By: Tracey Gustafson
MySTEM Development Fellow, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/ Metrowest
The first time I talked to Jesse I could tell he loved being a mentor to Devon. He was proud of Devon’s enrollment at a vocational high school and his new motivation to succeed in school. “He is taking honors level math and science classes and talks about wanting to become an engineer…and a pilot.” Guess what, Jesse is both. Jesse is a mechanical engineer working as a consultant for power plants. He talks to Devon regularly about the work he does and how it affects the world around us. Jesse is also a private pilot and many of their visits include a plane ride. Jesse is passionate about aeronautics and this has inspired Devon to work towards pursuing a pilot’s license as well.
About 18 months ago when Jesse and Devon were originally matched, Jesse met a very different boy. “Devon wasn’t applying himself in his schoolwork. He wasn’t interested and his grades reflected that. He didn’t have any plans for his future.” Devon was going through a tough time in his life and Jesse was there to listen and provide consistency, encouragement, and role modeling. Getting to know his Big Brother Jesse and learning about his career and his hobbies affected the choices Devon has made and opened up amazing possibilities for his future.
Jesse told me his relationship with Devon started by asking questions and really listening. He helped Devon think about what he wanted to do in his life, what makes him happy and then how to match those ideas to his abilities. When Jesse took Devon flying he always explained what the instruments meant and how to operate the plane. He noticed Devon’s interest and could tell he paid close attention because soon Devon was able to explain the plane operation back to him. Jesse gave him a book about aerodynamics and flying for his 15th birthday and helped him figure out how he could take some flying lessons. Devon will soon begin working at a local airfield and earn credit towards taking Glider flying lessons. Devon now talks about wanting to attend the Airforce Academy, he has researched the requirements and he and Jesse talk about how to meet those goals.
While it is clear that Jesse and Devon focus on goals, mentoring is not just about working hard; it’s also about fun! Recently Jesse and Devon went snowmobiling together – an activity that was new to both of them. They are both active and love the outdoors. It was a great learning experience for both of them, trying something new and exciting. They messed up a few times and almost got stuck in the snow, but they figured it out together and learned from their mistakes.
The gift of mentoring is to be a friend that believes in and encourages their Little to reach for the best. A mentor who works in a STEM discipline often opens up a new world of possibilities for their Little. The mission of BBBS MySTEM is to expose our Littles to the sciences and technology with a goal of building their confidence and interest in STEM. Devon is now pursuing a program of study in Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering in high school. He has joined an after-school Robotics Club and asked Jesse to be the advisor. He is trying new things and making plans for his future. The sky’s the limit!
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/ Metrowest is looking for more mentors who work in a STEM field or who are interested in exploring STEM topics with their Littles. At BBBS we provide fun, hands-on STEM activities for matches to enjoy together. For more information on how to become a mentor and support the mission of BBBS MySTEM visit www.bbbscm.org/mystem