Newton-based Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters is known for its one-to-one mentoring programs, which serve children from over 90 towns. But the 96-year-old organization, one of the pioneers in the Big Brother Big Sister movement nationally, makes an impact that, very often, extends long past the conclusion of the formal mentor/mentee match.
For one area college student, his two successful mentoring-friendships are compelling him to pay it forward as an adult.
Jake’s mother first contacted JBBBS when he was 7. A single parent by choice, she adopted Jake—her only child—when he was a baby. Over the years, he was matched to Big Brothers with whom he remains in contact years after his formal match relationships came to a close. Today, Jake is attending a local college on a merit-based scholarship from JBBBS.
“Growing up with a gay mom, I never really had a father figure or significant male role model,” says Jake. “My mother thought it would be a good idea for me to participate in Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters and have a guy in my life.” With his first Big Brother, Nathan, Jake enjoyed watching and playing sports and catching up over lunch. At first, he says: “I didn’t know how to talk to another guy. When the match ended—Nathan relocated to Chicago for work—it was weird to be without him. I was 10. I wasn’t thinking then about how much he impacted my life, but he did. We were more than just ‘brothers’ on paper.” Jake stuck with the program.
Jake’s second match, with Chris, was important to him, too. “I was older then,” he says. “We talked about personal things—and sports! My mom knows very little about sports.” As a teenager, he says, Chris helped him work through his fear of failure and reiterated that practice makes better. “He’d come to my games sometimes and help my mom make sense of the plays,” he says. The skills Chris taught him on the court he applies today to his studies, powering through increasingly tough coursework at college. “His work took him out of state, too, but sometimes when he’s back in town, Chris and I grab dinner and catch up,” he adds. Each year, Jake says, he looks forward to slipping a holiday card in the mail for Chris and his family.
For his part, Chris says he looks forward to those cards and to seeing what Jake’s future has in store for him.
Jake is pursuing a degree in education. He’s actively involved in volunteer pursuits of his own. “Paying it forward,” he says. “Maybe even someday as a Big Brother.”
Children enrolled in Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters’ programs are 6-18, Jewish and non-Jewish, from a variety of economic backgrounds and life circumstances. Each could benefit from an additional adult role model. Volunteers are as diverse as the children and families JBBBS serves. For more information, visit jbbbs.org.
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