POSTED: Thursday, March 3, 2011 - 7:26pm
UPDATED: Monday, March 14, 2011 - 4:02pm
"When I need help with stuff, she'll help me. And when I'm sad, she'll help me feel better," Jameelah said.
Like hundreds of children in El Paso, 8 year-old Jameelah has her big sister to go to when times get tough.
"In our program, we serve children who have the same kinds of risk factors that research has proven to be predictors of youth violence and youth crime. So, it doesn't mean that every child in our program would end up being incarcerated, but of course some might," Senger said.
Beth Senger, the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters, says proposed budget cuts may force the agency to close its doors, causing bigger problems later on.
"We know that if we don't keep prevention programs in place, the city has the potential to have some really awful things happen," Senger said.
Representative Dee Margo says it's too early to tell whether or not Big Brothers Big Sisters will shut down or not.
"It's premature to say that they are going to lose everything, but it's also not the time to say there may be opportunities to salvage it. I don't know yet," Margo said.
According to the Texas Youth Commission, it costs $360 a day to incarcerate a youth, where mentoring costs only $5 a day.
"If they're thinking about trying drugs, they have someone to talk to. If they're thinking about joining a gang, they have someone to talk to. And when you take away that kind of safety net, you just run greater risks down the line and you run greater costs down the line," Senger said.
Margo says it's not about whether the program is successful, it's about having the cash.
But, kids like Jameelah say they want their relationships to last.
"I want Ms. Veronica to be in my life forever," Jameelah said.