Mentoring Real Life Stories: Interview with Big Brother Justin
Justin Strahan was a freshman at Boston College and new to the Boston area. He knew he loved volunteering with kids and thought the best way to make his college experience meaningful was to become a Big Brother. Two years into their match, Justin’s Little Brother, Jelani, has become the brother he never had. Read their story and Jelani’s family’s touching note to Justin below.
Describe you and your Little Brother.
My name is Justin Strahan and I am from Northern Virginia right outside of Washington D.C. I am entering my junior year at Boston College this fall. My little brother is Jelani Galvez and he is going to be in 6th grade this fall at Ottoson Middle School. We have been matched since November 2012!
What made you decide to volunteer to be a Big Brother? How did you find out about the program?
In high school, I volunteered at my local elementary school with a kindergarten teacher. I loved working with kids and helping out any way I could. Upon entering college I decided I wanted more of a one on one relationship where I could really get to know someone, which I wasn’t able to do in a classroom environment. When I saw the Big Brother table at the Boston College volunteer fair I knew immediately it was something I wanted to commit to and I signed up on the spot.
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Describe you and Jelani’s relationship. What are your favorite things to do together?
By far our favorite activity together is basketball. We play every time I come. It is a great way for us to bond and have fun at the West End House. However, we always try to supplement that with something different. For example, we play on the computer, go to the music center, explore what’s going on in the art room, etc. By trying new activities we are able to we learn a lot about each other. Another part of when we meet is how we always take the time to sit down and just talk. This really allows us to find out what is going on each other’s lives from school to friends and family. It is a great way for us to finish up the day.
What is your favorite memory so far?
My favorite memory is when Jelani and I were playing basketball and suddenly he picked up the ball. He told me to stop going easy on him and to try my hardest. I was surprised at first and asked him if he was sure to which he emphatically answered yes. I went on to beat him that game following his request. When I again asked if he was sure, Jelani said he wanted to get better at basketball. He realized the best way was if I pushed him to play harder by trying my hardest. This is my favorite memory because it made me realize how mature he was. When I was his age all I cared about was winning but he was focusing on the bigger picture.
How has your Little Brother, Jelani, influenced your life?
I grew up with a sister and I was new to the Boston area when I signed up to be a Big Brother at the beginning of the semester of my freshman year. Almost everything in my life was novel and different. Starting out as a Big was a completely new experience for me since I have never had a brother before. I set out hopeful of making a positive impact on his life. What I didn’t realize is how much of a positive impact he would have on mine. He made me really focus on what it meant to be a role model and feel more a part of the city of Boston. One specific way he influenced my life is he made me remember how important it is to learn from your past so you are better prepared for the future. This occurred to me when talking to him about what I was like and what I did when I was his age. I hadn’t thought about those memories for a long time and it was good to be able to share and reflect on them with Jelani.
What has been your favorite part of the Big Brother experience? Was it what you expected?
My favorite part of my Big Brothers experience is how much fun I have when I visit Jelani. I genuinely look forward to going to meet him at the West End House each week. No week is the same and every time it puts me in a great mood. Even after nearly two years of being matched we still learn something new about each other each time we are able to hang out. As we continue to have fun and learn even more about each other it makes our match stronger. Overall this is exactly what I hoped for and what I expected. The people at BBBSMB do a great job of educating and preparing you before you enter a match too. This is a fantastic
organization from which we were able to build upon.
What advice would you give to a new or potential Big Brother entering the program?
My biggest piece of advice would be to be very patient. You are matched with your Little and are called his Big Brother and he your Little Brother. Those titles carry a lot of weight and it can lead you to think that you are instantly now supposed to be as close as brothers are. This isn’t the case though and you shouldn’t worry if your first meetings are awkward. Your little brother at this point is almost a complete stranger and you are the same to him. Take time to talk and get to know him and even if he doesn’t open up at first he will. So all in all, be patient and give yourself and your little brother time to bond.