Written by The Business Journal Staff
Diane Phakonekham, Executive Director
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California
What we do:
Big Brothers Big Sisters matches youth (Littles) ages 6-14 with volunteer mentors (Bigs) in professionally supported one-to-one relationships. They have fun together doing everyday things with the results of improved academics, greater self-confidence and stronger family relationships.
I have received a Bachelor of Science in Child Development, a minor in psychology, and then a Master’s of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling. I also have certificates in Victimology.
Family: A mother of three soon to be teenagers. Twin disabled boys, who always inspire.
Tell us a little about your career path leading to your new job, Diane.
As a child in the immigration camps, and growing up working at a young age, I have fond memories of individuals who mentored or spent time with me that made a difference and an impact in my life.
I knew growing up I wanted to provide the same for other children and especially to those children who have been afflicted with hardships in their life. Children are facing such an uneasy future that any sort of positive influence we can help provide them can make a life-changing and lasting impact.
Prior to working with Big Brothers Big Sisters, I was the Program Director for Fresno State Kids Invent! An afterschool and Summer Program for almost six years. I enjoyed working with children and victim advocacy, so when it was time to do my internship for my graduate program, Big Brothers Big Sisters was my first choice.
As you can see I am a huge supporter for mentoring and providing positive influences for children that this new position is a natural fit for me. I will continue to work with the great team which makes up BBBS and it allows me to continue to expand on my passion which is being a voice but most importantly an advocate for Valley Children.
What have you learned from Catherine Huerta, your predecessor at BBBS, Diane?
Catherine Huerta is amazing! I am so honored and blessed to work for her. She is someone that I highly value and look up to as a mentor. She has taught me that you must not only build healthy relationships and partnerships within the community, you must ensure the same with your coworkers. A healthy team of dedicated, passionate coworkers, working together make possibilities endless.
Something that Catherine has instilled in me is to ALWAYS put the children first.
Tell us about your vision as executive director of BBBS, Diane.
My vision is to serve as many children as we can with passionate caring mentors. To build relationships and partnerships with businesses, and schools to help fill the need of mentorship and guidance that many of our Valley children are in need of. There are so many children on our wait list patiently waiting for their one-on-one match. While we wait for individual volunteers to commit their time to become a match, we can continue to serve the needs of Valley children with other programs that BBBS offers such as High School Bigs and Lunch Buddies.
What did you learn from your time with Fresno State’s Kids Invent, Diane?
Working with the community, and building lasting relationships/partnerships with the community can make an impact on the life of a child.
What can business owners do to get more involved with helping the young people of our community, Diane?
The most meaningful way is to donate time and/or money. It is one of the most beneficial resources that will make a lasting impact on the young of our community. This is a cornerstone of BBBS, spending time and sharing experience with the young.
What is the best advice you ever received, Diane?
Never pay full price. If you make others happy, you can expect others to make you happy…especially if it is for a good cause, like helping children. (LOL)
What do you like to do in your spare time, Diane?
Spend time with my own children, who are growing up so fast. I also love to shop with friends, finding awesome books to add to my book 2,000+ collection.