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Student gives time, love to teen

Nov. 12, 1999


Entertainment writer

For an underprivileged child to have a caring friend and role model can mean everything. It can mean hope for a brighter future.

Stephen Hemphill, an Austin senior, has understood this truth for a long time. He said he was determined to help others by participating in the Big Brother program when he got older.

'I've always known about the program. I said to myself, 'I want to do that when I'm in college.''

It was Hemphill's determination to help others that brought him to Justin Jordan. It was Jordan's willingness to be a friend that has made their relationship last.

'I got along with Stephen from the start. We had a couple of things in common,' Jordan said. 'He's just like a big brother.'

Helping at school

Jordan, who is 13 years old, is undergoing a lot of adolescent stress and academic trials, said his mother, Viola Jordan. The presence of a mentor figure in Justin's life can help ease these pressures, especially since Justin's older brother left home recently.

'He is going through a lot of emotional changes,' Viola Jordan said. 'Stephen has a good positive outlook on life for Justin to look up to.'

Viola Jordan suggested the program to her son after she realized she could not fulfill the brotherly figure Justin needed in his life.

'I told Justin, 'You need someone to talk to about things that I can't talk to you about. You need a young male figure in your life,'' she said. 'It gives him someone he can confide in about problems.'

Viola Jordan said her son's relationship with Hemphill has already yielded positive results.

She cited his improvement in school and his calmer demeanor as proof.

'Justin still has some other situations, but he doesn't get upset as much anymore,' Viola Jordan said. 'Between the stress of the teen years and other pressures, Justin has a lot to be upset about.

'He is a strong kid and his schoolwork is better. He is more cheerful and outgoing these days. He is really happy when he and Stephen get to go out.'

Justin said he agrees that his work is better. He said he is most happy that he has a new friend, though.

'It has helped me get back on track,' Justin Jordan said. 'My math work has improved.'

Hemphill was quite impressed with the program's selection process. He said not only are the big brothers carefully selected, but the little brothers are as well.

'To get in the program you have to go in and apply. You have to be accepted into the program and they check your references. It is a series of verifications and interviews, ' Hemphill said.

Because of the extensive interviewing period, Hemphill said the kids are much more open to being helped.

'The kids in the program are really good. I was a little nervous at first because I've done work with underprivileged kids in the past and sometimes it can be tough. Sometimes the students don't want to be helped,' Hemphill said. 'In this program, all of the kids go through and interviewing and screening process, too.'

Spending time

Justin Jordan and Hemphill have spent time together at various activities since they were matched in the early summer of this year.

'I go to his football games,' Hemphill said. 'We've been to the Baylor football games, to bowling, to the movies, to the park and to ride go-karts.'

Viola Jordan said Hemphill builds trust and assurance when he attends her son's football games.

'Stephen goes to his football games. Justin can depend on Stephen,' Viola said. 'Justin can look up into the stands at his football games and see that Stephen cares.'

For Hemphill, the program not only allows him to reach out to others, but it also provides a good friend.

'I don't think of it as if I'm just helping Justin,' Hemphill said. 'I've learned how important being a friend is. We are truly friends, and that is the greatest thing. I've learned friends can be all ages. Justin is a great friend.'

A success story in progress, Justin Jordan makes greater and greater strides toward excellence in every aspect of his life, his mother said.

'I've seen Justin acting differently,' Viola Jordan said. 'He has something to look forward to.'