Serving Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Pasco, Citrus, Hernando and Sumter counties.

 

National Mentoring Month Success Stories

One of the best aspects of working for Big Brothers Big Sisters is hearing the stories. We get calls from former Littles who share how their lives would be a lot different, if it weren't for their mentor. Parents will tell you how the program has impacted their own lives. And Bigs who signed up for the program wanting to give back, say they ended up getting even more in return. The stories are inspiring and that's why we work so hard to keep these amazing relationships together. Long after the program officially 'ends', these relationships last a lifetime. Visit  this page for daily mentoring success stories throughout January, and check out our YouTube page for videos.

 


Jessica & Nahkya

 

At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, we are lucky enough to sometimes see the long-lasting impact that a positive role model can have on a child over time. Our volunteers have committed either to a period of 12 months or 15 months to serve as a mentor for a child, but many of them find that the bond that have formed with the child that they paired with goes on to last for several years. One great example of a match that has created an incredibly strong bond that has withstood the years is Big Sister Jessica Cummings and Little Sister Nahkya.

Jessica and Nahkya will celebrate their six year match anniversary in January 2017. Throughout their match, Jessica has been a consistent and positive role model for Nahkya to look up to, and has been there for her as Nahkya has gone through the different phases of growing up. Jessica has always encouraged Nahkya to do well academically and to maintain good behavior in school. However, in addition to encouraging Nahkya to do well in school, Jessica has also been a source of support when Nahkya’s family went through tough times as well, when a family member passed away. In Nahkya’s own words, her favorite thing about spending time with Jessica is “getting to talk with her”, and has also shared that she is thankful for her—just as we are thankful for all of great mentors!

Beth & Ja'Lois

 

Big Sister Beth and Little Sister Ja’Lois were matched in June 2014. At that time, Ja’Lois was struggling with behavior at school, having been suspended a few times relating to her inability to control her anger. Her grandmother wanted a Big Sister for Ja'Lois so that she could see that there are other options out there, and for her to have someone to look up to. Beth stepped right in, becoming Ja’Lois’ greatest supporter, cheerleader, friend and advocate. Beth encouraged Ja’Lois and held her accountable for her actions, all while trying to show her that there are better ways for her to control her anger and teaching her to accept responsibility for her own actions. Over the years that they have been matched, Ja’Lois has taken a greater interested in school and is continuing to work on turning her behavior around. Ja’Lois tells her Match Support Specialist specialist that she is really grateful to have Beth there to support and encourage her and she is very happy that they are together.

Tom & Arnold

 

Little Brother Aaron is in the aerospace program at Clearwater High School, and would like a career as an airport director. Through the recently launched Big Brothers Big Sisters School-to-Work program, Aaron was matched with Big Brother Tom, the St Pete-Clearwater Airport Director. During their time together, Tom shows Aaron different areas of the airport, and between visits they discuss a variety of business and administrative plans for the airport and the different challenges an Airport Director faces. Aaron can’t wait to go on each visit, and Tom has been inspired by Aaron’s passion for aviation.

Sydney & Becca

 

Big Sister Sydney and Little Sister Becca were introduced in 2008. From their first meeting, Becca’s excitement was apparent. The two built their friendship by visiting local parks, browsing WalMart, going out to eat, bowling and seeing movies. After almost 9 years, they still meet regularly. Sydney has consistently been someone Becca can count on and look up to. Sydney was there for Becca when she went to her first overnight camp and when she entered high school. When Becca’s grandfather passed away, Sydney was the first person Becca called. Sydney has seen Becca mature a lot in 9 years. Sydney shared that she is “grateful Becca ended up {matched} with me. I feel fortunate to share our friendship and to be a great influence in her life.” When asked to share her favorite memory of their friendship, Becca said it would have to be the day they were introduced, because “that was the day it all started.” She said, “It was a great day and I won’t ever forget it.” Sydney’s dedication to Becca and their friendship has impacted them both and is sure to last a lifetime.

Ben & Tavaris

 

Lieutenant Ben McBride is in his 31st year with the Clearwater Police Department, currently serving as the Assistant Division Commander in the Criminal Investigations Unit. Not only is he working hard to make our society better on the streets, he has been serving our community as a Big Brother since 2003. Ben is now matched with his new Little Brother Tavaris as part of our school-based program at Sandy Lane Elementary. Ben says he loves the school-based program because he “can interact with the teachers and school administration to be able to help his Little Brother in his school environment.” Ben comes to the school once a week for an hour to spend time with Tavaris, playing games, doing school work and just talking about life. He has been such a wonderful asset to the program, and we are thrilled he has chosen to be part of our organization and build positive relationships with the young men in our community.

