Our volunteers — the “Bigs” who mentor children in our organization — are among the most selfless people you’ll ever meet. We cannot overstate our appreciation for their gifts of time, patience, wisdom and leadership. Featured here are just some of the remarkable individuals who are making a difference in the lives of so many children in Guelph.

January’s Spotlight Volunteers is Chris!

Our January Volunteer Spotlight is Chris!

“We practiced biking together over the summer and being able to watch my mentee grow from being apprehensive at first to confident in his ability is rewarding on so many levels.”

Chris is a Senior Advisor with the Provincial Government in Guelph. Chris began volunteering with BBBSG in May 2022, he was a councillor for camps and Scouts growing up and thought mentoring would be a great way to give back to his community.

Chris started developing a strong bond with his mentee quickly. Chris’ mentee looks up to him and enjoys the time they spend together. Chris and his mentee share common interests in biking, swimming, hiking and trying new activities together. Through their relationship, Chris’ caring and thoughtful approach to mentoring has allowed his mentee to feel fully supported and valued. Chris has been able to watch his mentee’s self-esteem develop as his mentee continues to master new skills.

Chris was motivated to volunteer because he saw the opportunity as “inspirational and rewarding to be a part of a child’s development.” Chris finds it fulfilling to assist his mentee in learning and mastering new skills while having fun and sees his experience as a mentor as a “win-win.” To Chris, mentoring means being a part of his mentee’s life in their formative years to support their development and growth to become a “thoughtful and engaged young adult.” What Chris enjoys most about being a mentor is that it is “a lot of fun!”

“My favourite memory with my mentee was in the summer, we spent an afternoon exploring the forest and creek by Guelph Lake and my mentee showed so much enthusiasm about all the new creatures and wildlife we found.”

We asked Chris what he would tell someone who is interested in becoming a volunteer. He said, “Just do it! The time you spend engaging with your mentee can really ground you in an all-too-busy world and it’s a fun and rewarding way to give back.”

Thank you so much Chris! We appreciate your positive energy and outlook on life! The amazing care and dedication you bring to your match does not go unnoticed!

December’s Spotlight Volunteers: Kwame and Krish!

Our December Spotlight Volunteers are two amazing individuals who are co-leading a school-based boys’ group this semester; Kwame and Krish!

Krish and Kwame are both students at the university of Guelph. They both have a passion for serving their communities and giving back to others. Kwame values paying it forward and is always looking for something that is bigger than himself to be apart of. Krish really looks up to his mother, an educational assistant, and the work she puts in to help students who require extra care. He also truly believes in every single person’s potential to be great, and I think sometimes it just takes some help to reach it!

Mentorship to Kwame means to help another become the best version of themselves, just by being able to listen and share guidance with them. Krish believes mentoring is something we all do daily and that you don’t need to be older, stronger, or even wiser than who you are mentoring in order to make an impact. When asked what Kwame would like to share with people considering becoming a mentor themselves, he shared “I would say don’t miss out on an opportunity to help kids in the community that look up to you and can learn principles, values and morals from people like you. While you serve them, you also grow as an individual too. Its a win win!”

“I think a lot of people underestimate how big of an impact having 1 or 2 trusted people in the lives of these kids can make. There are so many young boys and girls who would benefit tremendously simply from you showing up and being there for them. And it truly can change their lives!” – Krish

Kwame and Krish have been great additions to our volunteer team and their commitment to making their group thrive is so appreciated.

A HUGE thank you Krish and Kwame for all of their hard work this semester!

November’s Spotlight Volunteer is Sierra!

November Spotlight Volunteer is Sierra! Sierra is currently a 5th-year student at the University of Guelph, studying Marketing Management, and is hoping to become a secondary school business teacher one day. In her free time, Sierra really enjoys being active by walking, as well as spending time with her family and friends!

Sierra wanted to volunteer within a Big Brothers Big Sisters program because she knows how important it is for young people to have a positive influence in their lives and wanted to be someone the mentees could come to for anything they may need. Sierra believes that mentoring is all about being a resource for the kids she works with and serve as a positive role model to them! Sierra’s favourite part about being a group mentor is seeing the excitement in her mentees when they come to group each week. She loves seeing their excitement, creativity, and curiosity through the creations they make and the questions they ask!

“We get to come together every week and do activities that promote physical activity while creating a fun and safe community! It is a great way for me to create meaningful relationships with my mentees”

When asked what she would say to someone interested in becoming a mentor, Sierra said they should “go for it!” Sierra added that she is so glad she decided to become a volunteer. Sierra shared that “it has been such a great and rewarding experience, and I am so excited to continue to see my group flourish over the rest of our time together!”

Sierra’s commitment in getting our school-based group programs up and running post-pandemic is so appreciated! Keep being awesome Sierra!

October’s Spotlight Volunteer is Alexander!

