Mentoring relationships help ‘Bigs’ and ‘Littles’

Gloria Kilanko (right) has been matched with her Little Sister Aniyah (left) since September 2014 and the two have a sibling-like relationship. They were chosen as the female 2021 Bigs and Littles of the Year of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta. Courtesy of BBBS of Metro Atlanta
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Gloria Kilanko (right) has been matched with her Little Sister Aniyah (left) since September 2014 and the two have a sibling-like relationship. They were chosen as the female 2021 Bigs and Littles of the Year of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta. Courtesy of BBBS of Metro Atlanta

Credit: Picasa

Credit: Picasa

In the mentoring Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, adult mentors say they get as much out of the relationship as the youth they serve. It seems the “Littles” can also teach the “Bigs” a thing or two.

Jonathan Wortham said he had fantastic mentors throughout his life, and he wanted to pass those investments along to somebody else. Five years ago, the medical doctor with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention became a Big Brother to 12-year-old Trevon through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta (BBBSMA).

Trevon, now 17, matured and changed during those five years, but so did Wortham.

“Being with Trevon over the past five years, I’ve learned so much about myself – how to be a better friend, how to be a better man and a better person. And how to be much more self-aware so that you’re able to be a good mentor,” Wortham said.

Jonathan Wortham (right) is Big Brother to Trevon. The two have been chosen as the Georgia Big and Little Brother of the Year. Courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta
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Jonathan Wortham (right) is Big Brother to Trevon. The two have been chosen as the Georgia Big and Little Brother of the Year. Courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta

Credit: Picasa

Credit: Picasa

It’s been a reciprocal relationship for Gloria Kilanko and her Little Sister Aniyah, too. The two are like sisters after being together with BBBSMA since September 2014.

“I went into it with the mindset that I want to make a difference and contribute to the life of a young person,” said Kilanko, a professional counselor and former teacher. “But being a part of Aniyah’s life has also helped me grow into the woman I am today.”

Because someone was looking up to her, Kilanko pushed herself to do more and achieve personal and professional goals. Always setting a good example for Aniyah, now 16, was essential to Kilanko. She’s seen her Little Sister transition from childhood to an adolescent who is motivated to serve her community, work toward a college education, and be responsible with money earned.

“Just seeing her growth has been so amazing to me,” Kilanko said. “Mentally and emotionally to see her be in a different space; I feel like a second mom to her.”

These two mentoring matches were selected as the 2021 Bigs and Littles of the Year for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta (BBBSMA). They were chosen out of 1,100 couples across 12 metro counties.

Bigs and Littles (along with their parent or guardian) nominate one another for the honor, and BBBSMA staff select a male and female winner.

Wortham and Trevon also have been selected as the Georgia Big and Little Brother of the Year. They are now eligible to be chosen at the national level as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America’s Big and Little Brother of the Year.

Wortham said he’d had a lot of fun interacting with his Little Brother through the years, sharing some of his hobbies, and learning some of Trevon’s. They tried hard to keep the relationship going during the pandemic by sometimes meeting on the porch at Trevon’s house, each wearing a mask. Whenever Wortham had to travel for work, he would send Trevon a postcard to let him know he thought of him.

“Trevon has grown into somebody who is very self-confident. I think when he puts his mind to it, he can accomplish just about anything. I really look forward to seeing how he’s going to take on this last year of high school and to see what the future holds for him,” Wortham said.

Jonathan Wortham found ways to connect with his Little Brother Trevon throughout the pandemic. Courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta
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Jonathan Wortham found ways to connect with his Little Brother Trevon throughout the pandemic. Courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta

Credit: Picasa

Credit: Picasa

Aniya’s mother, Katrina (the last name not given), said Kilanko had become a friend to the entire family. They spend holidays together and celebrate birthdays.

Kilanko said it was fantastic to have a parent, like Katrina, who is very active and wants the match to succeed. “It’s been a reciprocal relationship that’s been great,” Kilanko said.

Gloria Kilanko with her Little Sister Aniyah. Kilanko says 'being a part of Aniyah's life has helped me grow into the woman I am today.' Courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta
Caption
Gloria Kilanko with her Little Sister Aniyah. Kilanko says 'being a part of Aniyah's life has helped me grow into the woman I am today.' Courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta

Credit: Picasa

Credit: Picasa

Wortham said being a Big Brother or Big Sister will get you out of your comfort zone and remind you what it’s like being a kid again. It’s also one of the best things you’ll ever do, he said.

“I hope that I’ve helped (Trevon) along the way,” Wortham said. “But all the Bigs think our Littles have contributed quite a bit to our lives as well.

“It really is a relationship that helps the Big and the Little,” Wortham said.

WHAT INSPIRES ABOUT BEING THE ‘LITTLE’ OF THE YEAR

Aniyah: Recalls an outing where her family joined Kilanko’s family on a volunteer project. “It taught me how to care for others and always be grateful for what I have. It also opened my eyes to see how some people live and how I should look out for the less fortunate and help people in any ways I can.”

Trevon: Appreciates the way Wortham always found a way to connect throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “With COVID-19 coming out of nowhere, that caused me to not be able to go certain places with Jonathan, or just places in general. That’s been a little bit of a challenge for the both of us, but, like always, Jonathan finds another way to make it work.”

How to get involved: www.bbbsatl.org/