Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati
I had just come across a paragraph I had written awhile back for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati. It was about the importance of mentoring. Reading it inspired me to share some thoughts.
To Big Brothers Big Sisters…
All of us, no matter what our upbringing, will face obstacles and detours on our journey through life. Having a positive role model – a mentor – who we can count on to help guide us, teach us and inspire us is a true gift that has the rippling power to uplift our entire life. The power of an adult who cares to an impressionable young person is so huge. It is the greatest feeling to know you have made a positive impact on a child. I have been the mentor and the mentee. Those relationships will be ones I will always treasure. They have taught me about empathy and integrity. They have made me a better, stronger person. Thank you to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati for fulfilling such a vital need in our community.
Mentors change lives
So I got to thinking about the people who I have been lucky enough to have crossed paths with, people who I consider my friends, role models and mentors. There have been many, each impacting my life in a different way.
There is Bill Mefford, who took me under his wings as a young professional, had the confidence in me to let me learn by doing on amazing projects, and was always available to share his knowledge when I needed it. Bobbi Harrison, one of the most creative people I have ever met, is someone I can always count on to bring out my smile. Just being in the same room with him inspires me to think in ways I hadn’t considered before. Toni Miles, Peg Gutsell and Sandy Kerlin were three clients turned friends whose appreciation for my strengths gave me wings. Friend Dianne Wente has never let me quit and always pushed me to see my potential. Mike Shikashio met me for the first time at an Association of Professional Dog Trainers conference and continued to find me throughout the weekend to ask if I was going to pursue dog training. Since then, he has never once waned in encouraging me and pointing out my strengths. Mike has been a rock to me, always finding time no matter how busy he is (and believe me – as a father, husband, successful dog trainer and president of the International Association of Behavior Animal Consultants, he IS busy) to be my sounding board, providing information, and offering advice. Other dog training friends Barb Gadola and Sheri Boone have also been there for me. Carolyn Dickerson has reminded me about inner strength and inspires me to be a better person. And of course my parents who taught me about kindness, love, standing up for what I believe it, and so much more.
I know I am missing out on so many who have played a role in my being the person that I am today. I am grateful to each and every one of them. And I strive to pay that forward by using my gifts to empower others.
My challenge to you is this – take a moment to reflect on those who have been a positive influence on your life and how their presence has impacted you. Be grateful. Pay it forward by being that positive influence in someone else’s life.
On National Mentoring Day, I want to share this beautiful story from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati.
Anthony Howard thanked his mentor-his Big Brother-in the perfect way. He became a Big Brother himself. Anthony says:
When my mother first signed me up for the program I didn’t think much of it. But today I truly believe that my mother putting me in the program has put me where I am today. My biological brother and I shared a Big Brother, David Spaccarelli, and he impacted both of our lives tremendously. My brother and I lacked a father figure or other male figure in our life to look up to and David became and still is that guy. I started with the program at age 13 and today I am 23, and I still speak to my Big Brother on a regular basis. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas we get together at his parents’ house for dinner. David has helped me during high school and college, and also helped get me the job I have today.
About a month ago, I decided to start giving back to the program. I now have a Little Brother by the name of Brien. We both share an interest in sports and play basketball and football together. Brien also likes to play video games so our next adventure will be at an arcade center where you can play all the games you want for an hour straight! I am really enjoying being a Big Brother and can already see the impact I am making on this young man’s life.
I would like to say to people who are thinking about joining the program as a “Big” to do it. You don’t know how much you can impact someone’s life ,whether you’re just throwing a football in the backyard with your Little, being that friend to go to lunch with, or just being that someone to talk to. I would like to give a big thank you to David as well as the Big Brother Big Sister program as they have both changed my life in a way that is challenging to express through words.
Guest Post from Nathan Knipper
I met my Big Brother Mike Hardig when I was 10 years old. My mom was a single parent and I was an only child, so she thought having a “Big Brother” would be a great thing for me. She was right, and Mike was a great Big Brother—I only wish I’d known that at the time.
