar Association about the importance of mentoring children of incarcerated family members.

The month of January is National Mentoring Month. Amachi Texas recently received the go-ahead from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) for the federal funding of a randomized, longitudinal research study of the children in the Amachi Texas program. The research being conducted by ICF (formerly Caliber) will look at 300 children and document key measurements between children with a mentor and those without. Until now there has not been a study of this kind and this group of children is virtually an invisible population. Very little is known about how a child changes with the lost of a parent to prison. The study will take place of the next three years. The results will be used as a national model.

The 2009 President of Dallas Bar Association (DBA), Christina Melton Crain plans to reinforce and expand the DBA’s mentoring efforts. With the help of Harriet Miers and Rob Roby, who will co-chair a new mentoring committee within the DBA, the bar is positioned to play an active role in an expansive city-wide mentoring effort.


Posted on Thu, Feb. 21, 2008

The Heroes Educating Area Teens program will expand citywide


ARLINGTON -- When Anthony Alvarez, 13, was matched through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, he didn't get just one mentor.

He got a whole fire station full.

For almost a year , the Carter Junior High School seventh-grader has been part of a pilot project that joined him with firefighters at Station No. 2 in east Arlington.

He's eaten spaghetti with the men, tossed a football in the fire engine bay and even gone along to car wrecks and porch fires.

Two men at the station are his official Big Brothers and are ultimately responsible for him. But every member of B shift, about a half-dozen firefighters, has become part of his routine. They talk to him about the things going on in his life and the challenges teenagers face: bullies, gangs or planning for the future.

"It's like just hanging out with your friends," Alvarez said. "I feel like all of them are my brothers."

Now, the Arlington Fire Department, with the help of Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas, is aiming to expand the volunteer program throughout the city. About 90 percent of the 48 to 50 crews in the department have shown an interest in taking on a "little" as early as next month, administrators say.

Big Brothers Big Sisters officials also plan to approach fire departments in Dallas and Fort Worth about starting similar programs.

How it works

The program, called Heroes Educating Area Teens, has its roots in a program from the 1990s that matched children from the Big Brothers Big Sisters waiting list with Arlington firefighters. The earlier program was discontinued several years ago because of budget cuts at the Fire Department and the nonprofit.

The new program will be based on a series of instructional modules that focus on values such as candor, kindness, integrity, humor, trustworthiness and caring. The lessons are meant to provide an outline for firefighters, Assistant Fire Chief Alan Kassen said. The interactions, however, will not be regimented and firefighters are encouraged to incorporate the mentoring into their daily activities like cooking, cleaning the station and otherwise preparing for emergencies.

Kassen said the Heroes program fits with city leaders' objectives of building strong neighborhoods and focusing on young people.

"We saw this as a great match to address the young people in our community," Kassen said. "We're not just doing it because we think it's a great public relations piece. From our perspective, it's our responsibility."

He said the safety of the young people involved will be protected by policies established by program organizers. For example, when Station No. 2 goes on dangerous calls, especially those on the highway, Alvarez stays inside the fire

Filling a need

From Big Brothers Big Sisters' point of view, firefighters' interest couldn't be more welcome. It needs volunteers, especially men.

The agency had a waiting list of 831 children in Tarrant County at the end of December. About 66 percent of the kids on that list are boys, but about 66 percent of Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer mentors are women.

The "littles" in the Heroes program will all be Arlington school district seventh-grade boys. They were either already on the waiting list or were recommended by someone at their schools.

Like all Big Brothers Big Sister programs, staff members will interview the mentors and children to ensure a good match, said Sara Balough, spokeswoman for Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas.

The firefighters at Station No. 2 seem to be having as much fun with Alvarez as he does with them.

"It's just as rewarding for us," said Lt. Eddy Saldivar, the department's community services officer who helped start the Heroes program. "You build a relationship, a friendship."

Want to help?

To become a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters or to sign up a child for the program, go to www.bbbsnt.org or call 888-887-BIGS (2447).

Traci Shurley, 817-548-5494



More than 10 million children in the United States struggle against tremendous odds that historically lead to a life of violence and crime. They often fight alone, without an organized support system.

They are children of incarcerated parents, and 70 percent are predicted to follow in their parents' footsteps. Children of prisoners are five times more likely to commit a violent crime and have a higher risk for poor academic performance and substance abuse.