Sabine & Janai

 

Big Sister Sabine and Little Sister Janai have been matched for nearly 2 years, and their relationship is going great. Janai was shy at first, but a common love of horses helped the match start to flourish. Sabine took Janai to her barn, where they washed, fed and rode the horses. They were new experiences for Janai, but she learned quickly, became more self-confident and now loves to help care for the horses. When it got hot outside in the summer, they moved indoors and developed a mutual love for baking. Janai struggled with reading, so Sabine would have her write down and read the recipes, which helped Janai expand her vocabulary and reading skills. They also planted a garden at Sabine’s house together and now watch their carrots and tomatoes flourish. Janai’s mom talks about how much Janai has learned about baking, and how good she has gotten at it. Janai often comes home from her time with Sabine and starts looking for new recipes to try out. Janai’s passion for baking even has her considering a baking career in the future. Sabine and Janai are a wonderful match because Sabine is constantly praising her Little Sister and gives her opportunities she wouldn’t otherwise experience.

RJ & Cory

 

In 2012, after waiting almost two years, Little Brother Cory was beyond excited to finally be meeting his Big Brother, RJ. Cory’s mom said she had a good feeling about the budding friendship from the beginning, describing it as the “perfect” match. When asked how he views the friendship now compared to when they first met, RJ explained that he thought he’d meet a Little, get together a couple times per month for a year or so, then go their separate ways. RJ never imagined that Cory would become a true friend that who would fit so naturally into his life.

Their outings began as many typically do: bowling, swimming, going out to eat, or seeing movies. But through the years, they’ve expanded to other activities. RJ took Cory to his first musical, and he was so pleasantly surprised by the experience that Cory is now in the band at his high school. He and RJ have their sights set on Cory’s future, even attending several college sporting events just to check out the band. Cory recently entered his junior year, so they have started talking about Cory’s life after high school. Together they’ve set goals -- like researching college admission requirements, and visiting college campuses. Cory isn’t sure exactly what he wanted to do after graduation but whatever Cory decides, he knows that RJ will be by his side to support him.

Shandra & Ver'Shayia

 

Big Sister Shandra and Little Sister Ver’Shayia have had a great bond from the start. Ver’Shayia’s mom wanted someone that could be there as a role model for her and help encourage her to have more confidence. Shandra has been a great friend to Ver’Shayia and has shared lots of new experiences with her. They enjoy going on nature walks together, and Shandra even taught Ver’Shayia how to make her favorite dessert - chocolate covered strawberries! Ver’Shayia’s mom said that in the time that they have been matched she has seen Ver’Shayia become less anxious, learn how to be more expressive with her feelings and not bottle everything up -- and she is really grateful to Shandra for that!

Christie & Haylee

 

Little Sister Haylee and her Big Sister Christie seem as if they have known each other for years, despite being matched for only 15 months. They bonded very quickly and on one of their very first outings, Haylee asked Christie if they could be friends forever. They enjoy attending BBBS match events, studying together, and recently trying new foods. Haylee admits to be a picky eater, but on a recent outing to the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs, was open to trying lamb (which she liked!). Christie recently graduated from college and made it a point to lead by example about the importance of a good education. Christie has taken Haylee to the library on several occasions so that they could study and work on assignments together. Christie said that sometimes as a Big you are unsure of the impact that you are having on your Little, but has recently noticed that Haylee has “improved so much.” Haylee was struggling with her writing last year but this year has become a better writer and even made honor roll! Their Match Support Specialist has seen first-hand what an incredible impact the match has had on Haylee and her confidence.

Suzi & David

 

Big Sister Suzi and Little Brother David have been matched since 2011. David is a gifted athlete and excels at baseball, something that he and Suzi have bonded over. They enjoy attending sporting events together, and during David’s baseball season, Suzi is often in the bleachers cheering him on. Off the field, Suzi is also very supportive of David and talks to him about grades, school, and teachers. In 8th grade, David decided to try his hand at something new and tried out for the school play. He landed the role of the emporer in the school’s production of Mulan and Suzi was in the audience with, she says, “my heart beating out of my chest.” David is now a freshman and is doing well academically and playing on his school’s JV baseball team. Suzi talks about how proud she is of David. David and his family speak very highly of Suzi also and David’s face lights up when he talks about his Big Sister. David’s grandmother often tells their Match Support Specialist how thankful she is that David has Suzi and that they could not have asked for a better Big.

Michael & Yonjer

 

Big Brother Michael Glenn and Little Brother Yonjer have been matched for 10 months as part of our School-to-Work program at the Nielsen Media offices in Oldsmar. They enjoy talking sports together. When they first met, Yonjer told Michael about his dislike for reading and the additional reading class that he had to take. Michael found some sports articles and websites that they could both read and discuss when they were together, growing Yonjer’s enjoyment of reading. Yonjer was especially proud to tell Michael when he passed his reading test and no longer needed to be in that additional class!

Big Couple Mitch and Whitney, and Little Brother Cody

 

This letter was written to Big Brothers Big Sisters by Little Brother Cody about his Big Couple, Mitch and Whitney Shenkman:

I want to tell you how much I love my Big Couple, Mitch and Whitney Shenkman. They are the best Bigs any boy could ever have. I am so happy they came into my life and my family’s life when I was 7 years old. I have learned so much and have had so much fun with them. Mitch has taught me so many things like fishing, boating and even some cooking -- like how to make burgers and BLTs. When I need help with my math or my Bible quiz he is always there to help me. If I just want to talk to someone, they both are always there to listen and help me with a problem. I really feel that my life is much better than some of the other kids I know because of them. When my dad was in the hospital Mitch told me that everything would be okay, and he was right. We have done many things together and he even helped me get into Llittle League baseball, and always was at my games. We do a lot of volunteering together and it makes me feel good that we are helping other kids to have a better life. Mitch and Whitney are a part of my family. We have even put their name on our family wall. They are very special people to all of us. I know that someday I will be too old for a big couple but they will always be in my life. I love them both so much. Thank you so much for matching us 8 years ago.