“If my mentee has learned half as much from me as I have from them, then we both stand to experience the benefits of mentorship for the rest of our lives”

Alexander is a 4th-year Neuroscience student at the University of Guelph with aspirations to become a Neurologist. Alexander began volunteering with BBBSG as a virtual mentor in fall of 2021, as he felt the opportunity would align with the same desire to help others that drives his career aspirations.

Alexander quickly formed a strong bond with his mentee, despite their relationship being entirely online at the time. Alexander continued to be a consistent support to his mentee throughout the many challenges the pandemic brought, and was happy to be flexible to meet his mentee’s needs. When the opportunity arose for school programming to begin again, Alexander was eager to move his match in-school so they could connect in-person.

Alexander’s mentee really looks up to him, and appreciates the time they spend together. Alexander’s thoughtful approach has made his mentee feel valued and supported. Through their time together, Alexander has been able to watch his mentee become more comfortable opening up about things going on in his life.

Alexander and his mentee love playing board games together, and though his mentee beats him most of the time, Alexander has enjoyed seeing his mentee’s sportsmanship skills grow on the “rare occasion” that Alexander wins instead. One of Alexander’s favourite memories is a particularly long Monopoly game they played over a few meetings. Alexander’s mentee became a “cunning businessperson” and Alexander saw a side of his mentee that made him feel his mentee could “become a titan of industry if they so chose”.

Alexander noted, “My favourite part of being a mentor is the unexpected ways in which my mentee provides insight into my own life. My mentee and I will talk about seemingly innocuous things and yet they seem to often say something that changes my perspective or understanding of the world.” He further added “the lessons and words that my mentee has given me make volunteering [at BBBSG] a uniquely rewarding experience that would be very difficult to find anywhere else.”

Thanks so much Alexander! We really appreciate the critical role you’ve played in your mentee’s life!

September’s Spotlight Volunteer is Beverly!

“My favourite part of mentoring is watching my mentee grow into her confidence and ability… becoming the amazing person she is today!”

For a number of years, Beverly has volunteered in some capacity supporting youth. Beverly was born and raised in Guelph. She is an accountant, a mom to four grown children, and a grandmother to eight children.

When Beverly was young, she had an aunt who was there for her through some tough times. If it weren’t for her aunt, Beverly said she would have dropped out of high school. She felt that she could never repay her aunt for what she did for her, but she can “pay it forward.”

To Beverly, mentoring is a “great way to give back to the community.” She loves spending time with her mentee and sharing her interests of Starbucks trips and listening to a range of music. Beverly and her mentee have developed such a close relationship over the years, they can talk about anything that’s on their minds.

When Beverly was first matched, her mentee was a “shy six-year-old in a booster seat.” Now her mentee is a teenager, “riding shotgun and sharing her favorite music.”

When asked what Beverly’s favourite memory with her mentee is, she said “There are so many… Taking the long way home and listening to great tunes… When she was 6, she always wanted to do the swim test, not to go on the water slide, just to prove to herself she could do it… When she learned to ride a bike, she was so excited to conquer a new skill. I loved hearing her say, ‘I did it!’”

We asked Beverly what she would tell someone who is interested in volunteering with us, she said, “Do it! It’s amazing to know you can make a difference in a young person’s life.”

Thank you Beverly for your huge, positive impact in the program! Your utmost kindness, genuine care and commitment does not go unnoticed!

August’s Spotlight Volunteer is Jessie!

“I’ve loved getting to know my Little and become a part of her life. Sometimes she talks about her fun plans for us 2 or 3 years out and I love knowing that I’ve come to be someone she thinks of as a constant in her world.”

Jessie had such a great time as a Big Sister when she lived in Kitchener, that she jumped right back on board again as soon as she moved to Guelph in 2019. Ever since, Jessie has brought dynamite levels of fun, confidence building, and new experiences to her current match. To Jessie, “Mentoring is a way for me to bring a sense of youthful wonder and silliness into my own life, while bringing what I have to offer as a friend, guide, and confidante to a young person.”

As Jessie is now settled in Guelph, she has the joy of seeing her match turn into a rooted friendship. “I’ve loved getting to know my Little and become a part of her life. Sometimes she talks about her fun plans for us 2 or 3 years out and I love knowing that I’ve come to be someone she thinks of as a constant in her world. It’s also extremely fun to plan outings and activities and get her hyped up to try news things and break out of her comfort zone.”

By now, Jessie has discovered and become very familiar with the satisfaction and gratitude of seeing her mentee grow as a person and hit new accomplishments. She described how, “Watching her mature and become more confident has been so fulfilling; she’s so eager to learn and it’s really rewarding for me to witness all the big and small ways our time together is helping her become her own person and discover all the cool things she can do. She’s also really coming along with her reading skills, and I could not be more proud of her.”

Since Jessie knows the importance of having mentors in her own life, and of being one herself now, she’s convinced her best friend to become a Big as well. If he’s close to as caring a mentor as Jessie is, we know he’ll knock it out of the park!

