By: Carrington Murray
Kavon Barger and Jamarcus Little never expected a simple idea to work with youth to grow into full-fledge mentorship. Now as the two sit and prepare for year two of the Big Homie Mentorship Program, they reflect on its success with astonishment. According to Barber, “Everything really happened so fast.”
A big homie is defined as an African American college male who is dedicated to changing the lives of young boys in the community through mentorship. The program known as the Big Homie Mentorship program started out as a tour of some elementary guys. “I remember calling Kavon and asking him whether he wanted to help out with a tour for about 50 boys,” said Little.
Little said he knew that Barber really loved kids and thought that it would be an opportunity he would love being a part of. Barber said he accepted with no hesitation. “I mean I jumped at the opportunity to help out, I plan to work with elementary guys as an educator, so I knew the tour would be something I would enjoy.”
What Barber nor Little knew is that these 50 boys would be the inaugural class of the program. “Watching how much my boys really loved them I knew that Barber and Little would be perfect mentors to jumpstart this program.” said Christopher Williams, director of Partnership Development for Tiny Techz. He said it wasn’t long after the tour that he called Little and offered him the opportunity to mentor he 50 guys that he and Barber had served as tour guides for a few weeks earlier.
Barber said he still remembers the day Little called him and asked him would he be willing to start a mentorship program.
“I was so torn in making my decision, I knew I loved working with kids and wanted to be a part of their growth, I just wasn’t sure it was enough guys who felt like me and Jamarcus did about kids to want to be a part of the program.” Needing time to think, Barber finally agreed ,
The “Big Homie’s” mentorship program meets afterschool every Monday and Friday from 3-5:30 p.m. The program caters only to young men in the third through fifth grades. Little says he loves youngsters in those grades.
“This is the age where mentorship in young men is very important. Lots of time we lose our guys because we try and mentor them after they have gotten too old.”
In mentorship sessions the students undergo a series of activities. One primary activity related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and one activity catering to professional development. These activities include bow tie 101, etiquette dinners and creating success plans for college. “It’s very important to keep students motivated about their academics, but it is also equally important to offer them tools that can help them in the professional world as well,” said Williams.
Jobs as mentors for the Big Homie Program are open to all African American males who are enrolled in college. Shay Malone, director of the USC Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, says that she loves that the program reaches out to African American males. “It seems like once a week, sometimes more, guys come into my office asking of any mentorship opportunities that they can be a part of,” Malone says.
From her many interactions with Barber and Little, she always refers guys to the Big Homie program. “I’ve had to work really closely with Barber, as well as Little, in my positon as director of OMSA and I find myself referring so many willing young men to the program because I believe they can grow while providing growth to the young boys.”
Sam Wilson is a perfect example of the growth that one can gain by serving as a mentor in the Big Homie Program. “I knew when I agreed to serve as mentor that this would be something completely new for me, because I didn’t have much experience working with kids.” Through his desire to give back to the community, Wilson agreed to serve as a mentor and he attests to the change he has made within. “I really have grown much fonder of my interactions with youth as well as my patience increasing tremendously.”
Just like Wilson, Barber believes that he has learned just as much from the boys as the boys have learned from him. “I mean each day I’m with them it’s something new. Nothing is ever the same. I leave each day with a new story and a new experience.” Barber says that these experiences have only deepened his love for education and his determination to help elementary aged boys.
Little and Barber want to expand the program, so do others. Currently Big Homie is implemented at three elementary schools, J.P Thomas Elementary School, Burton and Pack Elementary School and Carver Lyon Elementary Schools. “I want the program to be implemented at more and more schools each year so that we are reaching more young boys who want to make something of themselves,” Little says.
According to Devin Carter, Barber and Little’s fellow mentor, nothing is more rewarding as a mentor than seeing the positive progression in the young men. “When teachers come and talk to us about how well our guys are performing academically and behaviorally, it really makes me happy. It really allows me to see that my efforts are not in vain.”
As January slowly approaches and the Big Homie Program prepares for another year they hope that community involvement improves. That there will be opportunities for the guys in the program to give to their community what they get back. “I just really want the community to take more interest in the program and the program’s overall mission to push young boys to be great, because it really takes a village,” said Carter.
When asked what they dislike most about the program they all agreed that two days a week is simply not enough. “Having the program on more days would really increase mentor participation, and hopefully limit the issue of class scheduling conflicts,” Little said.
With the help of many aids along the way Barber and Little have successfully created an afterschool program. Barber and Little agree that they will remain motivated and committed to their aspirations to serve as lifelong educators and mentors. The Big Homie Program exemplifies how such help can make a difference.
Murray is public relations senior