Big Brother Tom has been Nestor’s Big Brother for the last nine years, and what a fulfilling journey it’s been.
“Let me tell you a little about our journey,” Tom says, “It was the start of something big.”
The two have worked on maintaining school walking trails. They’ve built bird houses, the first time Nestor used a hammer and worked with his hands. They’ve gone fishing, water skiing, hiking, swimming, and boating.
“Though I did not teach Nestor how to drive a car, I was able to teach him how to drive a boat!” Tom says.
Tom also helped Nestor deal with racism.
“All my life, I’ve looked around and found myself in a sea of white faces, in my classes in my schools and in my community,” Nestor says. “Being a different skin tone has made it challenging to do things.Growing up, I did not have a father or a male mentor in my life. Tom had a similar childhood.
“Tom has taught me, ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ which he said means to listen to his advice because he has lived through some of the same experiences as me.”
When Tom and Nestor were first matched in the school-based mentoring program at Upward Elementary, Tom worked at Selee Corporation, a great supporter of the BBBS program in Henderson County that has allowed Tom and many other employees to donate an hour of their work week to mentor at the school (Selee is also a big sponsor of Bowl For Kids’ Sake, Big Brothers Big Sisters big fundraiser, every year).
“I realized my impact on Nestor when he went from a shy third-grader to when he told me that he wanted to be class president of his sophomore class. We worked together on his speech, and he presented it in front of the student body. He won! He was also elected class president as a junior, and now he’s the student body president of his high school.”
“Without Tom I would not have gained the confidence to get where I am today,” Nestor says. “When I met Tom, I was very angry. I was struggling in school. I did not talk to my classmates, did not have friends. Tom helped me to come out of my shell and discover who I am as a person. He joked with me and took my mind off of the hard stuff. Mostly he has just been there for me when I need someone to talk to and someone to listen.”
“Nestor has had a big impact on me,” Tom says. “He gives me back as much, if not more, than I give him. It’s been great to watch him go from not being able to read or organize himself to a smart, confident and responsible young man. I’m honored to have watched that transformation. How great is that?”
Tom and Nestor will proudly celebrate Nestor’s high school graduation in June. He plans to attend Mars Hill College in the fall.
Big Sister Gail
Gail and her husband moved to Asheville 17 years ago because of a job with Eaton Corporation, a company that is committed to making its community a better place. Gail chose to be a part of BBBS’s in-school program and has worked with several students during her 17 years of volunteering. Most Littles moved away over the years, which resulted in the matches ending. But Gail has had “the great pleasure,” she says, of mentoring Dev’eon, now 18, since her Little Sister was in the third grade (they long ago moved into BBBS’ community-based program).
“Dev’eon particularly loves her exposure to the arts through the Flat Rock Playhouse, an experience she feels she would never have had without the support of BBBS,” Gail says. They also cook together and take walks and hikes at the N.C. Arboretum and local and federal parks.
Dev’eon has always been “very honest,” Gail says, with her experiences at school, not all of them good, and has been open to Gail’s thoughts on how to avoid confrontations. The challenges she has experienced have resulted in significant changes in Dev’eon’s life, such that she is now working on her GED.
“Gail is special,” Dev’eon says, “because she has always believed in me and told me that I can do anything I want to with my life. Gail has never gave up on me. She has always been kind to me. I can’t remember her ever getting angry. I know that Gail loves me and accepts me and wants the best for me.
“I guess the most important thing that I’ve learned from Gail is to believe in myself and to never give up, even when you feel like it. I’ve gotten in trouble, I have some problems controlling myself and getting too mad. But I know that I can start fresh and try again.”
The limited time Big Sisters and Brothers spend with their Littles is often overwhelmed by the influences Littles experience during the rest of their lives. But despite the challenges Dev’eon has faced, Gail intends to keep her in her life.
Even though Dev’eon is 18 now and will not officially be a “Little” in the program much longer, Gail and Dev’eon plan to remain loyal friends.
“I realize more than ever that I must do my best to remain in this relationship,” Gail says, “in order to enable Dev’eon to see, feel and know that when the going gets tough, she can count on my gentle and sometimes tough love and guidance.”