Dr. Edgar Villamarinhas been involved with Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters in Los Angeles, Calif. for more than twenty years and has been a Big Brother to his Little Brother Ulises for the past eight years. When they were initially matched, Ulises was seven years old and new to this country. He did not speak English and did not have anyone in his family who could speak the language.
Weekly meetings with Edgar, his Big Brother allowed him to practice and work on his English, get homework help, and learn to read. Ulises shares, “He taught me English with flash cards; we read ‘The Lady with the Alligator Purse’ over and over again.”
New to this country, the concept of mentoring was foreign to Ulises’ family. They were uncomfortable with their son spending time with anyone outside of the family. Edgar was sensitive to the family culture and made arrangements to mentor Ulises at a community center a block from the family home. While Dr. Villamarin is a well-respected member of the community, this arrangement continued for three years.
Throughout the years, Edgar has intentionally created learning opportunities for Ulises. They have had meetings at the library, worked on homework projects, attended college campuses, given back to the community through volunteering, and most recently, Edgar has introduced Ulises to professionals from various fields for the purpose of hearing about their journey and where they are today.
This past winter, Ulises was presented with a scholarship opportunity. He and Edgar worked diligently on completing the application with the goal of spending a week on the UCLA campus to learn about youth leadership, goal setting, and self-motivation. When Ulises received the award, his first call was to his Big Brother, to share his excitement and thank him for his help on the application.
When describing his relationship with Ulises, Edgar shares his overall joy and pride in seeing him develop from a shy, quiet boy to a confident and goal-oriented young man. Ulises completed his first year of high school with a 3.8 GPA and is determined to graduate with a 4.0. He has aspirations of becoming an Immigration Attorney to help families experiencing what he did when he first came to the U.S.
Hearing of Ulises’ interest in law, Villamarin arranged a meeting and internship with a Los Angeles attorney. Edgar also discovered an opportunity for Ulises to volunteer on a School Board election campaign. Ulises took both opportunities his Big Brother provided for him.
“Since I came to the U.S., I have taken advantage of all opportunities,” Ulises wrote in his scholarship application. “For example, Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters introduced me to my Big Brother who helped me to speak and write in English, he also took me to meet a real immigration attorney who offered me a summer job. Since I am a hard-working and curious student, I will take this opportunity to become a better person and to improve the community by donating my time to a non-profit organization that serves the poor who don’t have money to pay for private lawyers.”
In his role as a mentor to Ulises, Edgar Villamarin has surpassed 1,000 service hours. As one of the first Latino professionals within Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, he was asked to serve as a regional and national representative; helping to create a national policy on diversity and inclusion.
Villamarin is a volunteer member of Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Speaker’s Bureau, Alumni Network, and a leader in our Diversity taskforce and Latino Leadership Network's Manos a la Hobra (All Hands on Deck) campaign. The focus of this task force is to build awareness of the quality and impact that Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters’ one-to-one mentoring. The task force also builds diverse networked relationships within the community to strengthen and develop partnerships that will enable us to engage individuals and organizations in our work.
Villamarin has hosted a weekly radio show in Spanish with the emphasis of providing mental health information, resources and guidance. When appropriate, he used this platform to promote youth development, and mentoring, especially in the Latino community. His goal has been to empower listeners and viewers to seek out resources and advance their present situation.
On many occasions he has conducted Big Brother and Big Sister volunteer recruitment drives. His radio show was broadcast locally and nationally. He has been a frequent guest and expert in the area of human psychology to television programs on Univision, Telemundo, TV Azteca, and CNN Latino and a guest on the well-recognized shows “Cristina” and “Don Francisco.”