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.

February’s Spotlight Volunteer is Jamie!

Jamie has been a volunteer in the Big Bunch group program since March 2023. Jamie has a passion for the outdoors and he travels all over the country for his job in manufacturing. Jamie was drawn to volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters because he understands the importance that mentorship has and how it can positively impact a young person’s life. Growing up, Jamie had great mentors who guided him through various stages of his life and therefore he can recognize the difference a supportive adult can make in a child’s life.

To Jamie, mentoring means being a role model in all of your actions and being a person that someone can rely on. This involves building a trusting and nurturing relationship based on mutual respect, empathy and understanding. Overall, Jamie views mentorship as a meaningful commitment to supporting and guiding someone through various aspects of their life journey.

Jamie’s favourite part about being a mentor with BBBSG is the opportunity to make a meaningful and positive impact on someone’s life while also experiencing personal growth and fulfillment in the process. Throughout his time volunteering with the Big Bunch program, Jamie has witnessed his mentees develop in various areas such as increased confidence, enhanced personal skills, and the growth of positive relationships with each other.

We asked Jamie what he would say to someone who was interested in volunteering with BBBSG. He said “I would tell them that volunteering at Big Brothers is a rewarding opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of young people. I’d encourage them to explore the various mentoring programs offered by Big Brothers and consider how their skills and interests align with the organization’s mission.”

January’s Spotlight Volunteer is Taelor!

Taelor has been a volunteer in the community-based 1-1 program since March 2023. Taelor was initially drawn to volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters because they saw it as an opportunity to contribute to the well-being of others, particularly young people who could greatly benefit from the positive influence of a mentor. Taelor believes in the transformative power of mentorship and wanted to be a part of fostering positive change in the life of a youth.

To Taelor, mentoring means proving a safe environment for young people to feel comfortable being themselves, while guiding them towards personal growth and empowerment.

Taelor’s favourite part about being a mentor with BBBSG is witnessing the positive changes and tremendous growth that their mentee has achieved throughout their time together so far. Over the past 10 months, Taelor has seen their mentee become more confident and comfortable with who he is as an individual and he has been more open in conversations as well as more willing to try new activities. From Taelor’s perspective, their mentee has accomplished not only personal growth but he has also developed a resilience and eagerness to explore new possibilities in his life.

Taelor’s favourite memory with their mentee is going kayaking together with Taelor’s dog. Their mentee loves outdoor activities and every time they go kayaking, Taelor’s dog eagerly jumps into their mentees kayak. Taelor expressed that seeing their mentee and their dog bond over being outside together has truly been the highlight of Taelor’s summer.

We asked Taelor what they would say to someone who was interested in volunteering with BBBSG. They said, “It’s worth it! Not only do you get to make a lasting meaningful relationship with your mentee, but you also get to witness the positive impact that being a mentor has. Mentoring has personally enriched my life by providing a sense of purpose and fulfillment, knowing that I’ve played a role in someone else’s growth and happiness. The rewards of being a mentor extend beyond the individual moments, creating a positivity that benefits both mentor and mentee alike.”

December’s Spotlight Volunteers are Izabelle and Manpreet!

“One of my mentee’s teachers told me that whatever I am doing with my mentee is working! She says every time we meet, she comes to class happy and excited. It truly makes me realize all the effort I put into our one hour works.”

Meet Izabelle and Manpreet! They are our December Spotlight Volunteers.

Izabelle and Manpreet are both currently in grade 12 and completing their co-op placements with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guelph for the Fall semester. They were both eager to gain experience with children and have a positive impact on their growth, so they came to the right place!

As part of their placements, they both meet one-on-one with 8 different mentees at two separate local elementary schools. During their visits with the children, Izabelle and Manpreet do a variety of activities, such as arts and crafts, playing sports, baking or making slime. Both co-op mentors really lean into what each specific mentee is interested in doing or learning more about, so that they all get the most of their time spent together.

