Equal Opportunity for America’s Youth

with Tanya Gibson of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

Since its founding in 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the largest mentoring organization in the U.S., has dedicated itself to values including justice and inclusion.

Tanya Gibson, Vice President of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) and Vice President of Human Resources at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, joins host Tetiana Anderson to share how the group champions equal opportunity for youth in communities across the country.

Posted on:

Jan 03, 2022

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and protests that swept the country last year in pursuit of social justice, Americans are confronting issues surrounding racism, health care, and equity in education and society. Today, we will be focusing on our nation's youth. Hello, and welcome to Comcast Newsmakers. I'm Tetiana Anderson. From its very beginnings, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the largest mentoring organization in the US, has dedicated itself to providing equal opportunity for America's youth. In light of recent events, the group has reaffirmed its commitment to all of those principles, and joining me now is Tanya Gibson, Vice President of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, or JEDI, and also Vice President of Human Resources, all of it for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Tanya, thanks for being here.

Gibson: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

Anderson: So equity, justice, and all those ideals encompass have really been a part of your organization since the beginning, but explain how Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is really rooted in this idea that caring adults can make a difference in the lives of young people that they connect with.

Gibson: Well, you're so right, Tetiana. Through our founding back in 1904 with Ernest Coulter as a court clerk, we were founded as an innovative alternative to the juvenile justice system, and over the last 117 years, we continue to have those values as we are rooted in justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. And so that's who we are, embedded in everything that we do every day.

Anderson: So based on that, we obviously know that your commitment to the importance of strengthening justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion among young people certainly is not new, but how is Big Brothers Big Sisters of America educating mentors, or the bigs, to better serve the littles that they are working with? And I understand there are some new things going on.

Gibson: Yes, Tetiana. So we have continued our work along empowering awareness and building perspectives for our bigs, so some of the new innovations that we've rolled out for our bigs to help support us in our JEDI work is through our JEDI orientation curriculum, the set of courses built through evidence-based outcomes and information that helps support our bigs. It's not just something that we do on Day 1. It's something that we do every day for our bigs to help them to understand the lived experiences of our young people, oftentimes who've come from different backgrounds and cultural heritages, and so it allows our bigs to be able to ask those questions, be supportive, empathetic, and empower our young people to be all that they can be with their potential.

Anderson: What was sort of going on in society? What was the climate that showed you that there was maybe a lack of knowledge or a lack of understanding on the part of the bigs when it comes to what these littles were going through? What made you say, you know, we have to stop and really do some education work around this for the bigs?

Gibson: Well, I think our social-justice movement that we saw over the last summer of the unfortunate events that transpired with loss of life really allowed us to look at ourselves and say that we can do more. We have been for the last 100-plus years matching our caring adults with our littles, but we found that we weren't doing enough. And as we saw our country working through what was happening, we also said we needed to do more, and so that's when we built out our JEDI orientation course. We provided weekly resources, different podcasts, books. We allowed for folks to be able to meet with us through a series called Race, Relationships, and Resources, where we talked about these issues that we heard from our young people, and they allowed to share with us what they felt were the challenges and issues that they face so that we could share that with our bigs and so that they could feel supported in the work and the relationships that we form with our young people.

Anderson: And what do you see as the sort of long-term benefit for the littles because of this new work that you are doing with the bigs? I mean, what do you want to see down the road that will be proof that all of this has worked?

Gibson: Well, I think the success of hearing from our young people that they have, whether it be going on to college, career, out in the workforce, that they have a life-long relationship with their mentor, that maybe they also come back and give back to another young person as a big. We recently formed a JEDI advisory council, and so I hope that our littles and our bigs see that the work that we're doing will continue, that we'll be listening to the issues that our young people are facing and support them not only as they are a young person in this organization, but hopefully, if they come back and become a mentor, they can be the next mentor who can help support a young person as they're going through life.

Anderson: And if people want to find out more about the work of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, where can they go? What's the website?

Gibson: So, our website is w-w-w dot three B's, like big, BBB, S like sisters, dot O-R-G, and they can also follow us on our social-media channels, whether that be Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn. So lots of different ways to get involved and learn more about our work.

Anderson: Tanya Gibson with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Thank you so much for being here.

Gibson: Oh, thank you. It was a pleasure.

Anderson: And thanks to our viewers, as well, for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, be sure to log on to ComcastNewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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