Barbara & Anais

 

Big Sister Barbara and Little Sister Anais have been together for 15 months. Anais was adopted by her aunt several years ago out of an abusive family. Because of all she has endured at such a young age, she was very quiet and kept to herself. Barbara has been the perfect, patient Big Sister for Anais. Barbara quickly saw artistic talent in Anais and has intentionally invested in those skills. Barbara has taken her to museums, to plays, to meet artists, etc. Though Anais is still rather quiet on their time together, Barbara has seen vast improvements in her confidence. Barbara has also been helping Anais get on level with reading (she never attended school before living with her aunt and was behind) and Anais has found a love for the Judie B. Jones books. For the first time ever, she even chooses to read on her own. Her Match Support Specialist has also noticed a difference in Anais, writing, “She laughs more and seems much more comfortable than she did when I first met her.

Tori & Tomara

 

Big Sister Victoria (Tori) and Little Sister Tomara have been matched for almost a year. Tomara and Tori like to spend their time go to the library, and getting together on weekends going to BBBS events or doing other fun things on their own. Tori said, When her grades are good enough we go to the roller skating rink on discount days instead of going to the library. Tori recently shared with her Match Support Specialist that Tomara’s grades have greatly improved in school. Going from D’s and F’s, to A’s and B’s! Tori said, Tomara's favorite thing about our match is that I'm not just like a mom to her, I'm a "big sissy" that is always there for her. My favorite part about our match is seeing the little things, like when she helps a stranger, finishes her homework on time, and when she sees me come to pick her up from after school care and has the biggest smile on her face.

Rob & Seth

 

Big Brother Rob Van Tassel and His Little Brother Seth have been matched since May of 2008. After his father left in 2006, Seth sometimes had difficulty getting along with other children, and struggled in school academically and socially. But since Rob and Seth have been together, Seth’s grades and behavior have changed. Seth’s mom says that whenever there is an issue she knows all she has to do is call Rob and he will have a “chat” with Seth. Typically, his behavior immediately improves. As sometimes do, this one started slow, and Rob wondered after the first year if he was making an impact. But assured by his Match Support Specialist that Seth valued their time together, Rob stuck it out. Now, eight years later, Rob has gotten more involved as co-chairman of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Pinellas Leadership Council, and early last year he and Seth were named the Big Brother and Little Brother of the Year for the entire state of Florida.

Madalyn & Lizzet

 

Madalyn and Lizzet have been together for over 6 years. When they first met, Lizzet was incredibly shy -- to the point that she would have mild panic attacks over presenting at school or talking to strangers. Madalyn was incredibly understanding of this and endured many outings where she was the only one talking. Now, Madalyn says that Lizzet barely stops talking when they’re together. It took about two years, Madalyn said, for Lizzet to become that outgoing, but Madalyn was patient and determined to create a space for Lizzet to feel comfortable with her own thoughts and opinions and be able to share them. Many Bigs get discouraged after a year or two of spending time with a Little who remains quiet, but Madalyn was never frustrated by this and stuck with Lizzet. Madalyn said that she knows she and Lizzet are going to be friends forever and she is very glad that she and Lizzet were matched.

Cindy & Lula

 

Big Sister Cindy and Little Sister Lula were matched on November 29, 2010, and are embarking on their seventh year together as a BBBS team. When they met, Lula was struggling in 3rd grade and faced a lot of challenges with her family, but Lula has the power of resilience and positive attitude within her and soon these two were unstoppable as a team. Their first outing was making Christmas decorations for all of Lula's family and they soon discovered their mutual love for glitter. Flash forward six years later and Lula is in high school and has been both on Principal's List and Honor Roll consecutively each semester for the last four years! Throughout their years together, Lula and Cindy have taken so many adventures including the BBBS bashes, swimming, attending museums, going to Busch Gardens, Rays Baseball games, attended football games featuring her beloved Miami Dolphins, they are avid movie fans (especially cartoons and Pixar 3-D films), and even attending a WWE Wrestling event together! It's more than just doing things together, it is being together, having talks about the everyday challenges of life. The dialogue has changed from glitter to books, politics, and world events and they have come a long way together from that first introduction visit. Lula has blossomed into an amazing, thoughtful, intelligent, caring young woman who will take on the world in the years to come! Cindy said, “Something that has always brought a tear to my eye and still tugs at my heart was something that happened a couple of months after we were matched....Lula placed her little hand on mine and looked me in the eye and said..."we are like two angels who were matched in heaven". Nothing ever truer was spoken.”