July’s Spotlight Volunteer is Bella!

“I enjoy every step of being a mentor; from planning activities that I know the littles will enjoy, to participating in them with the group. Don’t hesitate to volunteer. It is such a rewarding experience and the connections built between Bigs and Littles are priceless.”

Our July Spotlight Volunteer is Bella Vas! Bella is currently finishing her master’s degree in French Studies at the University of Guelph and works part-time at AFYA Skin and Body clinic. Bella is passionate about investing in her community and helping people feel their absolute best. Bella has been a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sister Gulph in the community-based group program since 2018 and loves the city of Guelph deeply!

Bella believes that mentoring is first and foremost about support. To her, this relationship is created through consistency, quality time, and so much fun! Mentoring is important to Bella because she believes that she would have benefitted from participating in a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters when she was young. Bella enjoys everything from the planning process to building relationship with her mentees. Her favourite part of mentoring is when she has the opportunity to see the mentees transition from being shy and hesitant, to a place where they feel comfortable to share within the group, be silly and just be themselves.

“I enjoy every step of being a mentor; from planning activities that I know the littles will enjoy, to participating in them with the group. Don’t hesitate to volunteer. It is such a rewarding experience and the connections built between Bigs and Littles are priceless.”

Bella’s commitment to the Bunch group programs has been so impactful over the years and we are so appreciative of the energy she brings!

June’s Spotlight Volunteer is Bryant!

“I think mentoring is providing someone with extra resources and guidance to help them achieve their goals. A strong mentor always listens without judgement and helps without hesitation.”

Bryant is a former camp counsellor and sports instructor, who now works as a Property Manager in Guelph. He knew he wanted to return to mentoring youth in some capacity, as he was always heavily involved with sports and clubs growing up, and distinctly remembers the strong role models he looked up to when he was a youth. After hearing about BBBSG’s virtual 1-to-1 program, he recognized that it was the perfect opportunity for him to “foster a meaningful relationship through a challenging time for everyone”.

Bryant’s favourite part of mentoring his Little is “watching [him] grow and become more confident in his own abilities.” He has seen his Little’s reading skills develop over their 1-year virtual match and explained that at the beginning of the match, his Little expressed he did not like reading out loud since he was not very good at it. Bryant and his Little practiced through drama games and reading about video games together and now, almost a year later, the match reads books together and the Little has the confidence to read out loud! The Little’s mother shared that his family, friends, and school have all seen his confidence grow over the duration of his time with Bryant and that the Little is truly “a changed kid” thanks to his match.

A favourite memory of Bryant’s is teaching his Little how to tie a tie for his graduation photos. He highlighted that his Little was “so excited” to share how the photos went and was thankful that Bryant taught him this small, but important skill. Bryant shared that “teaching him a simple thing” like this, again, gave his Little so much confidence.

When asked what he would say to someone interested in becoming a mentor, Bryant shared that he would tell them to “dive IN!” as they will not be disappointed. He highlighted that “for a small-time commitment, you can make a big impact in your potential mentee’s life and you might learn some things about yourself”.

May’s Spotlight Volunteer is Nick

“Mentoring gives me the opportunity to guide and influence a young individual who has the potential to achieve great things in life, and to learn from my successes and failures.”

Nick is a recent graduate from the University of Guelph, a current student at Conestoga College, and a firefighter with the Puslinch Fire Department. Nick was born and raised in Guelph and has been volunteering with the Community Based 1:1 program for over a year now. Nick enjoys sports, staying active and participating in his community.

Nick was interested in getting involved with the Big Brothers program when he heard from a co-worker of his who was a part of the program in the past, who loved every second of it, and still stays connected with their Little Brother 20 years later. Nick shared, “I have been thankful to have such an amazing little sister, however I always thought that having a “little brother” to do activities and share common interests with would be so rewarding, and BBBS made that come true… Being a mentor, I am able to help direct my mentee to make the right decisions.”

Nick’s favourite part about being a Big Brother is that he is able to help his mentee grow out of his comfort zone and try new things. Nick has been able to see his mentee open-up and become more comfortable with having conversations about his interests, life goals and future plans. One of Nick’s favourite memories is being invited to celebrate at his mentee’s grade 8 graduation party, where he was welcomed and embraced by his mentee’s family and was able to see his mentee surrounded by the ones he loves.

We asked him what he would tell someone who is interested in becoming a volunteer, Nick said, “You have the opportunity to make a huge impact on someone’s life, so do it!… The biggest difference between volunteering as a mentor versus other community service opportunities is that you get to clearly see the impact you’re making. You are able to be someone’s friend, be there for someone when they need support, and help them develop into the individual they strive to be.”
Thank you, Nick! We appreciate your energy, positive outlook on life and your dedication to your match!

April’s Spotlight Volunteer is Stevie

“I could’ve used a friend/mentor while growing up so I am more than happy to be that for someone else.”