There is hope, however, and one group of child advocates is determined to help stop the intergenerational cycle of incarceration.

Amachi Texas -- a joint initiative involving the Office for the Governor, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Workforce Commission, OneStar Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas (BBBS) -- has developed a program to help reduce this alarming statistic.

In partnership with BBBS, the nation's largest and most effective youth mentoring organization, Amachi helps children of prisoners realize their maximum potential through safe, positive mentoring.

Studies show that children who receive positive one-on-one mentoring are 52 percent less likely to skip school, 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs, 33 percent less likely to strike someone in anger and 27 percent less likely to use alcohol. And most important, successful intervention reduces the likelihood that these children will end up in prison.

Amachi -- the Nigerian Ebo word means "Who knows what God has brought us through this child?" -- is the creation of Wilson Goode, the former two-term mayor of Philadelphia and a child of incarcerated parents. First introduced in Philadelphia in 2001, the program is used in more than 273 projects in 48 states. Amachi Texas is the first statewide model.

The rapid growth of Amachi is both hopeful and alarming. On one hand, it tells us that it's effective and the issue is gaining much-needed attention. However, it is also a dismal reminder that thousands of children nationwide lack the guidance necessary to become successful adults.

As the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas, I have witnessed the impact of this incredible organization through our partnership with Amachi Texas. But it's my personal experience as an Amachi mentor to Jamar that truly opened my eyes to the life-changing power of the program.

Jamar's father, arrested before Jamar was even born, is serving a life sentence for murder. When I first met Jamar, he was troubled, angry and prone to violence. Today, Jamar's attitude and behavior have dramatically improved -- and a boy who once idolized the prison lifestyle is looking toward a bright future that includes becoming a Big Brother himself.

Hundreds of stories like mine could be told. Each relationship endures unique obstacles and struggles. But time and time again, the results speak loud and clear--a small gift of attention and love is the difference between a life of crime and a life of hope for these neglected children.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area alone, 72,000 children have lost a parent to incarceration. These children have a second chance to receive positive guidance, love and support, thanks to Amachi Texas.

Reducing the levels of incarceration benefits us all. By targeting this high-risk group, the Amachi program has the power to dramatically reduce violence and crime nationwide. I urge you to join us to break the intergenerational cycle of crime.

To learn more

Amachi Texas: 888-887-BIGS
T. Charles Pierson is Chief Executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas.

Big Brothers Big Sisters/Amachi Texas and the Library of Congress Partner to add Literacy Component to Mentoring Program for Children of Incarcerated Parents

WASHINGTON, Sep. 18 /PRNewswire/ --

Sen. Cornyn to announce the new program that combines the impact of mentoring relationships to develop character, with the behavior of reading together to promote literacy

Today Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of North Texas and Amachi Texas will announce a new relationship with the Library of Congress, which will allow Amachi Texas to add a literacy component to the organization's existing mentoring program. Amachi Texas, a division of Big Brothers Big Sisters, is a statewide initiative that pairs mentors with children who have a parent in prison or jail.

"We are proud to expand our mentoring program through the partnership with the Library of Congress, and welcome the opportunity to have even greater influence in the lives of children in the state of Texas and nationwide," said Olivia Eudaly, executive director of Amachi Texas. "As a mentor, I have witnessed the power of Amachi and its positive impact on the life of my 'Little Sister' and so many other children benefiting from the program. Our hope is to provide this gift to thousands more children."

Statistics show that without direct mentoring intervention, 70 percent of children with incarcerated parents will end up in prison themselves. Additionally, several independent studies show that having a mentor significantly reduces a young person's drug and alcohol use, improves their school attendance, reduces their incidences of violence and improves their relationship with their custodial parent. Through Amachi Texas, more than 1,300 children of prisoners have received a one-on-one mentor in the state of Texas.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Texas Honorary State Chair for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas, hopes to highlight the dramatic effect the Amachi program has on the lives of children of prisoners at The Big Ol' Texas Bar B Q hosted by Amachi Texas. This Texas-comes-to-D.C.-themed event will also include the announcement of the partnership with the Library of Congress.

