Miss Chapel Hill one year later ...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Brooke Baird, a freshman at Lipscomb University, helps her 'little sister' Liz with her homework as part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Brooke, last year's Miss Chapel Hill, will be on hand Saturday night to crown her successor.

Last year's Miss Chapel Hill, Brooke Baird, 19, is a freshman at Lipscomb University in Nashville now.

On top of her schoolwork and her duties as the reigning Miss Chapel Hill, Brooke finds time to volunteer with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.


She explains, "I met a representative of BBBS at the community service opportunities fair at the beginning of the school year, and of all the possibilities for volunteering, BBBS seemed to fit my personality best."

BBBS is the oldest (more than 100 years), largest (242,000 children), and most effective youth mentoring organization in the country. It matches children ages 6 through 18 with mentors in professionally supported one-to-one relationships. The people who volunteer to be a Big Brother or Big Sister have to get a background check, provide two references, submit to an interview, and undergo orientation and training before being introduced to a little brother or sister who has been matched to their location, personality and preferences.

Going through all of these steps meant that Brooke did not get to meet her "little sister" until December. They were introduced, and continue to meet, at the Thompson Lane Boys and Girls Club. Brooke's little sister is an 8-year-old third-grader named Liz, who is bilingual in English and Spanish.

They get together once a week for an hour or so, and Brook uses the time to help with Liz's homework, as well as to play games or draw and do crafts with her. Liz was intrigued with the idea of Brooke being Miss Chapel Hill and loved getting the chance to model the crown.

Brooke attended Chapel Hill schools since second grade. She played in the famous Band of Blue for seven years, and was a member of Beta Club, the Student Council and the First National Bank student advisory board. She entered several beauty pageants because "it looked like a lot of fun -- I like to get dressed up," but didn't win anything until the Miss Chapel Hill contest last April.

In her role of Miss Chapel Hill, Brooke appeared in the Christmas parades, went to the homecoming, and also attended the Tractor Pull and the Fish Fry at Henry Horton State Park.

This Saturday she'll be back to act as Master of Ceremonies at the Little Miss and Little Mister pageant in the afternoon, and crown the new Miss Chapel Hill in the evening.

Brooke says all the Nashville area colleges participate in programs at the Thompson Lane Boys and Girls Club, but every time she goes to see Liz, other children ask if she knows someone who could be their big brother or big sister.

"It makes me wish more people would volunteer," she says.

The children doubtless see having a big brother or big sister as a ticket to fun, but studies show that kids with a mentor do better in school, are more likely to steer clear of drugs and alcohol, and feel better about themselves. In short, BBBS has a direct, measurable and lasting impact on the children lucky enough to participate.

Brooke Baird is a generous and attractive young lady. But there's more to her than meets the eye. Her goal after college is to go to law school. But, however high she rises, you can bet that she will keep on giving back to her community -- the way she's doing right now, helping her "Little Sister" Liz.