Stevie is a grade 11 co-op student who is completing her placement with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guelph. Stevie is a creative and passionate individual who wants to go into the helping field to work with children or anyone in need. She immediately connected with the agency’s mission: “When I researched about BBBS and what they offer, I thought it was exactly what I was looking for [in a placement] – working with children and giving them opportunities to reach their full potential. I also knew I could’ve used a friend/mentor while growing up so I am more than happy to be that for someone else”.

As part of her placement, Stevie meets one-on-one with 8 local elementary school students for an hour each week. Stevie is responsible for planning activities and developing a relationship with her mentees. To Stevie, “mentoring means to be a friend but also a guide, where mentees know they have a safe space to go and talk”.

“I am not going to judge ever, but instead help them [my mentees] grow and do my best to help them achieve their goals”. Though it is still early in her placement, Stevie has already seen positive growth in her mentees: “When I first met one mentee, they were shy and closed off. After time and showing that it is okay to be vulnerable, they have blossomed and are now full of words, questions, and ideas and I’m excited to explore their interests and create activities for us now that we’ve found mutual interests and have created a bond”.

When not at placement, Stevie can be found spending time with friends or at her part-time job at a nursing home where she puts her interpersonal skills and passion for helping others to use. Keep up the great work, Stevie! We are so grateful for your dedication, positive energy, and hard work.

March’s Spotlight Volunteer is Pavan

“Everyone should get to experience the genuine and wholesome relationships that you create when you mentor a young person.”

Our March Spotlight Volunteer is Pavan!

Pavan is a student at the University of Guelph studying Criminal Justice, Biology and Political Science. She loves to read books, watch historical dramas and participate in one act of kindness every day. Pavan wanted to get involved in the group mentoring program because she absolutely loved what the program stood for and the impact it had on the lives of youth in her community. Pavan has been volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters Guelph for two years now, leading both in school and online group programs.

Pavan believes that mentorship is all about creating meaningful and positive relationships. To her, this relationship is created through thoughtful interactions, being present during conversations, sharing experiences, and appreciating the time she spends with her mentees. Pavan’s favourite part about mentoring is seeing the moment when a student starts to feel genuinely comfortable and secure in the group. Pavan loves to play online games with her mentees because they aren’t afraid to have fun and to be their goofy selves. This is often when the group has the deepest and most meaningful conversations!

“Mentoring is an incredibly meaningful relationship to me because it gives youth a kind, genuine platform to explore their thoughts and experiences; helping nurture their potential!” she said. “Everyone should get to experience the genuine and wholesome relationships that you create when you mentor a young person.”

Pavan’s commitment to the site-based group programming is so appreciated and her continued presence has made a huge impact on the youth in these programs.

February’s Spotlight Volunteer is Caroline!

“You will not regret it! I’ve convinced my 3 roommates to volunteer – I’m sure I can convince you too!”

February’s Spotlight Volunteer is Caroline!

Caroline is a Research Assistant in the Child Development Research Unit at the University of Guelph. She originally started volunteering when she was still a student, applying because she wanted to make a difference in a child’s life. This is something she has certainly been able to accomplish in her own match! Caroline has also been a great supporter of the agency, referring her friends to volunteer and participating in fundraisers too.

Caroline originally started as a volunteer in our In-School Mentoring program back in 2019. Only a few months later, the school closures due to the pandemic meant her match had to close. Despite this hurdle, Caroline was more than happy to continue volunteering in a new virtual match.

Caroline was re-matched with a child who faces a lot of adversities and was in need of a positive role model. From the very start Caroline was extremely warm, welcoming and accepting. Her mentee responds so well to Caroline’s approach, and Caroline has quickly become an extremely important person in her mentee’s life. She is always so excited to see Caroline, and her mentee’s mother has repeatedly outlined just how crucial Caroline’s support has been.

Over the course of the match, Caroline has helped her mentee grow in so many ways: “My mentee uses words to describe how she is feeling, along with now reminding others of appropriate ways we can act. She is a role model for her other siblings and is so thoughtful in wanting to make sure we do things we both enjoy!”

Caroline has been such a thoughtful volunteer, even arranging a virtual birthday celebration for her mentee! To Caroline, mentoring means “Being present with my mentee, being supportive, and being a positive role model for her. Showing up and reminding her how important she is, while acknowledging our weaknesses and still loving ourselves to the fullest!”

We are so grateful for you Caroline! You have made a wonderful impact in so many ways.

January’s Spotlight Volunteer is David!

“My match is providing all types of information and experiences that my Little can use to shape how he interacts with and sees the world,”

January’s Spotlight Volunteer is David Uleryk!

David is an accountant and chef living in Guelph. David has been volunteering in the community based 1-1 program since August 2021, and is matched with a Little Brother who is conveniently also named David. 

