June is the time to celebrate high school graduations. For many of our Little Brothers and Sisters it is the positive influence of their “Bigs” that have gotten them to this moment.
On June 6th, 2014 former Little Brother Joe graduated from High School and thanks to his Big Brother, Jack, he believes that his dreams can come true. The following letter from his mother, Deborah Belle, tells his story:
“I would like to update you on my son Joe who is now 18 and his Big Brother, Jack. From the beginning Jack took on Joe’s challenges – learning disabilities and anxiety – and had a vision of helping him to see and live up to his talents and abilities. By the time Jack graduated from Amherst College four years later Joe had learned to stand up, look someone in the eye and speak his opinion. Jack took a serious, withdrawn child and showed him how to laugh again.
Jack invited Joe to his graduation at Amherst College. Joe wrote of this experience in his college essay,
“Each graduate walked across the stage to accept a diploma, which looked an awful lot like a piece of paper, shook the hand of the president and then received…a cane! With rapt attention, I became fixated on the beautiful canes. “How do I get one, Mom?” I asked. Although it was silly to fixate on such a simple object, it fascinated me. The cane crystallized for me the concept that hard work and determination could have positive consequences. I did not understand the significance of the diplomas, but the cane, with its grandeur, signified to me the reward for diligence and hard work. Coming to these realizations I understood college and furthering my education would be worth it.”
However according to The New York Times Magazine’s recent article, “Am I Supposed to Be Here? Am I Good Enough?” Joe did not have much of a chance. Being from a low-income family he was most likely to “undermatch,” meaning that he wouldn’t attend–or even apply to–the most selective college that would accept him. The article also emphasizes that his chance of graduating from college is one in six. Joe’s situation represents those who receive free or reduced lunch, which is a third of the youth in our community.
Jack instinctively role modeled for Joe what was role modeled in his home, the type of homes where two in three students graduate from college. A home where planning for college by taking S.A.T. prep courses, practicing interviewing techniques, connecting with college graduates, getting extra tutoring, attending cultural events, and doing community service are commonplace. Most importantly, Jack addressed Joe’s doubts and fears, and fanned that flicker of a dream until it was a flame that ignited Joe’s constant attention to seek those opportunities that would qualify him for his first choice college…Princeton.
Six years after Jack’s Amherst College graduation, with a grin from ear to ear, Joe announced that he was accepted to Princeton. Arriving at the accepted students orientation, the Admissions officer’s eyes grew moist when Joe responded to her question, “Yes. I do still keep in contact with Jack.” However, it was after the Admissions officer referred to Joe’s essay and then an employee standing nearby said, “I was not even in that meeting and I heard about that essay,” that I considered why this essay touched them so deeply. I believe it is because of the deep connection that touched, and continues to touch, a life in such a positive manner.
I know that there are over 150 children on the list waiting for Big Brothers or Sisters, mentors who can be what Jack was to my son, Joe. I also know that the program desperately needs to raise the funds to be able to provide mentors for these children. What would happen if you donated to the program or reached out to become a Big? Quite possibly the children waiting will not be left dreaming; they will actually achieve their dreams. And that is a wonderful possibility to contemplate.”
Your contribution can help a child receive a mentor, much like Jack, to encourage a child that they are enough.