Brent White knew what it’s like to be a young boy missing his father. But he had no idea how much joy he’d find as a Big Brother.
Brent is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay’s 2012 Big Brother of the Year.
Eight-year-old Jaime had feelings he didn’t understand and couldn’t control. His mother had been incarcerated, his father deported. Though surrounded by a loving extended family, Jaime desperately needed a man in his life with the energy to play with him and the patience to listen. And that’s what he got from his Big Brother, Brent. Now in high school, Jaime still turns to Brent for guidance.
“Our conversations have shifted from sports heroes and dinosaurs to college plans and what it means to be a man in today's society,” says Brent.
Brent has taught Jaime to keep his cool in tough situations, be disciplined, work hard and especially, take pride in himself—because Brent takes incredible pride in Jaime.
“So much of Jaime’s life has mirrored my own that sometimes I feel this was all intended to happen,” says Brent. “Jaime now attends the same high school I went to and recently performed with the band on the same stage that I once tried to hit the same high notes on. It was easily one of the proudest moments of my life.”
Brent’s positive influence is clear enough. Jaime calls Brent his hero and his role model and hopes to help another child out when he grows up.
Neila lost her father at a young age and lives with her sister and their hard-working, single mom—a woman who literally had to worry about keeping a roof over her children’s head when their ceiling collapsed. She believes Neila’s Big Sister, Nicole McNally, is “heaven-sent” and considers Nicole part of the family.
Nicole is Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay’s 2012 Big Sister of the Year.
Nicole’s Little Sister Neila struggled through elementary school. But things got a lot better once Nicole entered the picture.
“Before we were matched, Neila failed a grade, struggled in reading, performed poorly on standardized tests, attended summer school, had behavioral issues, and was disinterested in school,” says Nicole. “Since being matched, I’m proud to say that she has been promoted each year, improved her grades with every report card, and now talks excitedly about school and the idea of one day going to college.”
Problems with peers can undermine even the smartest student, so Nicole took swift action to help Neila handle social challenges, chaperoning field trips and joining Neila in the cafeteria during lunch. By getting to know Neila’s classmates, Nicole was able to give her better advice and continues to be the person Neila turns to as she navigates middle school.
“I love her like she was my real sister,” says Neila.