"Big Brothers Big Sisters - Amachi Texas provides safe, positive mentoring relationships for children of prisoners, helping them reach their full potential and preventing the cycle of crime and incarceration," said Sen. Cornyn." I am proud to support an organization that makes a real difference in the lives of so many children in my home state of Texas."

This unique, first-of-its kind collaboration will combine mentoring and education, which are two known interventions to help change the cycle of incarceration. This strategic collaborative partnership combines the power of one-on-one mentoring with the modeled behavior of reading together to promote literacy. Through this pilot testing, BBBS and Amachi Texas hope to replicate this model in agencies nationwide.

Amachi -- a Nigerian Ebo word, meaning "who knows what God has brought us through this child" -- is a program of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Amachi Texas is the first statewide initiative, serving as a model for the rest of the nation. The organization is working to expand to help even more at-risk children in every state.

In addition to Sen. Cornyn, several other distinguished guests will participate in the announcement, including "Father of Amachi Texas" and former mayor of Philadelphia, Dr. Wilson Goode; New York Times Best-Selling Author, Brad Meltzer; Amachi State Executive Director, Olivia Eudaly; Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas, Charles Pierson; and Amachi program participants.

About Amachi Texas

Amachi Texas -- a public-private effort that includes the Office of the Governor, the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, OneStar Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Texas -- is the first statewide model of the Amachi program. Amachi's mission is to prevent the intergenerational cycle of crime and incarceration by helping children of prisoners realize their maximum potential through safe, positive mentoring relationships. In the Dallas/Ft. Worth area alone, more than 72,000 children have one or more parents in prison. Through the Amachi Texas program, more than 1,300 children throughout the state have received a one-on-one mentor.

CONTACT: Darrin Jones Amachi Texas,
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Firefighters partner with program to help children of prisoners

10:34 AM CST on Thursday, November 2, 2006

Austin firefighters have teamed up with a local charity to benefit kids whose parents are in jail.

Amachi Texas is a program directed by Big Brothers-Big Sisters.

Officials say nearly 400,000 Texas children have a parent in prison, and of those children, seven out of 10 of them will go to prison themselves if they don't receive mentoring intervention.

The Amachi Texas program is designed to spread awareness and hope throughout the state. It provides mentors to the children to help them deal with everyday challenges.

Program officials say firefighters are the perfect partners in the program, because children love firefighters.

"[It's] a dream team partnership for which we are extremely grateful... Big brothers-Big Sisters, the State of Texas, the Department of Criminal Justice, Amachi Texas and the Texas State Association of Firefighters... reaching out [and] rescuing children of prisoners," said Olivia Eudaly, executive director of Amachi Texas.

The state provides funding for the program and the Department of Criminal Justice provides access to the children.


DALLAS A new statewide mentoring program aims to stop the cycle of children following their parents into the Texas prison system.

Governor Rick Perry was in Dallas today to announce a nearly three-point-eight (M) million dollar state grant to launch Amachi (uh-MAWCH'-ee) Texas.The program uses faith-based and secular partners such as Big Brothers Big Sisters to match children of inmates with adult role models.Officials said Texas will be the first to take Amachi to a statewide level.The program, headquartered in Arlington, is a partnership between the governor's office, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the One Star Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas.

KLTV 7 Tyler - Longview - Jacksonville

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Perry in Abilene to back mentor plan

By Sidney Levesque This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it
March 10, 2006

Gov. Rick Perry stopped in Abilene on Thursday to announce a statewide initiative that matches mentors with children whose parents are in prison.

The state is spending nearly $4 million to launch Amachi Texas, a public-private partnership of Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the governor's OneStar Foundation, which helps volunteer and charitable groups build partnerships.

The program takes its name from the Nigerian word ''amachi,'' which means, ''Who knows what God has brought us through this child?''

Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Central Texas, which has offices in Abilene and San Angelo, expects to receive $217,000 from the state grant, said Janet Ardoyno, the group's president and chief executive officer.

Ardoyno said Big Brothers Big Sisters served 1,281 children in Abilene last year.

She estimated one-third of those children had an incarcerated parent.

But the total number of children in the area with a parent in prison is much larger.

Sheriff's offices in Taylor and Tom Green counties estimate up to 16,000 children in Abilene and San Angelo have an incarcerated parent, according to information provided at a press conference. Authorities say those children are at risk for ending up in prison someday.

