traci-miller_web_copy.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE – Teenagers who “age out” of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward to face an uncertain future will now have some help from a partnership between the organization and BankUnited.

The bank is donating $20,000 over two years to fund a scholarship program, according to Traci Miller, founder and chairwoman of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Women on the Verge fundraising group.

“When our students, or ‘Littles,’ as they’re known, reach age 18, they officially age out of the BBBS program,” Miller said.  “They’ve had emotional support and guidance of a mentor to help shape their career dreams but the program ends when many need the financial support to continue their education.”

The BankUnited Legacy Scholarship Fund will help Big Brothers Big Sisters participants from low-income families to gain access to higher education opportunities.

 “Too often, bright, motivated young people from economically disadvantaged families have had little choice in shaping their education. We want to change that reality for as many Broward ‘Littles’ as possible and Big Brothers Big Sisters is the ideal partner,” Mary Harris, BankUnited’s senior vice president for marketing, said in a statement announcing the grant.

The scholarship program also included mentoring, according to Miller, who is vice president of business development and marketing for Miller Construction Co. in Fort Lauderdale. 

It creates volunteer opportunities to assist students in transitioning to college or vocational courses and to serve as a sounding board throughout their higher education years.

“Through BankUnited’s funding and additional fundraising by Women on the Verge, we expect the total available for scholarships in 2014 will be in the $50,000 range,” Miller said. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters said it will partner with Broward College, other colleges and universities and technical and vocational schools to help students pursue “a labor market-ready degree or certification.”

Scholarships, to be awarded on merit and need, will be awarded starting with the fall 2014 semester. Miller said she started Women on the Verge last year to raise awareness of the Big Brothers Big Sisters mission and was hoping informal get-togethers “would be able to fund a few Little/Big mentorship matches for youngsters in grades K-12.”

However, more than 100 people of diverse backgrounds and ages have joined, paying annual dues of $100. They netted $33,000 through a variety of fundraisers. The money funded 22 Big Brothers Big Sisters matches for the 2013-14 school year.

She said from now on money raised by Women on the Verge will be donated to the BankUnited Legacy Scholarship Fund.


Picture above: Traci Miller