Jua is nine years-old, and is being raised by his grandmother, Carolyn, who describes Jua as outgoing and very social. Because Jua does not have a male role model in his life, Carolyn decided to enroll him in Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Meanwhile, Mark was looking for a way to make a difference in the life of a child in his community. “After coaching basketball and football, I felt as though I could make more of an impact if I just concentrated on one person,” says Mark. “I also feel like there is a lot of hate going around and I think it is important to help out those who may need it, especially children.” Growing up, Mark was grateful to have the guidance of his family, teachers and coaches, and when he found out he was going to be matched with Jua as a Little Brother in July 2017, Mark was thrilled.
Since they first met, Jua and Mark have developed a close bond and enjoy playing basketball, going to sporting events, eating, and making frequent trips to Taco Bell. Jua says that he has learned a lot from Mark, including many new basketball skills. “Mark teaches me how to be a better person and to play fair,” says Jua. Carolyn has also seen the positive effects of Mark’s influence, and says that since being matched with a Big Brother, Jua’s behavior in school has greatly improved.
The feeling is definitely mutual, as Mark says that Jua has also made an impact on his life. “I really enjoy his energy and how outgoing he is,” says Mark. “I appreciate how lively and joyful Jua is. I think it is incredible how amazing of a kid he is, with everything he’s been through.” Mark’s wish for Jua’s future is that he continues to enjoy just being a kid, and that he really can have as much fun as possible. The two have many more adventures ahead, and both Jua and Mark are grateful to have one another. “Big Brothers Big Sisters does a really great job matching people up, like they did for me,” says Mark. “If you go into the situation without expectations and with a selfless attitude, you’ll find out that you’re actually coming away with even more than what you put into it.”