Opinion: Investing in the Bronx’s next generation

A call for recruits to mentor the borough’s youth from Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City

Alicia Guevara is the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sister of New York City.

Alicia Guevara is the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sister of New York City. Courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City

The road to success isn’t easily traveled alone. Most successful people attribute their achievements to the guidance and mentorship they received from others along the way. For young people, access to mentorship is even more crucial when only one in three youth nationwide has access to a mentor, according to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. 

Mentorship is imperative to youth development, and positively affects young people now and later in life. As a young woman growing up on Fordham Road in the Bronx, I had many mentors, role models and positive figures who played a crucial role in helping me accomplish my goals. These individuals provided me with visible and positive examples to look up to, and I can truly say that their guidance and support were pivotal in shaping my life.

My first-hand experience of mentorship led me to dedicate my career in service to young people. Serving within youth-serving organizations and programs inevitably led me to Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City

Young people are not just the promise of our society, they are its future. Therefore, it is critical that we pour into them as much as we can and, in turn, be receptive to their voice and value. One of the ways we can do this is by providing them with compassionate adult mentors, who are a consistent presence in their lives and support them in setting and achieving goals that help them reach their full potential. 

We want to make sure that youth from all over the city are being served, and there is much more we can do for Bronx youth. Right now, we can only match 10% to 15% of our 700  prospective mentees, also known as “Littles,” due to a lack of available mentors from the borough. In order for us to make a more substantial impact, we need to recruit more Bronx-based mentors, commonly referred to as “Bigs.”  

To generate more volunteer mentors for the young people of my home borough, we’ve launched the Be Bronx Be Big Initiative, a campaign focused on identifying and securing more Bronx-based Bigs to pair with Bronx-based Littles. Through these mentorship matches, Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City creates new relationships, connections and champions that foster community engagement, development, and future generations of leaders. Over the next two years, we aim to recruit over 100 Bronx-based mentors and create 65 new matches annually.

The impact that our mentorship program has on youth speaks for itself: In 2023, 98% of high school senior Littles who participated in our programming graduated from high school, compared to the 83.7% citywide graduation rate.

The Bronx is home to some of the most successful and influential people in the world: from the late Colin Powell to Kerry Washington, Jennifer Lopez to Cardi B. The Bronx is my home, and it’s where the next generation of great leaders will come from. Bronx Bigs are there - It’s up to us to find them and allow them to help Bronx Littles achieve the full potential they deserve.  

Alicia Guevara is the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sister of New York City.

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