Part of creating a developmental relationship with a child or youth includes challenging their growth and encouraging them to learn from their mistakes. Both Izabelle and Manpreet have been able to foster this type growth in their mentees and highlighted that these experiences have created some of their favourite memories. Izabelle shared that she and a mentee tried to make slime during a visit, but it didn’t quite work out as planned, yet they still had a blast laughing at the “sticky glue mess” that ended up all over them. Manpreet and one of her mentees attempted making Rice Krispy squares for one of their visits and that did not go according to plan either! She shared that their marshmallows exploded and made a huge mess, but that she and her mentee “still laugh about it to this day” and they vowed that they would work to learn at least one recipe and get it right during their time together.

A BIG thank you to these young ladies for choosing Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guelph to complete their co-op with! Their time with their mentees is definitely something that will be remembered by their kids and looked back at fondly in the future.

Novembers’s Spotlight Volunteer is Stephen!

Our November Spotlight Volunteer is Stephen! Stephen recently graduated from an engineering program at the University of Waterloo and is now pursuing his childhood dream, training to become a firefighter at Seneca Polytechnic. Stephen really enjoys reading, sketching and exercise; just recently completing his first marathon! He has also recently found a passion in community involvement and is ecstatic to keep diving into that head-first!

Stephen benefitted so much from local, community programs growing up and wanted to give back by volunteering within a Big Brothers Big Sisters group mentoring program. Stephen has enjoyed getting to know the students participating in his group and shared that it has been so rewarding to develop unique connections with each individual mentee. He feels as though mentoring programs provide mentees with a safe space to ask questions, build healthy relationships, and discover their identity. Stephen added, “on top of that, it’s a ton of fun! Just last week I played dodgeball again for the first time in almost a decade.”

“For me, mentoring rolls things like empathy, fun, and being a good role model all into one. There are so many different opportunities to make a difference with BBBS, from group to individual mentoring and fun one-time events. I’ve had a fantastic time so far with group mentoring and plan on continuing my involvement with all the various programs in the future!”

Stephen’s excitement to get involved and commitment to our group programs this semester is so appreciated!

Keep being awesome Stephen!

October’s Spotlight Volunteer is Tiana!

“My favourite part of being a mentor is watching my mentee’s personality and confidence begin to show and flourish in our meets the more we spend time together!”

Tiana is a volunteer in our 1-1 In-School Mentoring program. She is a university student studying Psychology and Neuroscience, and decided to volunteer because she wanted “to be a positive influence in the life of a younger student who may need one” as well as being “someone [her] mentee could turn to for support, guidance, and a friendship”. Tiana has certainly succeeded in her goals! Every week Tiana goes above and beyond to make it a fun and enjoyable experience for her mentee. Tiana’s mentee has been through a number of adversities in her life, and Tiana has been such a positive light for her mentee. Her mentee’s school has reported that Tiana is a large reason why her mentee was attending school, and added how they wish there were more mentors like Tiana!

Tiana has similarly been able to observe her mentee’s personal growth, noticing how over the course of their time together, her mentee “went from being more on the shy and reserved side to now being outgoing, chatty and open!  She now loves sharing stories, making jokes, and giving input!”. This is a testament to Tiana’s kind and caring approach which makes her mentee feel comfortable. She remembers one favourite memory in particular where the weather was nice, so they played outside and were able to “share stories, laughs and ideas”. These moments are extremely impactful and go a long way for kids who are experiencing other struggles.

When asked what she would tell someone thinking of becoming a volunteer, Tiana said “Volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters is so fulfilling! Not only are you being a mentor for your mentee; you, yourself, will gain so much from the relationship and time spent together. It is an amazing feeling to build a bond with someone and have so much excitement and joy during your times together.”

Thank-you Tiana for being such a dedicated, thoughtful and supportive mentor! Your time has made such a big difference.

Our September Spotlight Volunteers are Andrew and Judith!

“To us, mentoring means role-modeling positive behavior and providing a safe, supportive environment where someone feels empowered to talk about their challenges and have a say in the decisions being made.” 

Andrew and Judith are a Couples Match who moved to Guelph in 2020 and they have been matched with their mentee for over one year now. Both Andrew and Judith, were looking for something positive they could do for the community and came across Big Brothers Big Sisters. They were soon matched with a mentee and have enjoyed getting to know him and his “vivid, active imagination and always-happy disposition.”

