Get to Know: 2017 Big Brother of the Year Rick Monroe

Rick and David on the day they met in 2015.

Rick Monroe was matched with Little Brother David on July 7, 2015 – and the two soon became close friends. The two graduated from the program in 2018 at our annual Celebrate Mentoring event. We are proud to recognize Rick as our Big Brother of the Year for his friendship, guidance, and presence in David’s life. Read below to find out what Rick has to say about his match with David:

“When I first met David, I could see a shy 16-year-old that was unsure of himself and not confident to engage with new people or activities. I wanted to be matched with a Little because when I was young, I faced many of the same challenges and I learned to overcome them in my life. My main goal for him was to help him to be confident enough to try new things and to learn to push past his anxieties and not let them hold him back.

I started our relationship by encouraging him to try new activities and be more assertive in his interactions but he spoke quietly and avoided eye contact. I would always ask him to look me in the eyes and speak more loudly and confidently. We practiced this a lot when ordering food at restaurants or interacting with others in our activities. We have worked on this for the entire match and I am very proud of his personal growth. The best example of this was the learning process that David went through to get his first job at Kroger.

He was eager to get a job and I helped him apply for it. We spent time discussing his interview and David felt confident about his interviewing skills but went to the interview without a lot of preparation and did not get the job. I talked to the manager who provided feedback that David was very quiet, gave short answers, and did not seem confident. David agreed to sign up for a 13-week personal development workshop at the Center for Leadership Development that focused on communication, interaction, and interpersonal skills. He worked hard at the workshop and we discussed what he learned every week. When he finished the course, I called the manager and shared that David had worked to improve himself and attended the workshop, and she agreed to have David come back for another interview. This time, David agreed that he and I would spend some time practicing interviewing skills before his second chance.

He went in for the interview and was hired! In follow-up discussions with the manager, they said the second time he was more confident, more prepared, and they could see his growth. I have followed up with the manager since then and said David is a very good employee and are happy with his work! This was a defining moment for David because I think it showed him that he needs to set a goal and really work for it.

When we first met, I don’t think he had the confidence or determination to do this. This experience made my very proud of him and happy to be his Big. David is a senior in high school and we have also worked to ensure he graduates on time with grades that will allow him to get into college. We are determining his next steps and it is exciting to see him have the confidence to consider college or trade school. I have learned and gained tremendously from my relationship with David.

When I first considered being a Big, I thought I was probably too old and maybe I wouldn’t have the talents needed to help. This experience has shown me that raising my kids was a major mission in my life, and now I have more work to do and I have a lot to give and still a lot to learn. And it has led me to share my experiences with others to encourage them to also consider giving back in this way. I am a Caucasian from the city suburbs and was matched with an inner-city African American teen. And although I like to think of myself as being open to diversity and people different than me, I still had concerns. “Would David really want to have a me as a Big? Would I understand the differences that might exist in our cultures enough to work well with him? Would his family and friends accept me?” These are tough topics to openly discuss in America, but they were on my mind. This experience pushed me to grow in an area I was not completely comfortable, and I am thankful for it.

I have also been amazed at how I was taking certain things for granted in my life. My Little has no transportation in his home, no laptop computer with Internet access, no direct parental guidance to help him with school work, and little discretionary income in the household. It has been eye-opening to see how much harder it can be for David to take advantage of new experiences and opportunities. I realize people more fortunate like myself should try to help. My favorite memories are when we play basketball together – we are good friends enjoying each other’s company leaving the cares of the world behind for a bit. I also really like when we go out to eat to restaurants. I have always tried to take David to places that he has never been to before. We try food from different parts of the world and cultures. Early on, he was a bit cautious when choosing the restaurant – but I was so happy that just last week for his birthday he asked if we could try authentic Indian food! He has never had Indian food but really wanted to try it. I enjoy seeing him learning and wanting to try new things.

Some of my favorite moments also come from watching David and his little brother interact with their 79-year old grandmother who is their guardian. They respect her and treat her like royalty and would do anything for her. She is very thankful to have me as a Big Brother and I can tell me being there helps her bridge the age gap. I also enjoy interacting with her and she frequently thanks me for being there for David. This past Christmas, she baked me five sweet potato pies as a token of her gratitude. She said she didn’t know what else to do to say thank you. I really like helping David, but I also like knowing that this has helped lessen the burden of raising two teenage boys for Grandma.”

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