Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Makes Big Moves to
Create Hope and Possibility for Youth Across the Country
Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) is one of the oldest and largest youth mentoring organizations across the United States, mentoring children aged five through young adulthood. BBBSA provides “best in class” one-to-one youth mentoring services to children facing adversity. Through strong one-to-one relationships with caring volunteer mentors, youth achieve educational success, the avoidance of risky behavior, and social/emotional development. (Organization Website)
Artis Stevens, the first black CEO in the organization’s history, says, “If you can see it, you can be it. One in three children in the United States does not have a sustained positive mentor in their lives. Thirty thousand young people in the organization are waiting for a mentor. While the NFL begins drafting its next generation of superstar players, BBBSA is committed to recruiting mentors, especially men, and men of color, to help mentor and support today’s youth.”
As we sat down with Artis Stevens and 11-year NFL veteran (Wide Receiver) and current NFL Network & CBS Host Nate Burleson on Radio Row for Super Bowl 57 to learn more, Nate said, “Playing football was a blessing. What we did on the field always made an impact, but all the money and lifestyle will fade. What you do in these communities that’s what people will remember you for. That’s what Big Brothers Big Sisters of America stands on. It’s creating these long-lasting relationships for these young boys and girls that need mentorship. It’s about being present and creating footprints big enough for them to walk in so they can do the same thing for someone else down the line.”
During the interview, the EVP of Sports Philanthropy Network, Kayla Bradham, said, “I was on court-ordered probation until the day I turned 18. I grew up in a single-parent household and never met my dad. I was a kid in desperate need of a mentor. This is something necessary and important for us to talk about. I’m a single mom with eight kids living in Milwaukee. I get it.”
The BBBS organization was started 119 years ago as an innovative and creative alternative to the juvenile justice system. “We were founded because there were kids who were being sent through the juvenile justice system because they were immigrants. They were in street gangs. They were homeless. They had all these different things that people had attached to them-not who they were. We were born from justice to create equity in kids’ lives, bringing together more diverse communities so that every kid can feel included and involved in their community and have a better life. That’s why we exist,” said Stephens.
Most of the 30,000 youth on the waiting list are boys of color, and the NFL is joining in on the solution as part of its commitment to fostering DEI. The Big Draft is a simple concept with powerful execution. As the NFL drafts the next round of players, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America will be drafting their next round of mentors. Burleson says, “Oftentimes were sitting back and asking ourselves, ‘What can I do? How can I be involved?’ BBBS is exactly that. It’s really simple. Once you reach out to us, you take one step forward, and they give you the blueprint to give. It’s just a snowball effect of graciousness and acceptance and creating a safe space for the youth.”
As one of the longest-standing partners of the NFL Inspire Change, BBBSA has worked with the initiative since 2019 to share stories of mentorship and the positive impact it has on empowering young people and helping communities connect across racial and economic divides.
New this year, Pepsi Stronger Together has joined BBBSA as a national corporate partner and sponsor for The Big Draft campaign to continue raising awareness of the importance of mentorship. The Big Draft kicked off after Super Bowl LVI and emulates the always anticipated NFL Draft. Hosted online, The Big Draft aims to recruit Bigs in communities across the country to soon be matched with Littles in their nearby area to embark on the great adventure of mentorship, creating new and lasting bonds. The Big Draft campaign will run through the last week of the NFL Draft. (website)
Pepsi Stronger Together is a national initiative to empower and engage communities around the country by providing tailored programming and resources that bring people together. It was conceived with the idea that now, more than ever, we must foster a sense of connection and belonging, starting by investing locally. (website)
“This is a great fit for us at Sports Philanthropy Network. We started this non-profit with three key concepts in mind: education, opportunity, and empowerment. What Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is doing aligns with our values to build stronger, healthier, and more inclusive communities. We look forward to finding ways to partner together to create hope and possibility across the country”, said Founder Roy Kessel.
For over a hundred years, BBBSA primarily served youth aged 5-18, but that’s changing. Since the pandemic, the fastest-growing population served is now 18-25. Young adults are looking for career opportunities and career management.
Artis and Nate brought along two of the Littles in the BBBSA program to our interview, teenage brothers. One wants to be an engineer, and the other is considering sports media. “It’s really important. It helps kids like my brother and me to express who we are and have opportunities in careers,” said the younger brother, Isaac. Isaac’s older brother echoed and continued, “With my big brother, I love talking to him and being able to express myself and just be myself. He helps me understand things about life and helps me understand things that I may not know. He helps me get more educated about things and feel better about life.”
“I’ve filled out my application to be a Big Sister in Milwaukee because I’ve dedicated my life to creating hope and possibility for the people who need it most,” said Bradham. “My life is crazy busy, but this is important. I am challenging everyone who reads this to take a moment and reflect if maybe they are being led to become a Big Mentor as well. Let’s make sure that our actions walk the talk.”
Kayla Bradham, EVP of Sports Philanthropy Network (Email Kayla Bradham)
CONNECT WITH US: