GO KIDS Articles
Perry in Abilene to back mentor plan
By Sidney Levesque
Abilene Reporter-News ©
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.