Andrew’s uncle was a positive influence on him growing up which spiked his interest in becoming a volunteer because he wanted to pay it forward and be a positive influence for someone else in his community. Andrew and Judith encourage their mentee to be open with them and share any challenges that arise so they can provide the appropriate care and support he may need.

“Our favourite part about being mentors has been watching our mentee become more confident and open to trying new things.”

At first, Andrew and Judith saw their mentee was hesitant to try new things, but now he looks forward this and developing his interests further. Andrew and Judith have seen their mentee grow a lot since they were first matched. Their mentee used to be shy about sharing his ideas and experiences in his life and now he takes the opportunity to talk more freely with them, especially about school!

Andrew’s favourite memories with his mentee have been teaching him how to cook safely, how prepare different meals, and talking about nature and science, which is a common interest they share. Judith’s favourite memory with her mentee was making (and eating) Tanghulu. When their mentee announced, he was going to tell all his friends about the amazing dessert he got to make with his Big Brother and Big Sister, that was the first time, Judith realized her mentee talks about her and Andrew to his friends. This was a proud moment for Andrew and Judith!

We asked Andrew and Judith what they would tell someone who was interested in becoming a volunteer, they said “Do it! It has been a great experience and a lot of fun! Our mentee keeps us on our toes and brings a smile to our day!”

Thank you, Andrew and Judith! We greatly appreciate the care and compassion you have brought to your relationship with your mentee and we look forward to hearing all the amazing experiences you have in the future together!

Our August Spotlight Volunteer is Jess!

“DO IT. It may seem like it is a big commitment (and it is) but the impact that you are going to have on someone’s life is so worth it.”

Jessica works in the Human Resources department at Skyline in Guelph. When Jessica is not working or being a rockstar mentor, she can most likely be found outdoors, going camping, at the beach, hiking, or playing volleyball. After applying in 2022, Jessica was matched with a little sister in the community based 1-1 program. Growing up with two brothers, Jessica had always wished for a sister and is now told that her mentee reminds people of Jessica when she was little.

When asked what mentoring means to her, Jessica said “mentoring to me means building an impactful relationship with an individual(s) that provides support, learning and growth opportunities”. Jessica credits her cousin as acting as a mentor for her growing up and inspiring her to do the same for someone else in the community. Jessica’s favourite part about being a mentor is the relationship she and her mentee have built together, with the volunteer stating, “we are constantly laughing and trying new things”. Jessica and her mentee both love to put on music and dance like no one is watching, the match has even created their own dance routine. Since starting the match 10 months ago, Jessica commented that she has seen her mentee “flourish with confidence” and described how her little is so much more open to trying new things even if she thinks she will not like it!

Thank you for all that you do, Jess!

Our July Spotlight Volunteer is John!

“Mentoring is about building relationships and trust between you and your little(s). For me, it’s about being someone that my group can look up to, come to for advice and help them navigate their way through life as a trusted and reliable adult.”

John is entering his final year of the Bachelor of Education program at Wilfrid Laurier University and after graduating, John hopes to become a teacher. In his spare time, John enjoys being outside, going on a hike or hanging out at Riverside Park. John began volunteering with the Big Bunch program in September 2022 and has successfully run two groups since then. Growing up, John always wanted a younger brother (he is the youngest in his family) and through the Big Bunch program, John joked that he “now has about 15.”

John was inspired to begin volunteering after he saw the positive impacts his older sister was making on her littles through volunteering at another Big Brothers Big Sisters agency. John was also motivated to volunteer with BBBS as he believes it’s a great way to give back to the Guelph community and be a positive role model for youth in the program.

John’s favourite part about being a mentor has been watching the boys in his groups grow as individuals, while also seeing relationships form between each other and the other volunteers. John explained that some of the kids in his group were a little anxious and nervous about joining the group at first. Seeing these kids come out of their shells and watching their excitement at each outing always assures John that the work he is doing is meaningful to his mentees. During the time he has spent with his groups, John has gone skating, played dodgeball and other sports and made plenty of visits to various local parks. John said that “to name one favourite activity or memory would be difficult. Anytime I get to act like a kid again with my Big Bunch groups is great.”

