Next Stop, Mentoring: A Journey on the Roadmap of Life
Since 2014, the Stryker Bigs in Business program has provided Kalamazoo Central High School students with opportunities to connect with Stryker employee mentors.
As part of Bigs in Business, middle and high school students (Littles) are transported to a partner workplace to spend time with their mentors (Bigs) on the job. Big/Little “matches” meet two times a month for at least two school years to develop and grow their friendship, exploring various aspects of the workplace and exploring guided activities for matches or themed programs onsite. Students learn about the work setting and are introduced to career options while developing a greater understanding of the importance and relevance of what they are learning in school.
In response to COVID-19, Stryker’s program is going virtual for the 2020-2021 school year. Bigs and Littles will still work through the guided activities during their online meetings with each other. They’ll also continue to receive the ongoing support from Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Mentoring Team, which is paramount to any Big Brothers Big Sisters program. The Mentoring Team checks in regularly with the Bigs and Littles, and in this unprecedented year, with the families of Littles, to provide coaching support, ensure child safety, and to make sure the match is running smoothly.
“It’s really been beneficial to our culture,” said Stryker employee, and Big Brother, Trey Pfeiffer. “It’s this awesome opportunity to actually mentor and get to know someone.”
Trey and his Little Brother, Jaylyn, have been matched for just over a year. Trey feels introduction to a workplace has been beneficial to Jaylyn but their relationship is so much more than just “all-business.”
“To me what’s special is what started off as this quasi-professional match meeting has evolved into this complete, casual friendship,” Trey recounted. “Anytime I learn something new about him, I think it’s a special moment because we’re continuing to build the relationship.”
Trey credits the Bigs in Business guided activities for breaking the ice with Littles. The activities also provide structure for the mentoring friendship and help build connections while providing Littles with opportunities to learn more about themselves. Activities such as the “Life Road Map,” allow Bigs and Littles to map out key moments in their lives and find similarities along the way. It acts a timeline of their lives and works to show similarities or differences.
“Sometimes in the simple questions, you find commonalities to really bond over,” Trey said proudly. “We actually have a lot of the same musical taste, and we both really like certain video games.”
During the enrollment process, Big Brothers Big Sisters staff ask key questions to learn about the interests and personality of each prospective Big and Little. Big/Little matches are made based on common interests and compatibility. This process is called “intentional matching” and ensures the match is a good fit for both participants.
The advice Trey has for fellow employees or people who may be interested in becoming involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters?
“If you’re thinking about it, just start the process,” Trey explained. “The time commitment is flexible and easy. Any small amount of value you can add into a life is all that matters.”
Trey’s example shows the true value of mentorship in a workplace and beyond. Beyond a formal mentoring program, like Bigs in Business, mentoring can become part of an organization or an individual’s identity. It’s a way to recognize those who have shown you the way, and to pass it on. Another destination on the roadmap of life, that is always worth visiting.
If you, or someone you know, would like more information about being a Big please visit ThinkBigToday.org/volunteer.