My Little Brother is not so little anymore. Thirty years after being matched with Aldo, he has grown into a successful adult who is a military veteran, married with two lovely daughters, has a flourishing career, and living a good life, by all measures.
Today I celebrate National Mentoring Month in Aldo’s honor.
I became a mentor in the Big Brother Big Brothers program about 30 years ago, because I always believed that it was my responsibility to give back to the community. Aldo was 13 at the time. His mom, a wise woman with good intuition, saw the value of having a male role model in his life and decided to sign Aldo in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
Big Brothers’ program staff went through a thorough interview process to match us based on our shared interests and suitability. Aldo was a little reserved at the beginning of our mentoring relationship, but we soon became fast friends and enjoyed all kinds of activities together, from movies to laser tag to just hanging out. We also talked about everything – school, sports, girls – you name it.
Imagine I was in my late twenties and I got to hang out with a 13-year old. I got to play as if I was his age. How much fun is that?
Our relationship evolved over time from mentoring to friendship. Now I consider Aldo a member of my family. I chuckle when I introduce him as my “Little” Brother. He’s 45, several inches taller than me and considerably stronger. While he’s not little anymore, he is and always will be my “LITTLE.”
Today, we typically see each other once a quarter and talk every couple of weeks. Whenever we connect, it’s as if we talked the day before. What I didn’t realize when I became a mentor is that this relationship would be lifelong. It’s been incredibly rewarding and meaningful. I have so many fond memories of our time together.
Did we change each other’s lives? I think we did and continue to do so today.
I’d like to think Aldo got as much out of our relationship as I did. I believe I accomplished what I set out to do: positively influence another human being. I’m grateful to Aldo for having me in his life and to Big Brothers Big Sisters for providing such a profound pathway.
This impact prompted me to join the board of directors of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County. I’m honored to support the organization’s mission of igniting the power and promise of youth through the creation of long-term, one-to-one mentoring relationships that change lives for the better, forever.
While the Big Brothers Big Sisters mission definitely has come to fruition in my relationship with Aldo, it also proves out on a larger scale. Research shows that young people in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program achieve higher aspirations, greater confidence, better relationships and educational success.
A national survey of Littles in the program found: 79 percent graduated high school and had expectations of going to and finishing college; 83 percent agree that their Big instilled values and principles that have guided them through life; 92 percent reported an increase in their willingness to learn and increase their educational expectations; and 97 percent showed a decrease in risky behaviors like drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
This past year in Broward County, 100 percent of 12th-grade Littles graduated high school or earned their GED; 80 percent were promoted to the next grade level; 98 percent stayed out of the juvenile justice system and 78 percent remained engaged in school in a virtual setting.
We have seen these success measures play out over and over again, having created more than 50,000 professionally supported, mentoring relationships for children across in Broward County since its inception.
In addition to community-based mentoring, which I participated in, program offerings include Bigs in Blue/Badges, BigPride, school-based mentoring, school-to-work partnerships with corporations, Mentoring Children of Promise for children with incarcerated parents and more.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County is an important, free resource for parents, grandparents and guardians and a game-changer for children. I encourage those interested in enrolling their children or becoming a mentor to visit www.BBBSBroward.org or call (954) 584-9990 for more information.
Guillermo Gomez is Regional President, Southeast, of Woodforest National Bank, in addition to a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward board member and Big Brother.