One of the most pleasant and unexpected joys for our BBBST team is when we come across one of our former Bigs or Littles “out in the wild”. Whether it’s during a meeting with a community partner, a corporate sponsor, or a foundation – meeting one of our past mentors or mentees is a heart-warming surprise that reminds us why we work so hard to provide mentoring support to children and youth.
One of those former Littles is Marcus, with whom we were fortunate enough to reconnect recently. Marcus, now a podcaster and an Under Armour employee, joined the Big Brother Big Sister Program in his early teens.
How did your journey with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto and our Mentorship Program begin?
As a single parent, my mom knew the importance of having an older role model in my life. That’s what she saw in the program. She understood the value of having a Big would bring to my life. She realized that it would help me grow up and develop in the best way possible.
Although it’s been a few years since you were a BBBST Little, are there any memories from that experience that you still remember?
One thing I can never forget is the conversations that we had. And all the times in my life when my Big was such a rock for me.
The conversations we had were really something special. They were things that I needed to hear at a very young age. Conversations I needed, to make sure I was going on the right track. My Big helped me make sure that I was always going to be focused and understand exactly who I am and what I’m capable of doing; understand that I’m somebody special in the world.
He told me to chase my dreams. But even more importantly, he told me that I have the ability to turn those dreams into reality. I will never forget the positive reinforcement that I received. Hearing that I can achieve anything I put my mind towards.
Being a Little and having that experience, it’s something that I would definitely not change for anything in the world.
Especially at a young age, hearing those words of support and encouragement can play a huge role in shaping who you are and who you become.
If didn’t have my Big in my life, I don’t know where I would be today. Back then, knowing that he would always be my North Star and understanding that he would always push me in the right direction was one of the most important things for me.
Having my mom – who is my rock, my foundation, and my number one supporter – has always been great. But having someone else, a number two, was even better. Having that amazing support ultimately changed my life.
And at the same time, I know that the interactions we had also changed his life. It goes both ways because we were progressing forwards together.
At BBBST, we know that as important as the Big is for the Little and the Little is for the Big, there is a third party in this equation who is just as important – the family of the Little. You mentioned your mom earlier – how important was she in this relationship?
It’s funny you mention the word ‘family’ because over time my Big really became a member of my family. My mom, my Big, and I have always been on the same page, and we continue to be on the same page, in terms of the development and the growth in my life. So having her play an active part in the journey was absolutely amazing.
It’s been a few years since you and your Big have graduated from our Mentorship Program. How has your relationship changed since?
I honestly don’t think that it has changed. I think it has remained the same. I have found a lifelong partner and a lifelong friend through the program. Our relationship has become something truly special.
The program itself offered a great foundation. But once you graduate from the program, it really is up to us to maintain that connection and to build upon it, to have it flourish. I never thought that I’d have a Big Brother and that he then would become one of my best friends. But that’s the type of relationship it grew into.
Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for those who are looking to join BBBST’s Mentorship Program as a Little or Big?
From my own personal experience, I can say that the program saved my life. Especially speaking as a young Black individual – if I hadn’t joined BBBST and if I hadn’t had a Big Brother who helped me find the passion and purpose that I have today, I don’t where I would be.
I believe that there will always be a place for mentors in the world. There will always be a need for BBBST and this type of mentorship support in the world. Especially in today’s times, coming out of COVID and the quite charged social climate, this is the perfect outlet. In terms of steering young individuals in the right direction and helping them continue that way, services like BBBST need to be there.