You have the opportunity to go the distance for the kids who receive one on one mentoring through Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sacramento Area and help us empower more Sacramento Area kids to achieve their possible futures.
The holiday season can be a wonderful opportunity for our BBBS mentors to connect and celebrate with their mentees, but differing beliefs, faiths and traditions can create challenges with mentoring during this unique time of year. In addition, the 2020 holiday season brings with it an entirely new set of complications due to COVID-19 restrictions and safety protocols. But we’ve got your back! Your mentees need your support more than ever, and we are here to help you navigate the holiday season. Read on for tips and strategies to help make this a magical and meaningful time for your mentees.
It’s important to take a slow approach to discussing the holidays with your mentee. For many, the holidays bring joy and excitement, but this is not true for all families. Especially this year, many families are struggling. People may be dealing with tremendous financial stress or grieving a loved one. Perhaps the adult in the household recently lost their job or had to find new living arrangements due to the pandemic. Be mindful and respectful of these experiences by letting your mentee lead your initial conversations about the holidays. Although we truly hope to be a bright spot for our mentees during this season, don’t assume that the holidays hold the same promise of magic and celebration for all families. This leads to tip #2 – Ask!
Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwannza, Mawlid el-Nabi, Solstice… All these celebrations occur during November or December! Many families are celebrating one or more of these holidays, and others do not observe any. Don’t assume, don’t guess – just ASK! Ask your mentee what their plans are for this month or if they are excited for their “winter break”. Start with generic questions about the holiday season and let them lead the conversation where they want it to go. You may learn something new! Some mentees may not want to talk about the holidays at all, and that is ok too. Asking and really listening to the response should give you a good idea of the right approach to take.
Gift giving is not mandatory, the best gift you can give is your time! Focus on helping your mentee be thankful, share with them how to give back, or give them ideas for gifts they can make for a loved one. Avoid giving expensive gifts or providing experiences that may emphasize the differences between your situations. Respect your mentee’s family and recognize that not all families are able to give expensive gifts (or any gifts) or have “traditional” holiday meals or celebrations.
If you do choose to give a gift, it is advised to either select a gift under $15, make a handmade gift, or do something where you can create a gift together. Focus on continuing to build your relationship with your mentee instead of getting wrapped up in the holiday rush. At the end of the day, you’re a role model and that’s what matters to your mentee.
Supporting your mentee through the holidays may look different this year. Depending on the individual circumstances, as a mentor you may be taking your mentee to an outdoor ice skating rink or viewing Christmas lights. Some other mentees simply need you to be a caring adult who continues to “show up”, listen and help them navigate a difficult time of year. It is important that whatever activity you choose, all mentors, mentees and families agree to COVID-19 safety precautions. Avoiding crowds, opting for outdoor activities and wearing masks can all help lower risk. Some pairs may opt for virtual meetings only. Remember, whatever you choose to do – just spending time together can create new, wonderful memories that will last many years to come.
This is a time to teach your mentee about giving back to others and the community! Volunteering is a great way to demonstrate the value and joy of helping others while creating lasting memories together. This year, with COVID restrictions, volunteer opportunities are somewhat limited but those that remain are perhaps even more meaningful and impactful this year.
Make and donate handmade holiday cards to elderly care homes
Make treats and/or toys for an animal shelter
Make and donate blankets to homeless shelters
Organize a food, clothing or toy drive
Participate in an adopt-a-soldier project / send letters to soldiers
Help homebound, sick or elderly neighbors with yard care.
You can use the Holidays for an outlet of creativity. It’s the perfect time to decorate the house together or challenge each other to a gingerbread house competition. Get together to make handmade Christmas cards for friends, families and neighbors or hit the streets and “chalk your walk” with uplifting messages of holiday cheer created in sidewalk chalk! It’s a perfect time to discuss gift giving and teaching your mentee that gifts come from the heart and not just the wallet. You can even make gifts for loved ones together. Create a Holiday to-do list together or a New Year’s Resolution “bucket list” to think of new things to try in 2021 – discuss the importance of planning for the future and budgeting.
Take time with your mentee to find things you are both thankful for. Every time you hang out or talk on the phone or Zoom, take a few minutes to tell them what you are grateful for in your life and ask them to do the same. You could start a journal together to write out what you’re grateful for. You can bring this journal out every year to see what you were grateful for in prior years and keep adding to it! Another idea is to write postcards together to send to friends & family, letting them know why you are grateful for them! Showing gratitude is one of the most important things you can teach your mentee, and what better time than now to focus on this?
If you’re running low on ideas of things you can do with your mentee this winter, check out our suggestions below!
We highly recommend following CDC guidelines for all your holiday festivities this year. This is a wonderful time of year to spend celebrating with friends and families, but the best gift you can give is to keep the safety and well-being of yourself and others as a top priority. We hope you will continue to set a good example for our mentees and do your part to protect the health of all members of our community.