''We've got to stop this cultural tragedy of grandparents meeting their grandchildren for the first time in prison,'' said Perry, who spoke at Macedonia Baptist Church, 608 N. 7th St.

Big Brothers Big Sisters will partner with churches to find volunteers they will train as mentors.

The group has a weekly Lunch Buddy program at various schools and a community-based program that pairs a mentor with a child for a couple hours a week.

Copyright 2006, Abilene Reporter News. All Rights Reserved.


Texas Promises To Help Children of Those Jailed

Perry Launches $4M Mentoring Program

(CBS 11 News) “No child should be held captive to the influence of drugs and alcohol and crime or sentenced to a life behind bars because of the mistakes of their parents.”??That was Gov. Rick Perry’s cry as he announced the state’s $3.78 million grant project called "Amachi Texas, " will help to provide mentors to children whose parents are incarcerated. According to the latest statistics, about 70,000 children in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have a parent who is in jail. Officials said about 70 percent of those children are more likely to end up behind bars when they get older. The grant money will go toward finding and training volunteers, matching the mentor with the child and making sure each child gets professional support, as well. "We assign a degreed match consultant who works with that match relationship through the life of that match,î explained Charles Pierson of Big Brothers Big Sisters. According to a social service agency research group, children who are mentored are:

46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs

27 percent less likely to use alcohol

52 percent less likely to skip school

"We have documented studies that span a 20-year period of time studying the students that when you can put a Big Brother or Big Sister in the life of a child, 87 percent graduate,” Pierson said.

Last year more than 53, 000 North Texas children partnered with a Big Brother or Big Sister, but officials said another 2,600 children still wait for a mentor.

Eight-year-old Mario always wanted a big sister. For his birthday, he received a special gift.

"I told him that today was his biggest present was to get a sister,” his mother, Lidia Ramirez said.

Even though Mario is not "at risk," he now has some extra support from his Big Sister, Chelsea Stoughton.

"I love kids and I have the time to give and it's a great way to spend my extra time,” the new mentor boasted.

Pam Harris

(CBS 11 News)


Joe Starkey 27.AUG.06

One of Three Children in San Angelo and Abilene have one or both parents in prison or jail. Statistics show that 70% of children with an incarcerated parent are likely to follow in their parents’ footsteps into incarceration. These cold words introduced the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) luncheon to the Amachi program designed to address these needs and help alter the direction of these children’s lives.

Amachi is a Nigerian word meaning “Who knows what God has brought us through this child.” BBBS believes and studies show that faith-based mentors can impact the children living “at-risk” and help them become children of promise.

Reverend Wilson Goode founded Amachi in September 2000 in Philadelphia and the program now covers 49 states. He stated “this is about breaking the cycle of jail.”

One Adult

One Hour each week

One Child

One Year

This commitment has resulted in 2/3rds of the children improving both their grades and school attendance. Over 80% now say they trust other people more.

He told the audience that the Masai, a famous warrior people of Africa meet each other with the greeting “How are the Children?” and this needs to also be our concern. Stating that “We want all children to land in fertile soil.” He told the story of his childhood opening with “I am the son of an incarcerated man” and the family’s move to Philadelphia. Told by a school counselor that he was a “farm boy and should never plan on going to college”, his pastor and wife became his Big Brother and Sister and helped send him to college and on to become Mayor of Philadelphia for two terms.

After telling the story of the young man challenging an old wise woman to tell him if the bird in his hand was dead or alive with her knowing that whichever answer she gave would be proved wrong because the man would either free the bird if she said dead or crush it if she said alive but her answer was that the choice lay in the man’s hand, he challenged the audience that the “choice of these children’s lives is in our hands.”

Over 30 pastors and ministers committed themselves and their churches to support the program and furnish volunteers for the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program. All the others present promised to pray for those in the program and if they could not participate ñ to refer at least one other person who could to the program.

BBBS still has 562 children in the Abilene area that need mentors this fall. If you volunteer, you will participate in the agency’s screening and enrollment program and soon be matched with a Little Brother or Sister. Opportunities include:

Community-Based program ñ Matched with a child, you spend as little as one hour a week hanging out with the child. You have the flexibility to plan activities at a time convenient for both yourself and the child. You don’t have to be an expert on kids, just a friend.

