Beyond School Walls


with John Sanchez, Director of Programs for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the National Capital Area


Jan 25, 2018

93% of Littles in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program believe having a mentor is important to helping them achieve their goals. John Sanchez, Director of Programs for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the National Capital Area shares a discussion on a program geared towards preparing children for the corporate world through mentorship. Beyond School Walls brings children to mentors in the corporate world, introducing them to jobs at an early age, exposing them to new career paths and options for their future. The program offers convenience to mentors by coming to the workplace.

Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Traynham: A landmark study by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America found that children paired with a mentor are half as likely to skip school than their peers. Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Robert Traynham. Joining me is John Sanchez. He´s the Director of Programs for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the National Capital Area, and he joins me to discuss the impact their mentorship initiatives are making nationwide. John, welcome to the program.

Sanchez: Thank you for the opportunity, Robert.

Traynham: I think we can say that -- some basic fundamental truths. When you have someone in your life, particularly as a young person, when you have someone in your life that believes in you, that gives you mentorship, that gives you an encouragement, quite frankly, that´s a little bit of a steady hand when you need it, the impact on that person on your life makes a world of difference for the rest of your life. Is that fair to say?

Sanchez: 100% correct, sir.

Traynham: And, you know, I want to go to a couple of statistics that I think are important to mention in this conversation. And this based on your research. 46% are less likely to begin using drugs, illegal drugs, if, in fact, they have perhaps a mentor in their lives. 27% less likely to begin using alcohol. 33% are less likely to hit someone. I mean, the list goes on and on and on. Walk me through your program.

Sanchez: Well, you got the numbers right for you to study, yeah? Yeah, well, mentoring, we always talk about, "What is mentoring?" And, you know, people don´t realize that Big Brothers Big Sisters is a strong brand. But somehow, many people weren´t exposed to mentoring. You know, you have your dad, your mom, your coach, your uncle, someone.

Traynham: A neighbor?

Sanchez: A neighbor, someone that somehow provides guidance, provides exposure to healthy activities, someone who look out for you, who will talk to you about life challenges, someone who´s always been there and somehow guide you to be successful or do good in life.

Traynham: John, I want to talk about a really cool program that I believe that you all are working on, and that is the School Without Walls. And that´s where, as I understand it, you pair a "little" person, meaning a young person, with perhaps a corporate mentor. What does that look like?

Sanchez: Right, yeah. Well, the program is called Beyond School Walls, and we have -- The program is national. It´s running in actually around 40 affiliates, Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates, and what we do, basically, is to bring mentoring to your workplace. We work with corporations, small business, entrepreneurs, employees that they decide that, "You know what? I can give back to the community." And they meet with the kids in the workplace once or twice a month doing a bunch of activities, playing board games, talking about life, or any particular activity that can be helpful for the child.

Traynham: So, John, would an example be, let´s say perhaps I´m an accountant, and I work a 40- or 50-hour work week. I´m just exhausted, but I want to give back. And perhaps maybe you´re a math student, or perhaps maybe you´re a student that´s just really good in math. Would it be something like where you would come to my place of work sometime, maybe once or twice a month, and you see me observe -- you observe me in meetings. Perhaps maybe you and I sit down and perhaps maybe work out a budget or whatever the case may be. So, in other words, you´re coming to me, so that´s a little bit of a burden that´s off of me, but I´m also giving something back. Would that be a good example?

Sanchez: Absolutely. You know, currently, well, Big Brothers Big Sisters work with different corporations. Some include Comcast, Capital One. For example, the Capital One employees teach those mentees, called little brothers, mentees, about budgets, about 529 savings plans, other financial topics that kids can be interested in the future. So they go back to school and talk to the teacher about, "This is what I learned. This is what I was exposed." And, well, that´s the career path -- kids feeling enthusiastic, engaged. They improve their grades. They´re getting along with this peers. Obviously, in the long run, pay out in the way the kids -- They have a genuine interest for school, for college.

Traynham: Sure. John, in the 45 seconds we have left, what are some of the demographics? What are the type of people that you´re looking for, perhaps maybe to become these mentees? I´m sure the folks that are watching at home on this program or perhaps on their smart device are saying, "You know, this is interesting. Perhaps maybe if I can have a kid come to me, this might help, but I don´t even know if I qualify." What are some of the qualifications that you need?

Sanchez: Well, you know, what we do is a screening process when pretty much we request for the volunteer commitment first. The more important requirement is commitment to meet with a child once or twice a month in your workplace. Could be a bunch of five employees up to 40 employees. And we identify 40 kids, same gender, similar interests and preferences, and, you know, you going through a screening process. That process requests a nation background investigation and get a reference from your employer, you know, your immediate supervisor. And then, we set up a pretty much meeting where the mentor-mentee meet, and they see how chemistry plays, if they´re getting along or not, and we take it from there once or twice a month in your workplace. Corporations, entrepreneurs, or small-business employees, they´re welcome to join us.

Traynham: Very good to hear. John Sanchez, thank you very much for joining us. Keep up the great work. And, of course, thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit I´m Robert Traynham.

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