DENVER – For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado has been connecting children with incredible potential with mentors who can help them achieve it.
That’s how Michael White and Jirai Riley met six years ago. Since then, the two have become incredible friends.
“I think because we both had things in common and we're both funny,” Riley said with a laugh on how they've connected.
While many other pairs cut back their meetings during the pandemic, White and Riley connected at least twice a month. Over the years, they’ve had many incredible adventures.
“I did not like skiing,” White said. “I fell down the mountain.”
“Me too, but I liked it,” added Riley with a smile.
White says he signed up for Big Brothers Big Sisters because he thought he could make a difference by mentoring a young person. He said he’s never regretted that decision.
“It's taught me a lot about being consistent, being a good friend,” he said. “It's really about having fun and connecting.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO Elycia Cook said long before she met White she heard about his dedication to the organization. She said he’s not only Riley's biggest fan, but he’s also one of the biggest cheerleaders the organization has. Cook said he’s exactly the kind of mentor more kids in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program need, especially as kids emerge from social and emotional challenges that have been brought about by the pandemic.
“Every child needs at least one person in their life who is not in their family who is absolutely crazy about them to be their friend to be their champion, to be their cheerleader, to be their go-to person” Cook said. “That's what all of our mentors do. And there's so much data around the power and the impact on a youth life by just having trusting caring adults who are not in their family as a part of their life.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters is in need of additional mentors right now, especially mentors of color. White said it’s not as hard as you might think — you just need to be yourself.
“The best advice I ever got was, ‘Do you know how to be a friend?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I know,' White said. "That's all you need to do.”
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