Please check out the following links for further details on keep you, your mentee, and family safe during this Holiday Season:
CDC Holiday Guidelines
California updates and information
BBBS Covid Liability Waiver
It’s officially Black History Month and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Sacramento couldn’t be more excited to share the many accomplishments of African-Americans towards American history. All month long, we will be socially sharing important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.
In addition to celebrating the rich history of African American culture, it’s important for us to put a spotlight on those who are making mentorship history right here within our local agency. We’re highlighting five inspiring Big Brothers and Sisters who are walking their talk and putting in the work while making mentoring history. Join us as we explore their trailblazing paths towards mentorship excellence!
His Black History Month inspirations are Madam CJ Walker and Fredrick Douglas, as they broke the mold as a self-made millionaire and an educator, respectively.
When Kevin isn’t serving as a T.V. personality and journalist, he’s being a Big Brother to his Little Brother, Braylin. They both have a strong connection and Braylin’s family has seen such growth in his behavior since being matched with Kevin. Their match has provided Kevin with the realization that mentorship has the power to change lives, as mentors have an uncanny ability to foster youth.
Kevin truly believes that we’re wasting our time on this earth if we’re not trying to help others or make things better in the world. “It is our duty and our purpose as human beings to be a blessing to others,” reveals Kevin. We’re elated to have such a dedicated and dynamic individual serving as a volunteer mentor.
Growing up in Compton, CA, Debrielle Browder admits she didn’t have many positive experiences with law enforcement. However, while studying at Grambling University her mentors just so happened to be police officers, which forever changed her perspective about law enforcement and she felt like she wanted to change this perception for others in her community.
Today, in her role as a police officer, she does everything that she can to keep her hands in community outreach, and her time as a volunteer mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters is another marker for her commitment to this goal. In honor of Black History Month, Debrielle wants to truly impact the Sacramento community and inspire children that look like her to reach for the stars and create a new narrative for youth to see the positive side of law enforcement.
Debrielle recognizes Sacramento PD’s first African American female offers – Flossie Crump and Felicia Allen – as her Black History Month heroes!
Dimitrius is celebrating our nations leaders this Black History month, citing the Obama’s and the nations Black Mayors and Governors as those who inspire him most.
As an exemplified community leader, Dimitrius cites our nation’s leaders, like the Obama’s and our Black mayors and governors as the pioneers that have had the biggest impact on his upbringing. Dimitrius is clear on the direct tie between the need of mentorship and it’s impact on black history. “If we all sit and wait for someone else to do the work and take the lead to mentor. Nothing will get done if we are all waiting on someone else to answer,” states Dimitrius.
His commitment to his community is also reflected in his professional life, as he traded in his career in the corporate world to work in family services and youth development as a Program Director. We’re excited to watch Hyland and Dimitrius’s relationship continue to grow, especially as Hyland prepares to graduate next year!
Cryena has been powering through balancing her career as a high profile Attorney with CalRecycle and creating the next generation of leaders, serving the Big Brothers Big Sisters as a volunteer mentor. She admits that while reflecting on the essence of Black History Month, mentorship is at the heart of it. As we look at the accomplishments of important icons in Black history, these stories allows young people to know, with certainty, that anyone can make their mark on the world, starting with themselves.
In Cyrena’s role as Big Sister, she’s happy her mentoring relationship has afforded her Little Sister, Jerray, the opportunity to think about her life in new and exciting ways, full of opportunity. She wants Jerray to not depend on anyone else as she navigates adulthood and have the ability to live her best life. We’re so happy that Cyrena is committed to paying it forward and empowering today’s youth to understand that they, too, can achieve all things!
Cyren admits the Black History greats that have shaped her life were Thurgood Marshall and his mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston, and the motivation for her attending Howard University to become a lawyer.
This Black History Month, JaVaugn is celebrating the Obama’s, first African American POTUS and FLOTUS, and Shirley Chisholm, first African American woman to run for office in 1972.
Big Brother, JaVaugn, want’s to show his Little Brother, Mesiahus, that being a professional, hard-working, and responsible African American male, is within his reach. With each encounter with his Little Brother, he hopes his own example, alongside the seeds he’s been planting within their mentoring relationship, will empower Mesiahus to keep going and continue to work hard in life. “You should always give back. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without those in my community that guided me when I was growing up, so I’m paying it forward,” says JaVaugn.
JaVaugn’s biggest epiphany while mentoring as a Big Brother is digesting the reality that the growth from a mentoring relationship goes both ways. He admits how much he as an individual has grown since being paired with his Little Brother, Mesiahus. We’re on the edge of our seat with excitement as we watch Mesiahus and JaVaugn’s relationship continue to flourish!
We’re so grateful for all of the Big Brothers and Sisters that work hard to drive the BBBS mission. Without their hard work and dedication, mentorship wouldn’t have the same meaning in the Sacramento community. We look forward to watching all our matches continue to bloom!
Currently, we’re experiencing a shortage of African American volunteer mentors to serve the youth in our mentoring program. If you or someone you know are interested in becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, please learn more about becoming a volunteer mentor and contact us today!