Lunch buddies spend 30 minutes, once a week eating lunch with a child at their school.

“Big for A Day” is a one time program for groups to be matched with children on the waiting list. The group plans a 2-3 hour activity that gives the children a fun activity and the group a chance to meet the children.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Abilene

720 Pine Suite 1

(325) 677-7839

Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Angelo

133 W. Concho Suite 102

(325) 486-2200

- West Texas Tribune


Fort Worth Star-Telegram

October 11, 2006

ARLINGTON -- The odds are against kids like 10-year-old Andra Lemmons Hicks.

With his father in a Texas prison, the Metro Charter Academy fifth-grader is more likely to have trouble in school, turn to drugs or end up incarcerated, studies say.

But grandmother Brenda Hicks and other family members don't plan to let that happen.

And because of the statewide initiative Amachi Texas, another adult is also looking out for Andra.

Modeled after a program in Philadelphia, Amachi Texas is using a $3.7 million state grant to pair children like Andra with adult mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters. By spending a few hours a week with the children, the volunteers will have a positive influence on them, giving them attention they might not get at home and encouraging them to strive for success, organizers say.

Management for the new program is housed in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas office on 205 W. Main St. in Arlington. This year, about 500 matches have been made statewide. Another 500 pairs of mentors and kids are expected to sign up by August 2007, officials said.

Prison officials hope the Amachi volunteers will become a vital part of the support system of inmates' families.

'What they do is, they say to the child, 'Look, you don't have to end up doing the same thing your parent has done just because they're your parent, but that doesn't mean you can't love them,'' said Christina Melton Crain, chairwoman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, which oversees the prison system.

Up to 320,000 children in Texas have a parent or other family member behind bars, Amachi officials said.

Mentoring one of those children seemed like a great idea to Philip Feick, a 36-year-old auto finance professional from Euless who is single and does not have any children.

'I got signed up because it's something I've wanted to do for a long, long time, and this was the right opportunity,' said Feick, who was assigned to be Andra's Big Brother in July.

Over basketball games and rounds of miniature golf, the two have built a friendship that Andra easily sums up.

They 'go do fun stuff,' he says.

Creating a model

Texas prison officials were already running a variety of family- and child-oriented programs for inmates, even before state leaders learned about the Amachi program in 2004, said Crain, a lawyer who represents abused and neglected children.

In late summer 2004, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice started an Amachi pilot program in the Hutchins State Jail in southern Dallas County. It was a success, and funding for the large-scale project soon followed, Crain said.

Amachi Texas began receiving funds in January, and the $3.7 million grant will last 20 months. It pays for volunteer recruiters and matching consultants and helps pay for the costs the program shares with Big Brothers Big Sisters offices throughout the state.

Amachi Texas Executive Director Olivia Eudaly said prison officials' enthusiasm and the strength of the Big Brothers Big Sisters programs in Texas are a powerful combination.

'It's the opportunity to create a model across the entire state that is replicable in other states in the country,' she said. 'It's the opportunity to take what we learn and show the nation that it works.'

One of the biggest challenges is getting the word out to those who need services, officials said.

Representatives from Big Brothers Big Sisters have gone to prisons throughout the state and explained the program to inmates.

Many of those mothers and fathers have reacted enthusiastically to the message, contacting their child's caregiver about Amachi, Eudaly said.

In other cases, it's the caregiver in the community who realizes their grandchild or child needs a friend.

Amachi volunteers must go through interviews, pass a criminal background and reference check, and complete three hours of special training in addition to the normal training provided to Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors, Eudaly said.

For instance, volunteers in the Amachi program learn how to react when children want to talk about their incarcerated parents.

A bond forms quickly

Andra had lived primarily with his father, Timothy Lemmons, until his incarceration three years ago. Brenda Hicks, Andra's grandmother, said she noticed a change in her grandson not long after his father was sent to prison on a drug charge. Andra still got good grades but seemed down, she said.

'He misses his daddy very much,' said Hicks, who shares her central Arlington apartment with Andra, his 17-year-old sister and his mother, Bernadette Hicks.

