High School Big Brother, Emmett, never imagined how big of a difference playing a game of checkers would make for his Little Brother, Charles. After two years of doing just that, Emmett has been named Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Big of the Year for 2020.
The first day Emmett met Charles, it didn’t go quite how he expected it to.
“I shook his hand, and he was kind of taken off guard by that,” Emmett explained. “He was very shy that first day.”
When Emmett connected with Charles the following week, his Little Brother surprised him while they played checkers.
“He has a lot more to say than what he lets on,” Emmett chuckled. “This is what we’ve been doing the past two years- playing checkers and just talking.”
When Emmett was Charles’ age, he had a mentor that didn’t work out. He knew he could be a better mentor and wanted to make sure his mentee had a better experience than he did. This is what inspired him to volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“I’ve always known about the High School Bigs program and thought it was really cool,” Emmett explained. “I had some friends who were a part of it. I really like spending time with students in lower grades and hearing their take on life.”
The High School Bigs program matches high school students with younger students at their nearby elementary schools to play games, help with schoolwork, and simply talk about the student’s day. They meet twice a month for 45 minutes to an hour after school. Bigs commit to mentoring their Little for at least two school years.
High School Bigs get the same support from Big Brothers Big Sisters staff that every Big gets. The Mentoring Team checks in regularly with both 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.
High School Bigs are also guided through the process of applying to be a Big, which includes an interview. They must also check in regularly with their Mentoring Relationship Specialist. These experiences help build the important skills they need when searching for or holding a job.
While the High School Bigs program will be going virtual in the coming school year, we know Littles and Bigs will continue to have rich experiences like Emmett and Charles did.
Emmett was chosen to be the Big of the Year because of his commitment to Charles and for how he has helped Charles break out of his shell. They met for an hour once a week for two school years. They liked to play checkers, throw a Frisbee when it was warmer outside, and just talk.
“I didn’t really do much, I just kind of talked to him and treated him like a human being, like an equal,” Emmett said. “I wasn’t here to boss him around, I wasn’t there to further my own agenda. I just wanted him to have a friend and to get out of it what he needed.”
“He likes to talk about school,” Emmett said. “For the first year it was mostly he was annoyed with school and the social aspects with it. I listened and offered my own experiences. I completely agree. I felt the same way in elementary school.”
Emmett said by his second year in the program, Charles had developed a new sense of confidence in school, but also had further ideas on how to make school…better?
“He really became an advocate for himself!” Emmett laughed. “He was saying things like, ‘I wish I could have some say about how my education is run.’ Or how he’d like to go into the NFL but if that didn’t work, he’d like to go into politics. This was after I started sharing my experiences about my AP Government classes with him. That was definitely a highlight during my second year of the program.”
Emmett has since graduated from Marshall High School and is in Basic Training for the Air Force Academy, where he plans on studying Aeronautical Engineering. Even though his match closed when he graduated, he still plans on being a part of Charles’ life.
“Whatever happens, we can talk through it,” Emmett explained. “I couldn’t imagine just disappearing. I really want to be there to support him whenever I can.”
If you’re thinking about becoming a mentor, Emmett said, “Big Brother Big Sisters is a wonderful program that gives you the opportunity to not only be a mentor but grow as a person yourself. Those who are a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters really grasp more than the average kid or average adult.”
You too can ignite a young person’s potential with just two hours twice a month as a Big Brother, Big Sister, or Big Couple. Learn more here.