Father’s Day Feature: Tony Eng
Father’s Day Feature: Tony Eng
Growing up in New York with immigrant parents, Tony Eng learned to be independent at a young age. His family lived modestly with little funds available for extracurriculars, which were scarce at that time anyway. He was a latch-key kid – going straight home right after school to do his homework and help start dinner was his usual routine. His parents were able to invest in weekly piano lessons from a neighborhood music teacher, who became one of his indirect childhood mentors. Today, the single father of two daughters, ages 7 and 8, is amazed at all the various youth programs and offerings available that give his children access to opportunities he never had. The Cambridge resident understands the importance of having caring adult mentors in children’s lives and has welcomed into his family mentor Leah, a volunteer Big through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts (BBBSEM).
Eng’s 8-year-old Cori is enrolled in BBBSEM’s signature community-based program, for which adult mentors, referred to as Bigs, are paired with youth and meet for two to three hours, a couple of times a month for outings of their choice. The leading one-to-one youth mentoring program in Massachusetts helps youth to fulfill their fullest potential while giving their guardians, like Eng, the reassurance that others have their children’s backs. With a positive and consistent adult providing guidance and support, a child is more likely to make healthy choices, thrive socially and emotionally, and have stronger relationships with peers and other adults.
“Cori loves hanging out with her Big,” says Eng, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science for his alma mater, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Leah provides something that I can’t give to Cori. My daughter needs that female role model in her life that she trusts enough to ask questions about growing up. At the most basic level, Cori knows that her Big will listen and be nonjudgmental. Sometimes it’s easier for her to talk with someone who isn’t ‘Dad.’”
“They like to bake, swim, play tag, and laugh together,” says Eng. “I think it’s great that Cori invited her Big to her birthday party and even thought to ask her along when she got her ears pierced. She’s grown quite a bit, becoming a little more thoughtful and considerate and responsible since being matched with her mentor.”
Eng was briefly a Big himself when he was finishing graduate school. His experience with his Little influenced Eng to enroll his daughter in the program when she turned 7, the age required to participate. Now, Rylee, Cori’s younger sister, wants her own Big and is in the process of being matched. Tony looks at the program as a nice way to complement his fathering.
With research and proven outcomes at its core, BBBSEM creates Big-Little matches based on shared interests, geography, and personality and serves as a consistent resource for Bigs, Littles, and their families. The organization fosters connections between communities and community partners, helping to address larger social issues, such as race and education gaps.
“Our programs are made to inspire and transform families,” says BBBSEM President & CEO Mark O’Donnell, who walks his talk as a two-time former Big Brother. “Tony is an exceptional guardian, like so many in our program. By matching role models with youth, our community-based program is designed to help children succeed with caring adults in their corners allowing guardians to focus on everything else, like their jobs, time with other children, self-care, and more.”
Check out an article about Tony and his daughters on Patch here!