Now that I’m an adult and can look back, Mike was the important male figure I needed in my life. At first, he was just the guy who would pick me up on weekend afternoons and take me to sporting events—most of them I had never experienced before. It was always a new adventure (honestly, I don’t know how he came up with the things he did!). Then, there started to be structure in my world–a world that had very little of it, even if that structure was only on the Saturday or Sunday we were together.
January is National Mentoring Month, and I’m sharing my experience of having a mentor as an example of why we all need to help kids in our community.
I am convinced today that without Mike’s guidance—and that structure—I would’ve made some poor choices in my teens. I didn’t always make the best choices, but they most certainly would have been worse. Mike was a successful salesman at the time and that allowed me to see I could make something of myself if I put my mind to it. He led by example. Other than Mike, the people giving me guidance were friends whose guidance could be problematic, because they didn’t know any better themselves.
Mike and I stopped getting together when I was about 14. I remember feeling I was too old to have a Big Brother, but know now I just didn’t appreciate what I had. I hope he’d be proud to know that I’ve been fortunate enough to continue down a career path similar to his, that I’ve been working at Total Quality Logistics for 14 years , and am now the Vice President of Sales,
Adults in the community must step up to help kids. When kids have a Big Brother or Big Sister, they gain a friend, a confidant, a partner to help guide them through some of the toughest times in those important early years.
If we can set them up for success, show them how do be successful, then they see they can achieve it. We all need help in life and mentoring a child pays dividends beyond measure.
I know my Big Brother still lives in Cincinnati, but I’ve been hesitant to contact him because I worry he believes I didn’t appreciate the time he spent with me, the lessons he taught me. So I’ll say this: Mike Hardig, I sincerely appreciate all the sacrifices you made to be my Big Brother. I only wish I’d been a better Little Brother, but believe it or not, you had a huge hand in my success in life after we went our separate ways. For that, I thank you. Your sacrifices made a lifelong impression.
For more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati, please visit their site: http://www.bigsforkids.org.
Note: this is a guest post written by Nora Cordrey
As young people around the Tri-State and across the nation prepare for the rite of passage known as high school graduation, take a moment to think about the ones who had to overcome incredible odds to get there. In many families, going to college is a given. Other teens have never known an adult who finished high school and chose to continue their education. To many, that sends a less than positive message about the value of education.
As a volunteer with Big Brother Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati, I’ve spent years mentoring Jamaysha. We met when she was 9—wide-eyed and full of spirit, but also a victim of a world she didn’t create. Her father died before she was born, she seldom sees her mother, her guardian passed away when Jamaysha was 14, and she’s been enrolled in five school districts because of constantly having to move.
Through it all, as her “Big Sister,” I have encouraged her to stay focused on her school and to take advantage of every opportunity. My husband and I learned of the Upward Bound program which assists first generation college-bound students with tutoring, enrichment activities and developing leadership skills. Once she was accepted into Upward Bound, Jamaysha committed to and has participated in the program for the last four years. This involvement, and her hard work, has helped prepare her for college. In the Fall, she will attend Cincinnati State, studying culinary arts.
My “Little Sister” is graduating from high school, one of the few members of her family to do so. She ranks 34th in a class of 220 with a grade point average of 3.13. She’s an inspiration. Not content to sit on the sidelines, and overcoming transportation issues, she found a way to participate in several extra-curricular activities and hold a job. She has learned the value and pleasure of giving back to the community and we have volunteered together at charity events. I believe Jamaysha will someday be an incredible mentor herself.
I am not Jamaysha’s only mentor and join teachers past and present, our Big Brothers Big Sisters case manager, the director of Upward Bound, Jamaysha’s family and others in congratulating her and all the other young people who are overcoming circumstances to find success.
As adults, we have a responsibility to the young people in our community. There are many more Tri-State children who need mentors, who need guides as they head into the future. The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati is to help children become successful in school and in life. Surely that’s what we all want and, surely, what all children deserve.
Consider becoming a mentor today.