3 People On How The 'Big Brothers Big Sisters' Mentorship Program Changed Their Lives

“My life has been getting better since I’ve met Rose. I was very shy and timid. I’m still kind of, but I’m kind of getting out of it.”

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For kids, especially those who are marginalized or underprivileged, having a mentor can make all the difference. Mentorship has been proven to help kids have higher self-esteem, improve their interpersonal relationships, encourage them to do better in school, and to make better life choices. Kids who have mentors are also more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college. 

In an effort to make sure kids from all backgrounds have access to a mentor, an organization called Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) pairs them with a mentor, aka a "Big," for at least a year with a dedicated social worker overseeing each match. 

The program has been around since 1904 for good reason — it works. BBBS's New York City chapter provides to over 5,000 kids annually, and, according to the organization,  99 percent of  mentees aka "Littles" are promoted to the next grade, 99 percent of high school seniors graduate (compared to the 72 percent average), and 93 percent are accepted into college. 

Being a mentor also has great benefits for the adults who participate. It can give people a sense of accomplishment, increased self-esteem, increased patience, and help them to feel connected to something bigger than themselves.

To see how impactful this mentorship program has been for those involved, we sat down with three "Bigs" and their "Littles." 

Here's what they had to say: 

1. Rosalee Govens and sixth-grader Juliana have been paired for two years.

Photo Courtesy Katie Ward I A Plus

Rosalee:

"Being a mentor has changed my life in the way of being more cognizant of the things that I do and holding myself accountable and responsible for the changes and the decisions that I make in my life. I try to conduct myself in a way that I can show Juliana as an example."

Juliana:

"My life has been getting better since I've met Rose. Before I met her, I was very shy and timid. I'm still kind of, but I'm kind of getting out of it ... My favorite memory was actually when I got adopted by my godmother because she was there to support me. That was a day I was very scared of, and when she [Rosalee] was there it made it complete."

2. Garry McKenna and tenth-grader Ty-J have been paired for six years.

Photo Courtesy Katie Ward I A Plus

Garry:

"Big Brothers and Big Sisters of New York has definitely impacted my life. As a single man in New York, I think that it's important for me to not just live my life all about me, but to be able to share my time with someone and to give my time freely to something I believe so strongly about."

Ty-J:

"My favorite part of having Garry as my big brother is the fact that he is always there for me. He is there and does a lot for me too, which is just like the best thing ever ... My hopes and dreams feel more attainable because the only way to get to your hopes and dreams is to work for it. The only way to do that is to go to school and to actually do your work in school, which Garry is helping me with."

3. Carolina Zapata and seventh-grader Josely have been paired for two years.

Photo Courtesy Katie Ward I A Plus

Carolina:

"My favorite part of having Josely as my Little has been seeing her grow. When we were matched she was only 10 years old, and now she's 13, so it's been amazing to see all the progress she's accomplished and how she's just developing into such a strong and confident young woman ... What led me to become part of BBBS of NY is that I grew up as an only child and when I reached my early 20s I was reunited with 11 of my half brothers and sisters. It was such a beautiful encounter because throughout my 20s I realized how important it was for the rest of my development to have my big sisters in my life. I wanted to be a role model and be a big sister for someone else."

Josely:

"I became a part of BBBS of NY because I never really had a chance to have a big sister. And having a little sister, she doesn't understand what I'm going through and my big brother doesn't really understand because he's a boy ... My favorite part about having Carolina is that she understands what I'm going through and she helps me feel better."

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