David was interested in getting involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guelph for quite some time before applying. David saw BBBS programming as “a great way to give back to the local community”, but wanted to ensure he had the time to commit to a match. Despite being matched for only 5 months, David and his Little Brother have been able to connect and build a strong relationship through his Little’s openness to trying new things. David and his Little Brother have baked cakes, gardened, made meals, changed the oil in a car, and tried new sports together over the course of their match.  

“In my opinion, my match is providing all types of information and experiences that my Little can use to shape how he interacts with and sees the world,” David shared. David’s favourite part about being a mentor is seeing how excited his Little Brother gets when he learns something new.  

When asked what he would tell someone interested in becoming a volunteer, David would encourage them to pursue it. “It is fun and helps in your own personal growth by getting you out of your comfort zone,” he said. David enjoys being able to impart his own knowledge and experiences onto a Little Brother while also having the opportunity to “get in touch with the younger generation.” 

Thank you, David, for your continued dedication to our programs. Your open-mind, positive attitude and dedication to your match do not go unnoticed! 

Our Fundraising Volunteer of the Year is Norman!

“Being a part of BBBSG has been a great way for me to be more than just a student in Guelph, it has allowed me to feel like a part of the community in a meaningful way.”

Meet Norman – The Fundraising Volunteer of the Year!

Norman is a past mentor for BBBSG and in 2021, he sat on two fundraising event committees. Norman was a dedicated volunteer member on both committees and went above and beyond the tasks assigned to him.

Norman first got involved with BBBSG as a mentor in 2018. He mentioned that, “Growing up as the little brother in my family and having older siblings, I always wanted to be that older brother that provided support and was their little brother’s best friend. Being a Big Brother through BBBSG was a great way to feel integrated into the community and give back. It allowed me to have a meaningful and positive impact while helping my Little Brother grow up to be the best possible version of themselves.”

In January 2021, Norman reached out to the BBBSG fundraising team looking for an opportunity to use his creative communication and event planning skills to help raise funds for BBBSG. Throughout the following 9 months, Norman was an asset on the event planning committees for the Big Little Run and the Big Chase, helping to execute the events and secure critical funding for our mentoring programs.

During monthly committee meetings, Norman was often the first person to join in the Zoom calls and he always had a positive attitude and was actively involved in the group’s discussion. Outside of the meetings, he maintained consistent communication with event organizers and followed through with the tasks he offered to complete in a timely manner. Norman creatively developed materials and solutions to encourage event participation, peer-to-peer fundraising, and community sponsorships and welcomed constructive feedback from his peers.

Throughout the entire process, Norman had a smile on his face and a willingness to help in whatever way he could.  He says that “Being a part of BBBSG has been a great way for me to be more than just a student in Guelph, it has allowed me to feel like a part of the community in a meaningful way.”

December’s Spotlight Volunteer is Belle!

“For just a small piece of your time, you can provide a child with a strong role model and fun activity to look forward to each week. To be able to make such a positive impact on a mentee, and see this positive change in yourself as well, is even more valuable than you can imagine!”

Meet Belle! She is our December Spotlight Volunteer.

Belle is currently a Research Assistant at the University of Guelph within the Child Development Research Unit. She began volunteering with us in our Virtual 1-1 Mentoring Program at the beginning of 2021 because she had heard how much fun mentors have from so many individuals in her life who are already involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Belle fell naturally into the mentoring role as she has previous experience being supportive and being a role model to children through her time teaching them dance.

“Mentoring means everything to me,” she said. “Being able to provide a positive role model and friend to [her] mentee, all while creating a safe space for her to gain confidence as an individual, is so special.

“It means that she can trust that there is always someone in her corner, rooting for her at all times. It also means that she can learn that making mistakes is something we all do, and it’s how we recover and learn from these mistakes that truly matters.”

Belle and her mentee have only ever met virtually, but Belle expressed that knowing that her connection allows her mentee to feel supported as a unique, beautiful individual, and this is heartwarming.

When asked what she would tell individuals who were interested in volunteering Belle relayed that she would absolutely recommend that you do.

“For just a small piece of your time, you can provide a child with a strong role model and fun activity to look forward to each week. To be able to make such a positive impact on a mentee, and see this positive change in yourself as well, is even more valuable than you can imagine!”

November’s Spotlight Volunteer is Nora!

“My mentees have all become so comfortable in sharing their life with me and that is something I really do value. I am so glad I have the opportunity to spend time with these kids each week!”

November’s Spotlight Volunteer is Nora! Nora is a 16-year-old high school student completing her co-op placement at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guelph for the September-November 2021 quadmester. She is a passionate, hardworking individual who comes to co-op each day with enthusiasm and determination to do her best work. Nora connects naturally with others and has a love for working with people, qualities that will serve her well as she hopes to pursue an education in social work.
Nora has always loved working with people, and especially loves working with kids. As a co-op student, Nora meets one-on-one, virtually, with 7 local elementary students, for an hour each week. She approaches each meeting with an open mind, creating a safe space where her mentees’ self-esteem and social skills development are consistently supported.

