Changing the way children grow up in Santa Cruz County

Real Life Stories

You Really Can Make a Difference

By Big Brother David


In 2016, I took on a “Little” named Mark. He’s a good kid. He’s quiet, polite, kind-hearted, and smart. He enjoys school and learning. His father is not actively involved in his life, but he has a very supportive mother and two sisters. His mother works extremely hard to provide a quality life for her family.

On average, Mark and I spend three to four hours together a week. Sometimes we go to a community event, share a meal, or visit a local attraction. We participate in a myriad of outdoor activities such as going to the beach, hiking, fishing, basketball, and more. It’s not about spending money as much as it’s about spending quality time together. I enjoy listening to his hopes and dreams and trying to help him realize his potential.

We have all heard or read “one person can make a difference” many times. I believe the most effective community youth nonprofit organizations are those that develop one-on-one mentoring with kids. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Cruz County’s mentoring program is one of the most successful. You really can make a make a difference right here in our local community. You can help change the direction of a child’s life and possibly their families’ lives. Mark’s future is bright, and it’s fun and rewarding to play a small part in it.

Teaching Me to be Grateful

By Big Brother Zach


When I began seeing my Little Brother, we spent time together – often quiet time. My Little slowly and meticulously letting his guard down and me just showing up, with no great plan, to spend time with him and see what happened. I remember one of our first outings (he was 12) I picked him up and asked if he wanted to drive. My Little clarified rather informatively that he was not of a legal driving age. Every time after that when I picked him up I always offered him the wheel, and each time he politely refused but began to smirk and get my sense of humor. Now he is 16 and the joke will be on me next month when he is grinding my clutch on the way to see a movie.

A few weeks ago, after officially ending the match, My Little and I met up and shot a few baskets. We talked as friends- earnestly curious about each other’s lives. I learned a lot from him through our conversation and was in awe that this quiet 12 year old could, like his t-shirt had read for many years, now probably be my boss! I then requested he send me his most recent high school paper about the origins of the major political parties- a subject that has eluded me for some time. I am grateful for this friendship.

I’m grateful for the first time I ever ran in a race was with My Little, a beach run with New Brighton middle school. I’m grateful I got to be with My Little, on the Santa Cruz boardwalk, before his first roller-coaster ride. He was scared but (little did he know) much less so than I was at his age. I am also grateful I got to be there after that first roller-coaster ride when he begged me to take him again. I’m grateful that I’ve seen My Little mature from having a gag reflex to all vegetables to now entertaining the thought that it may one day be possible to admit to liking cucumber. I’m grateful for the time we made pizza from scratch. I’m grateful that over time we developed a ridiculously long and entertaining handshake. This salutation serving as a reminder that sometimes we live by the beat of our own drums. I’m grateful My Little provides me a lens into a teenage world that I had grown to put behind me without first wholly appreciating. I’m grateful that My Little has an amazing mother who gives me homemade jam and a brilliant little sister who created an entire circus in their backyard. I’m grateful that every time my time with My Little ended- I was smiling.

I’m grateful to all the people at Big Brothers and Big Sisters who choose to spend their time facilitating these unique connections and doing all the back end work required to run the program. I’m grateful that BBBS contributes such significant and essential value to a world though the scope of this value is so difficult to quantify. I’m grateful that I am given this opportunity to quantify that one of me sees and engages the world with more respect and care because of an experience facilitated by BBBS. I can quantify that my life has been positively impacted and therefore those who know me are also positively affected because of BBBS.