Organizations have the power to enable life-changing mentoring relationships to ignite the power and potential of young people, and Big Brothers Big Sisters is doing just that. Commonly known as the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, one mentor (Big) and one mentee (Little) spend time together building a friendship based on trust, support, common interests, and fun!
Due to the hardship and trauma that youth are facing due to the pandemic this year, connection through Big Brothers Big Sisters has special importance. Tracy Lockhart, Team Lead for Strathcona County, notes, “relationships are more important than ever as youth are challenged with anxiety, isolation, learning loss and mental health.” Research shows that youth connecting with a mentor have less anxiety and mental health challenges during the pandemic.
This September, communities across Canada will be celebrating Big Brothers Big Sisters Month and all the ways that volunteers mentor and support youth. To celebrate this month, the Social Action connected with Strathcona County’s Big Brothers Big Sisters agency and was able to interview Riley Penner, age 24 (Big) and Mason Nurse, age 13, (Little) to hear about their experience with the program.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your experience with Big Brothers Big Sisters?
Riley: I've always wanted to do something with volunteering and giving back to the community. From what I know, there's not a lot of male mentors in the program, and that’s so important. Every young boy needs to have a role model to connect with. I met Mason for the first time and we both clicked right away and we were both into the same things like cars and video games. It's worked out really well! We've become close and we've both learned a lot from each other. I never thought I'd be a mentor but now that I am, I couldn't imagine not being one.
Mason: The program has really helped me and it's really fun to talk to someone that truly gets me and understands me. I've been involved for about a year and it’s great to spend time with Riley. We explore new things together; we pretty much do everything and anything. We also talk about lots of stuff, usually about life and anything we feel like talking about.
Q: What's a fun memory you have shared together?
Riley: We've had a lot of good times! Recently we went to Castrol Raceway race track to see some drag racing. I'm passionate about cars and I thought it would be cool for him to see something like that. When we went, he was so ecstatic about it and we ended up having such a great time. We've also had some really cool bonding moments like kayaking and fishing.
Mason: We went fishing and I caught my first fish! We've also gone go carting and lots of other stuff. Riley and I also went to the drag race to see some really nice cars drive down the track. It was exciting and we had fun hanging out!
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Strathcona County has volunteer opportunities from all walks of life, from all ages, with all interests for both adults and teens. You’re more inspirational than you think!