At Metro Charter Academy, founded by Mount Olive Baptist Church in Arlington, Andra's favorite subject is math, and he dreams of someday playing professional basketball. His favorite team is the Houston Rockets; his favorite player is Tracy McGrady.

Andra is quiet with strangers, but Feick, who signed up for Amachi after a representative visited his church, Metroplex Chapel in Euless, said it didn't take long for him and Andra to bond.

Over the last few months, they've hit baseballs at batting cages, gone swimming and been to the arcade.

Feick also hopes to get Andra involved in his church, and the two recently went to a fish fry there.

Feick said the two 'can talk about anything,' including Andra's father and his release from prison in February.

'I just rely on God's guidance to talk about things with him,' Feick said. 'It's really been amazing how we've just hit it off.'

* * *

As many as 320,000 children in Texas have a parent or other relative behind bars.


How to get involved

Amachi Texas

Call Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas at 817-277-1148 or visit www.amachi-texas.org.

Children 6 to 15 who have a parent or other family member in prison or on probation or parole are eligible.

Volunteers must be at least a senior in high school, have no criminal record, submit a character reference and be willing to spend at least four hours a month with the child.

MATCH program

Camp Fire USA First Texas Council in Fort Worth also has a mentoring program for the children of inmates. To learn more about the Mentors and Adolescents Together Creating Hope, or MATCH, program, call 817-831-2111.


Amachi Texas is a joint project of the governor's office, the OneStar Foundation, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas.

Amachi is Nigerian for 'who knows but what God has brought us through this child,' according to Amachi founders.

The original program, in Philadelphia, started in 2000 and worked with local churches and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania, said the Rev. W. Wilson Goode Sr., the director of the program and a former mayor of Philadelphia. By 2003, the group had more than 500 mentors.

President Bush announced the creation of a federal Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program in 2003. It has awarded more than $158 million in grants to programs across the country.

Copyright © 2006 Fort Worth Star-Telegram, All Rights Reserved.


Mentoring group gets a boost from firefighters
State firefighters association will partner with group that finds mentors for children of incarcerated parents.

By Francesca Jarosz
Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mike Higgins hears stories from his daughter that haunt him.

Higgins' daughter is a pre-kindergarten teacher who has two students whose parents are in prison. She sometimes returns from school crying after hearing about their problems at home.

So Higgins, the Texas State Association of Firefighters chief of staff, is looking forward to making an impact of his own.

On Wednesday, Higgins and other members of the association agreed to volunteer with Amachi Texas, a state-funded nonprofit group, to mentor children with incarcerated parents through Big Brothers Big Sisters.

"I see the need," said Higgins, who collects toiletries from hotels for his daughter's students because they don't have them at home.

About 400,000 children in Texas have parents in prison, said Olivia Eudaly, executive director for Amachi Texas. Of those, Eudaly said, 70 percent will also end up in prison if no one takes steps to intervene. The Amachi mentoring program began in Philadelphia in 2000 as a collaborative effort between a University of Pennsylvania professor who came up with the idea and a former Philadelphia mayor who got it off the ground. It launched in Texas in March and now involves 11 agencies statewide, among them Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, which is responsible for pairing children with mentors in the Austin, Waco and College Station areas.

Amachi is a Nigerian word that means "who knows what God has brought us through this child?"

"We don't just give away 70 percent of children and say, well, too bad," Eudaly said.

Of 111 Amachi programs across the country, Amachi Texas is the only one that operates statewide. In January, the program received $3 million from the state to pair kids with mentors and promote the organization, Eudaly said. Amachi has matched more than 400 kids with mentors and aims to make 1,300 matches by the end of August.

About 150 of those matches were made in Central Texas, said Kenny Taylor, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas. Taylor said he hopes to increase that number to about 330 by the end of August.

The firefighters association is Amachi's first professional group of mentoring partners. Eudaly calls it a "dream team" because firefighters are community leaders whom kids view as role models. Muna Walker, a senior program officer with Amachi in Philadelphia, said partnering with firefighters will also boost the number of male mentors, of which there is a nationwide shortage.

Higgins said the association will encourage its 13,701 members to participate. About 2,000 members are in the Austin area, and Taylor said he hopes to get at least 100 local firefighters involved in the program.

"This is another way we can reach out to the citizens," Higgins said.

