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Labor and Economic Opportunity

Young Boy Bullied After Losing Eye to Cancer, Impacted Greatly by Mentor

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to interview a mentor/mentee that has been matched in our system for seven years and after the mentee turned 18 and was too old for our system, stayed in contact for four more years and counting. So altogether this match has been together for 11 years and counting all from meeting at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Detroit (BBBSMD). I thought this story was great from the outside looking in, but when I really interviewed them in depth, I realized just how much of an impact this match really had on both the mentor and mentee and in the end, on myself.

When Brandon Wilks (mentee) and Lowell Tyler (mentor) met, Brandon was 8 years old and dealing with a lot of personal issues. He was battling getting bullied in school for having a prosthetic eye (due to the loss of his right eye when he was only two years old from retinoblastoma cancer) he was also dealing with his father's recent incarceration. In result, Brandon had a lot of behavior issues that he was dealing with in school. Brandon's mother thought that putting Brandon is this program at BBBSMD, would give him a male mentor to look up to and maybe help him deal with all these issues. At the same time Lowell Tyler (mentor) was volunteering to be a mentor because of the mentors in his life that positively impacted him.

He wanted to do the same thing in a child's life that was done for him. So when these two got matched it was like fate. They hit it off instantly. They did simple activities together such as going to the movies, building things, or simply hanging out at a park and talking. But these little activities made a big difference. After just a year of the match Brandon's behavior did a full 180. He was getting better grades, getting in less trouble at school, and even started to make friends and accepting himself and his cancer. Fast-forwarding to years later when Brandon was a senior in High School, and still being mentored by Lowell, he was inducted into the National Honor Society and had the top five GPA in his senior class. Brandon emphasized that not only did Lowell give him the confidence to excel is academics, but in athletics as well. In his senior of high school, Brandon won the State Championship in the 200 meter dash, which ultimately landed Brandon a full-ride scholarship to the University of Detroit Mercy.

Brandon stated in the interview that "There is no way I would have progressed and accomplished the things I've done without the help of my big bro Lowell."

Like previously stated, even after the match, they continued their relationship. Just recently over Christmas break 2014 Lowell invited Brandon to spend a week with him at his home in North Carolina. Lowell paid all the expenses from the flight to all the activities they did. Brandon stated that at even 19 years old, Lowell has never stopped mentoring him. During the NC trip, Lowell took Brandon to his job so Brandon could job shadow him and get a feel of what it is like in the real world. So from a 8 until Brandon's age of 19, Lowell has never stopped exposing him to positive things.

Lowell said He will never stop being a mentor to Brandon, even when he is married with children.

This match made me realize just how important mentors are in the world. It showed me that by just being there for someone, you can take them from "nothing to something" in Brandon's case from a misbehaved child to a scholar. I seen the sincerity, honesty, and true love that both Brandon and Lowell have for one another and I know just from the brief interview that this relationship will never end.

This story was submitted by Jasmine Greene with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Metro Detroit. Submit your own mentoring story and you could win $200. Or learn how to become a mentor!