We asked John what he would say to someone who was interested in volunteering with BBBSG, he said, “Just jump in! There are a lot of kids that benefit from the programs offered, and you have the opportunity to make a lasting impression in someone’s life.”

Our June Spotlight Volunteer is Jan!

“It is a very rewarding opportunity with the potential to make a huge impact on someone’s life. The commitment is not too much, but the effect you can have on someone’s life is immense”

Jan joined the agency as an In-School Mentor in early 2022 and was eager to have a lasting effect on someone’s life in the same way his own older brother provided that for him. He explains, “by growing up with a bigger brother myself who is now one of my closest friends, I realize the impact it can have and I wanted to provide that opportunity to someone else”.

Jan is very understanding, adaptable and supportive of his mentee’s needs and interests. Jan is always game for whatever his mentee wants to do that day, and encourages his mentee to feel confident about his passions. Jan spoke of his favourite memory with his mentee: “My favourite memory is starting to design the cafe he dreams of owning one day. I felt very privileged to help him chase his dream and work on this project together which meant a lot to him. Aside from that, it was also a lot of fun and something he was very engaged in.”

Through Jan’s calm and encouraging approach, his mentee has become more self-assured and better able to respond to some of the challenges he was experiencing.  Jan reflects, “My mentee has grown within our relationship, as well as outside of it in his maturity and character. He has become much more comfortable in our relationship and able to open up and talk to me about issues in his life. Outside of this, he has matured and grown to overcome difficulties and communicate honestly.” Jan is always trying to bring out the best in his mentee, and seeing his mentee grow over the last two school years has been Jan’s favourite part of being a mentor.

Jan even continued the match when his mentee moved schools, and played a pivotal role in helping his mentee adapt to being at a new school. Throughout their time together, Jan has continued to be a consistent support and positive force in his mentee’s life, which has had a huge impact.

We appreciate all the amazing things you have brought to your match, Jan! Thanks for making a difference!

Our May Spotlight Volunteer is Julia!

“Being able to watch each of my mentees become more confident in themselves, their ideas & their abilities is so rewarding!”

Meet Julia! She is our always-smiling May Spotlight Volunteer.

Julia is currently in grade 12 and completing her co-op with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guelph for this semester. Julia fell into this co-op role of meeting with 8 different mentees each week naturally as she has previous experience working with children through camp and through a different co-op experience at the YMCA/YWCA in Guelph. She has a friendly, warm demeanour that is conducive to creating a welcoming and safe environment for youth!

Julia shared that her favourite part about mentoring and her co-op with BBBSG is that she gets to be a positive role model for her mentees. She highlighted that she has “many amazing role models” in her life, and that she “loves having the opportunity to be that person for my mentees!”

Julia’s been meeting with each of her mentees since late February and she has already noticed positive changes in them since their matches began. She relayed, “whether it’s their behaviour, abilities, or self-esteem, I have seen a positive change in all eight of my mentees.” Julia expressed that being able to watch these children “become more confident in themselves, their ideas & their abilities is so rewarding!”

Julia emphasized that the “small moments” make up some of her favourite memories with her mentees. “Teaching my mentee how to tie their shoes, making friendship bracelets with my mentee, and watching my mentee’s face light up when they see me” – all of these things reinforce to Julia that she is making a positive impact on the lives of youth who need it and benefit from it the most.

Thank you so much for choosing BBBSG to complete your co-op with Julia! Your caring, positive attitude is an invaluable asset to being able to develop such great relationships with these youth and it is easy to see that you have become a person to look up to in the lives of your mentees.

Our April Spotlight Volunteer is Riddhi!

Our April Spotlight Volunteer is Riddhi! Riddhi is currently in her fourth-year of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Guelph. After she finishes her schooling, Riddhi would like to pursue a career in medicine and would love if children were a part of her work.