Eudaly to lead new mentoring initiative

DALLAS/FORT WORTH – March 16, 2006 –The President of the Texas Association of Big Brothers Big Sisters, Charles Pierson, announced today that Olivia Eudaly will serve as the Statewide Executive Director of Amachi Texas effective immediately. The Amachi Texas program was officially launched by Governor Perry on March 9 in Dallas.

Mrs. Eudaly, a graduate of Texas Christian University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has dedicated her life to the betterment of Texans in need. Mrs. Eudaly began working with Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas in 2003 as the Executive Vice President of Fund Development. Previously, she worked as the Deputy Director/Fund Development of Second Harvest Food Bank of Tarrant County, College Instructor, High School Teacher, Consultant and Public Speaker. For almost forty years, she has been involved in numerous organizations in North Texas including serving as Chair/Trustee of the Tarrant Baptist Foundation, Chair of the Southwest Fundraising Symposium, and member of Board of Trustees-Harding Simmons University.

“We were looking for a strong leader and Mrs. Eudaly is a natural choice for such a unique program. This initiative is a model for the nation and she will no doubt set the pace for all the states to notice” commented Mr. Pierson.

Additional support staff joining Mrs. Eudaly includes Darrin Jones as Marketing Manager, Lauren Hoofnagle, Director North Texas, and Kelly Adams, Child Outreach Coordinator who will be working on the Amachi Texas program along with other staff throughout the state.

Amachi Texas, is a joint initiative of the Office of the Governor, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, One Star Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas, with a mission to stop the inter-generational cycle of crime and incarceration, by providing and facilitating one-to-one mentoring relationships between a child of an incarcerated family member and a caring adult.


Aims to steer inmates' kids to different path...
Big Brothers-Sisters group, including S.A. portion, awarded funds

by Isadora Vail
Metro and State News

AUSTIN -- A new joint effort might not only change the lives of thousands of children, it might make Texas a new role model. Gov. Rick Perry awarded Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas a $3.78 million grant March 9 for Amachi Texas, a program designed to help children of incarcerated parents by pairing them with a mentor. The goal for the 20-month program is to help 1,300 children through one-on-one mentoring and to deter them from a lifestyle that could propel them to prison, like their parents. The grant was disbursed to 11 areas in Texas, including San Antonio. Organizations involved are Big Brothers Big Sisters, Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the OneStar Foundation.

San Antonio-based Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas received $430,000 grant for 200 children. The funds will be used to train and screen mentors and for background checks and field trips. "Just spending time with a child can help them make better decisions," said Denise Barkhurst, executive vice president of the South Texas office. "This is a population that is in need." In most cases, a mentor will spend 22 months with a child of an incarcerated parent, she said. The Criminal Justice Department reported that San Antonio has about 20,660 children who have a parent behind bars, said Olivia Eudaly, statewide executive director of Amachi Texas.

According to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, children who have at least one parent in jail are six to eight times more likely to wind up there than a child whose parents are at home. About 55 percent of adults in jail are parents, and about 58 percent of children of incarcerated parents are younger than 10. The Amachi Texas program serves children who are 6 to 15, at the ages where a child's life and decisions can be most impacted by a mentor, officials said.

The program's founder, the Rev. W. Wilson Goode, said no other model has been proven to change a child's direction in life than the one-on-one mentoring that Big Brothers Big Sisters provides. There are many programs in the nation that help the incarcerated, but not nearly enough programs that provide support for their children, he said. In 1993, Public/Private Ventures conducted the first national study on a mentoring program. Children who participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program were 46 percent less likely to use drugs and 52 percent less likely to skip class. "Texas is ready to be more pro-active to the problem and provide a better chance for the children of these adults," said Darrin Jones, Amachi Texas marketing manager. "We need this program to stop the never-ending cycle of incarceration."



Our Mission

The mission of Amachi Texas

To break the intergenerational cycle of crime and incarceration by helping children of prisoners fulfill their maximum potential through safe, positive mentoring relationships.

amachi texas helping youth in texas affiliated with bbbs

The Amachi Texas Vision

To successfully implement this statewide pilot initiative, achieve successful outcomes, and build a program infrastructure to reach thousands of at-risk children across the state while establishing a replicable model for the nation.