Throughout the past few weeks, Nora has had the opportunity to see each and every one of her mentees become braver and more confident.

“My mentees have all become so comfortable in sharing their life with me and that is something I really do value,” she said. “I am so glad I have the opportunity to spend time with these kids each week!”

Nora’s favourite part of being a mentor is when her mentee is equally excited to see her as Nora is to see them. “When a mentee is happy to see me, it genuinely makes me feel so good and really shows that I have made a positive impact on that child,” she said.

In addition to being a mentor, Nora has also gained experience in program administration and development as part of her co-op placement. She has been a great help in the creation and assembly of activity kits for various programs, and we are so appreciative of her help and support!

Thank you, Nora, for all your hard work. You are truly a positive presence in the lives of your mentees!

October’s Spotlight Volunteer is Julian!

“Volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sister Guelph is such a fulfilling experience! Not only was I able to have a positive impact on our youth, my mentees had a huge impact on my life as well. If you enjoy being in the company of kids and being that positive model for them, then I believe volunteering with BBBS is definitely for you.”

Our October Spotlight Volunteer is Julian Jinadasa! Julian just graduated from the University of Guelph and aspires to be a pediatrician in order to help children within his community. He began volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters Guelph almost two years ago as an in-school group leader and is now involved in leading our virtual group programs. Julian has learned a lot from different mentors in his life. To him, mentoring is all about being a positive role model who listens, guides, and supports young people through different stages of their lives.

Being a part of the Activate program, a site-based boys’ group, allowed Julian to combine his passion for promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles with his passion for working with kids. He has also really enjoyed helping his mentees build their confidence and their kindness towards others! His favorite part about being a group mentor is watching the development of the mentees over time; seeing how they open up more and more each day. Leading groups has also given Julian an opportunity to help young people develop social skills; providing them with tools needed to build healthy relationships with their peers.

“Volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sister Guelph is such a fulfilling experience! Not only was I able to have a positive impact on our youth, my mentees had a huge impact on my life as well. If you enjoy being in the company of kids and being that positive model for them, then I believe volunteering with BBBS is definitely for you.”

Julian is a valued member of our volunteer team and we are so appreciative of all the work he has done within our group programs!

BIG thank you to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for their generous support of our group mentoring programs and for making Activate possible for young boys in our community.

September’s Spotlight Volunteer is Mikyle!

“The memories you will create and share with your mentee can have life changing effects on not just your mentee but on you as well. Especially during this time of a pandemic, youth in particular are more in need then ever for someone to look up to, and you can be that positive impact in someone’s life.”

Meet Mikyle!

Mikyle grew up as the middle child, and has seen the value of both being mentored AND of being a mentor.

Since Mikyle first joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guelph in the summer of 2019, he has worked with a number of different youth. His favourite aspect of being a mentor is exploring new activities with his Little. Mikyle has gotten to see his Little take steps out of their comfort zone, and learn as a result. When online schooling was becoming a challenge, the two of them started to do homework together once a week (in addition to their weekly “fun” hangouts of course….). But over time, this Little has learned that having a mentor can even make homework enjoyable. Who would have guessed?!

When asked what he’d say to anyone considering becoming a mentor, Mikyle could not have been more enthusiastic: “Do it!” he said. “The memories you will create and share with your mentee can have life changing effects on not just your mentee but on you as well. Especially during this time of a pandemic, youth in particular are more in need then ever for someone to look up to, and you can be that positive impact in someone’s life.”

Thank you, Mikyle, for the energy and passion that you bring to BBBSG!

August’s Spotlight Volunteer is Paola!

“My absolute favourite part about being her mentor is seeing the smile on her face when she says ‘thank you for playing with me’ at the end of our visits. I always want to emphasize how much I appreciate the time that she is spending with me; our visits are always the highlight of my week!”

Paola began volunteering in our Virtual 1-1 program in November of 2020. She was inspired to apply because she was interested in working with children and had positive experiences being in a mentoring role before.

From the start, Paola has brought an amazing energy to her match. Her positivity and friendliness made her mentee feel comfortable and encouraged. Paola feels that mentoring means “being a supportive and safe space for someone” and making a point “to be there in any happy or sad moments that they choose to share with me.” This is something Paola has absolutely excelled in! Her mentee expressed how Paola always makes her feel happy and is there to talk about anything going on in her life. The visits go by too fast for her Little and she always can’t wait for the next one!

Paola has similarly noticed this growth in her mentee: “From the first time we met, my mentee was always kind, independent, and empathic, and understandably shy, yet I have seen her grow immensely over the past months we have spent together” she said. “She has become more comfortable initiating conversation, and has shown a passion in feminism and children’s rights. She inspires me to stay focused and dedicated every day, and I hope she continues to grow in her passions.”

