René Makes Big Impact as a Big Brother

René Makes Big Impact as a Big Brother

By Andrew Shaughnessy

It was the beginning of Randall René’s (ADP14, MBA17) junior year of high school, and things were rough. His mom had gone into rehab for the fourth time. His stepdad, a violent, abusive man, took his daughters – René’s sisters – and left. Sixteen years old, and he was all alone.

“I didn’t want my grandparents to worry . . . so I carried on with my business,” René recalls.

He’d go to school, mostly, scraping by with the minimal 1.8 GPA so he could still play sports. But he went to work every day, bagging groceries at Fred Meyer to buy food and help pay for his mom’s needs. René started to consider dropping out of high school, and that’s when he met Carl Lavier.

“Lav” was the gym teacher and coach for football and track. He’d give René a hard time about skipping class, but he was always there – present, with a listening ear and an encouraging word. When René shared that he planned to drop out, Lav told him, “Randy, I know it’s tough, but I expect to see you here. Don’t let me down.” René didn’t.

René’s other boyhood champion was his grandfather. He did volunteer work all around town, serving in soup kitchens, working with the church, and coaching Little League. Often, he brought René along.

“I had these two great men in my life,” René said. “I went through some rough spots, but I have a great career and life now because people took the time to love and care for me. They took a little extra hardship on themselves to give me a better foundation to build my life upon. So now I want to be able to do the same, to give back.”

After high school, René served a stint in the Army, then moved back home to Oregon, ending up in the telecommunications field. Looking to further his education, he discovered George Fox’s management and organizational leadership program. For two years, he worked all day and went to school on nights and weekends. As a boy, René had nearly dropped out of high school. As a man, he earned his bachelor’s degree with a 3.98 GPA. Two years later, he returned to George Fox for his MBA.

Lav and his grandfather were in the back of his mind the whole time – his templates for life. René served as a reserve police officer for the city of Hillsboro for 14 years, and in 2012 he started volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“My current ‘little’s’ name is Henry,” René says. “He’s 11 years old – a great kid – and we couldn’t be a better match.”

Like René, Henry has had his share of hardship. His father passed away years ago, and René finds himself acting as a male role model. He’s there for Henry – present, with a listening ear and an encouraging word, just like Lav was for him. René’s efforts have not gone unnoticed: In 2018, he was named “Big of the Year” by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oregon.

“All this garbage I’ve been through in my life ... it was for a reason,” René says. “I’m right where I need to be right now.”