Riddhi’s experience with Big Brothers Big Sisters Guelph began when she participated in our 1:1 mentoring program as a Little Sister from the age of 6-14. She was very excited to get involved as a mentor herself sharing, “I learned so much from her big sister and want to be the same role model I had while growing up!” Riddhi is now volunteering as a school-based group program leader. Her favourite part of leading her group is getting to know the girls participating and seeing how they are growing into amazing, strong and beautiful young women!

“Mentoring is a special connection you share with a ‘Little’ where you have the opportunity to help them be the best they can be. If you are interested in becoming a mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters, get your application in ASAP! You will get so much joy from this experience!”

Riddhi has brough so much good to her school group and is such a valued member of our team! Keep being awesome Riddhi!!

Our March Spotlight Volunteer is Gaon!

“All in all, having a mentor helped me during a difficult time in my life—transitioning from high school to university—as well as made me a new friend, and I wanted others to share the same experience I had with my mentor.”

Gaon is a second-year Biomedical Sciences student at the University of Guelph. He began mentoring with BBBSG through the virtual 1-to-1 program that the agency offered, but eventually his match transitioned to in-school where he visits with his mentee weekly in-person. Gaon’s mentee is moving onto high school next year, and has shared that he is nervous about this transition. When he found out that there’s the option for Gaon to keep visiting him weekly even in high school, he expressed so much excitement and happiness! He even noted that he felt less nervous about going to high school if Gaon would still be visiting with him.

Gaon shared that what made him want to volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guelph was actually his own mentorship experience through the University of Guelph when he was in his first year. He explained that he was paired up with a third-year student who helped him tremendously with adjusting to university by sharing their own personal experiences with school. Gaon noted that he and his mentor “would also have long conversations about life and play online games, which was really enjoyable”. He highlighted that he and his mentor still talk to this day!

Gaon’s favourite part about being a mentor is “seeing the excitement on my mentee’s face at the beginning of each of our sessions”. He shared that this lets him know that his mentee enjoys their time together. Gaon’s ultimate goal of being a mentor is to provide a time during the week for his mentee to look forward to, which he has achieved according to his mentee’s mother. She recently shared that his mentee only loves going to school on Mondays and Fridays – Fridays because it’s pizza day and Mondays because he knows he gets to see Gaon!

Thank you, Gaon for your commitment to being a consistent, positive support to your mentee! We’re excited to watch your mentoring relationship grow.

Our February Spotlight Volunteer is Matt!

“To me being a volunteer is an opportunity to have fun and give back to my community. I’ve been very lucky in my life to have outstanding role models, and if I can have some part in being a positive influence in someone else’s life I’ll be a more fulfilled person because of it.”

Matt is a University of Guelph graduate who is currently working as an Associate Advisor for Whitehaven Wealth Management. During his time in University, Matt worked part time at Rockwood Music Academy where he taught guitar, drums, bass, ukelele, and banjo. Matt has always had a place in his heart for volunteering which began with his dad where they both volunteered at Camp McGovern, a camp for children who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to attend summer camp. Matt has been a volunteer with our Big Bunch program since September 2021.

Matt was motivated to volunteer after talking to his friend during a game of golf. Matt’s friend told him how rewarding it was to spend time with the kids at Big Brothers Big Sisters. During his time volunteering, Matt has enjoyed hanging out with the kids. He shared that “the kids [he] gets to work with are fun-natured, exciting, positive, and they help to bring a youthful spirit into [his] life.” Matt has been able to witness his mentees “growing-up and finding their identities.” Matt doesn’t have one favorite memory with his mentees, but rather enjoys any experiences where a mentee shows him how much they appreciate him being in their lives.

We asked Matt what he would tell someone who is interested in volunteering with BBBSG, he said, “Do it! It’s a phenomenal experience. I’ve never believed that any act in life is completely altruistic, and this experience lines up with that notion. YOU will feel good about how you’re impacting these kids’ lives, your community and the joyful moments that you share with them.”

Thank you so much Matt! We appreciated your dedication and the caring and humorous attitude that you have brought to the groups that you’ve been a part of!

January’s Spotlight Volunteer 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!

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!