Despite their match being entirely virtual, Paola has been creative in planning engaging activities with her Little – including painting on canvases, doing makeovers, and making smoothies together! Making smoothies together is one of Paola’s favourite memories, as her Little wanted to be able to share her interests and took charge planning the activity!

Paola encourages future prospective volunteers to “absolutely go for it!” She explains that it’s important to take the time to research the opportunity and ensure you are ready for “the new journey” of being a mentor. However, she adds, “If you are already interested in becoming a volunteer, you’re one step away from being a part of something great!”

Thanks, Paola, for being a superstar and having such a positive impact on your Little’s life!

July’s Spotlight Volunteer is Kristen!

“My mentee has completely come out of her shell in the 2.5 years we have been matched. She used to be a shy, quiet kid and has developed into this outgoing, adventurous, chatty teenager. It has been amazing to watch and I can’t wait to see what the coming years have in store for her, and for us!”

Kristen was born and raised in Guelph and works in Parks and Recreation (yes, like the show!) “I am very much a people person,” she said. “I enjoy planning events and spending time with my family and friends. I enjoy cooking, cottage life, and a good solid patio!”

Kristen first got involved in the mentoring programs because of her strong desire to give back to the community. “I have volunteered at several other organizations,” she said, “But what I really wanted was to find a place where I felt like I would really make a difference in the life of a youth in the community.”

Kristen’s favourite part about being a mentor is watching her mentee grow and experience new things. “Pushing herself out of her comfort zone is really

cool to watch!” she said. “Mentoring to me means being a positive role model in the life of my mentee and making sure I can set the best possible example for her.”

When asked what is her favourite memory with your mentee, Kristen said, “I think our favourite memory is any of the Guelph Storm games that we get to attend because of generous community partners/donations. We really enjoy the atmosphere and I love being able to teach her about hockey and the rules. When we were matched back in 2019, she told me she didn’t like hockey…well that has definitely changed!”

Kristen was asked what she would share with someone who was considering becoming a mentor: “It’s not always easy but it is so worth it. There have

been a few challenging moments in our match but we both have grown from them and I think that is the most important part. We have grown together and she has helped me see things from a different perspective and I challenge her to try new things. It’s wonderful!”

Thank you so much, Kristen. We are so appreciative of your dedication and enthusiasm!

May’s Spotlight Volunteer is Jack!

If you’re somebody interested in making a difference, then I assure you that BBBSG is an incredible place to start.”

This was the reflection from Jack, a Big Brother in the school-based mentoring program, who has now consistently spent time online with his mentee Ben for a full year. When the pandemic hit, Jack had to move back to his home in Newfoundland, and he was not sure if he would be able to see his Little Brother again. This was sad news both for Jack, and for Ben who had grown to look up to him very highly. In May of 2020, however, Jack and Ben were able to reconnect virtually. This virtual connection has taken a lot of adjustment, but in the end it has proven to be a lifeline for Ben, who has been highly isolated at home, not being able to go to school or engage in social events for over a year.

“Being able to spend time with [Ben] and get through these strange times has been very special,” Jack said, when reflecting on the past year.

Ben feels the same way, saying that he thinks Jack is really “nice, fun and kind.” Ben expressed how, when he is with Jack, he feels happy.

Jack explained the reward and benefit of mentoring in this way: “Mentoring to me is about being a friend. Being someone that your little can feel safe and have fun with, while also growing together.

“Seeing my Little take each new challenge this year has thrown at him with a smile on his face is incredible.”

Ben’s caregiver similarly shared how their family is blessed to have Jack during this difficult time, and how if it was up to them, they wish that this mentoring relationship would last forever.

Thank you, Jack, for infusing hope, joy and connection into what has been a very challenging year. You have made a BIG difference.

April’s Spotlight Volunteer is Lauren!

April’s Spotlight Volunteer is our co-op student, Lauren Dupuis. Lauren did her highschool co-op with the agency  during the third “quad-mester” of the 2020-2021 school year. Lauren would faithfully show up at the Big Brothers Big Sisters office each day and help with all kinds of program supports, and meet virtually with some local students in a local elementary school.

Lauren was incredibly helpful in making activity kits for both the co-op program and for other 1-1 matches who have continued meeting, virtually, throughout the pandemic. Lauren participated in making a Coping Skills Presentation that she delivered, with agency staff, in local schools for both elementary and intermediate classes. This presentation involved teaching young people about identifying their feelings and responding to them in a healthy way. Lauren identified nine different coping skill techniques and walked the students through each of them so they understood how to use the skill.

Lauren also had several mentees throughout her quad-mester and she met with them and encouraged them through fun activities that fostered building self-esteem and further developed their social skills. It has not been easy to be a mentor in a pandemic, but Lauren has done an amazing job and we are so thankful for her dedication!

March’s Spotlight Volunteer is Ainsley!

Our March Spotlight Volunteer is Ainsley Tsetsekas. Ainsley is in her final semester of the Applied Human Nutrition Program at the University of Guelph and has been volunteering within the site-based group programs at Big Brothers Big Sister Guelph since 2019, as part of our organization’s active, three-year partnership with the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Ainsley started volunteering in our school-based group programs and is now involved in leading virtual girls’ groups.

Ainsley first got involved with our mentoring programs because of her strong desire to connect with others and help individuals lead a healthy life. She was able to combine her passion for leading an active lifestyle while also helping young girls build up their sense of self-confidence. Ainsley’s favourite part about being a group mentor is being able to connect with a diverse group of girls and she loves that each mentee brings something different to the group! Mentoring is very special to Ainsley and she loves seeing the relationships that are able to form between herself and the mentees in such a short period of time.

“I believe the amazing young girls I connect with give me as much guidance as I hope I give them,” she said. “If you are thinking about becoming a mentor, don’t waste anymore time deciding and go for it! It is a very rewarding experience that has challenged my leadership in ways that I did not anticipate. I feel more connected to the community and I have grown into a confident leader!”

Ainsley has been such a consistent, positive presence to the girls in group and we appreciate all that she does very much!

February’s Spotlight Volunteer is Shae-Lyn!

Shae-Lyn has been a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guelph since October of 2019, and she has been a very valuable addition to our agency!

Shae-Lyn began volunteering in our In-School Mentoring program. She was matched with a mentee who had just moved to a new school, and had a lot of difficulty adapting. This mentee was extremely quiet and sombre. Shae-Lyn was warm and welcoming in her approach, and more than happy to carry the weight of their conversations while her mentee became more comfortable opening up. Shae-Lyn demonstrated a great degree of patience and understanding, meeting her mentee where she was at.

“Mentoring to me is a reciprocal relationship. I can serve as a steady support for my mentee, and in return, my mentee is constantly teaching me new things,” she said. “I feel that mentoring has made me a more empathetic and understanding person and I thank my mentee for that.”

Eventually, Shae-Lyn was able to notice her mentee began continuing conversations and engaging in activities more. Sadly, their relationship had to take a pause due to the COVID-19 school closures, but Shae-Lyn was more than happy to begin a virtual match to help support her mentee during this school year, too. It was uncertain how her mentee would respond in a virtual setting, given how quiet she had been; however, through Shae-Lyn’s dedication and friendly approach, her mentee is now really flourishing! She is now engaging in conversation like never before, and really values her time with Shae-Lyn.

Shae-Lyn has truly enjoyed watching this progression take place over time

“My favourite part about being a mentor is knowing that I’m making a difference in my little’s life,” she added. “I treasure the time we have together each week and have loved seeing my mentee flourish over the last year and a half.

“To any interested volunteers, I would say do it! You won’t regret it. Being a part of the BBBSG organization and being able to make a difference in a child’s life is so rewarding. The organization provides unparalleled support for volunteers and the lines of communication are always open if you ever need anything.”

Thank-you so much, Shae-Lyn. You have made a huge difference and we are so appreciative of your dedication and enthusiasm!

January’s Spotlight Volunteers are Gabe and Colin!

Our spotlight volunteers for January are Gabe LePlante and Colin Jamieson. Gabe and Colin are both graduate students at the University of Guelph, and became friends, and roommates during their undergraduate studies. Colin and Gabe started volunteering the Big Bunch program in 2019 and when asked why they wanted to volunteer, they said, “Our friend Dustin already volunteered in the program, and always talked about what a great experience it was. He recruited us to join his ‘Bunch’ (or group) and we have never looked back!”

Gabe and Colin had only been volunteering for six months when COVID first impacted the program. They were very eager and willing to help in any way needed. What motivated them at this time was knowing how important it was to the kids, and say that that keeps them logging in each week. Gabe and Colin told us that the transition to virtual programming came with its challenges, but making the effort to overcome them, adapt and set a positive example was a way for them to really show the kids that they cared about them.

When asked about their favourite parts of being a mentor they shared, “Forming relationships with the kids is really rewarding. They are really fun and it’s so nice to see them interact with us and the kids every meeting.” They also shared that they always laugh a lot and end meetings with a smile on their face. Gabe and Colin have worked really hard at this, and parents specifically mention how much their kids like them both.

If Gabe and Colin were sharing with someone else considering becoming a mentor, they would say, “The Big Bunch program is great, especially for students or those with a busy schedule because it allows so much flexibility while allowing you to connect with multiple kids. It is also great because many are more likely to initially join with a friend than alone, and it makes it more fun and convenient. The other benefit of volunteering with a friend is that it can provide more accountability!”

Although the situation of COVID has continued to impact the group programs, Gabe and Colin say that as long as the Littles are still excited to log in for a chat, some games and crafts, they will be waiting on the other side of the screen with a smile!