Dante needed direction. Rob was there to give it.
Dante’s mother, Donna, was afraid that he would grow up a loner. His father works nights, and sleeps during the day so they are not often able to spend quality father-son time together. Donna knew she needed to find someone to break through to her son.
However, Dante was the one who had the breakthrough. A friend and classmate was already part of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Dante came home from school one day and asked his mother if he could sign up for a Big Brother. Donna had never heard of the organization, but reached out to the school secretary for an informational packet.
“I would try to take Dante to the park myself and play basketball with him, but there were no other women there, and he would get embarrassed,” Donna laughs. “I knew he needed the influence of an additional positive male role model.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters match specialist Sabrina searched for the perfect match for the 13-year-old Dante. When she found Rob, who had common interests—basketball, music and cards—Donna hoped they would click. Dante had fun at their introductory meeting and told his mother he wanted to spend more time with Rob.
“I don’t usually leave my son with people other than my mother, not even cousins and aunts,” Donna says, “so I was originally very nervous about meeting Dante’s new Big Brother. But, I definitely felt comfortable with Rob right way.”
Donna worried that because the family income was already stretched thin, Dante would miss out on fun childhood activities. However, thanks to the generosity of donors, Sabrina keeps them updated on events and programs, and the pair has taken trips to New York Yankees games at the new stadium, explored local science museums, spent the afternoon taking pictures in Central Park, and visited York College.
The most marked change in Dante is in his schoolwork. Rob was able to provide him with academic guidance, explaining that he not only needs goals, but needs a plan and focus to attain those goals. “I want to be an engineer, so Rob tells me to do well in school and don’t be a fool,” says Dante. “He has helped me realize that if I don’t do well in school, that I won’t get anywhere. He says I can do anything I want if I pay attention in class and don’t be a clown.”
Donna adds, “Rob has definitely had an influence on Dante. In fact, Dante even apologized to a teacher for his past academic performance after talking to Rob.”
Rob has also helped Dante develop his social skills and self-esteem. Donna believes that because Rob follows a set schedule—showing up on time for their outings, calling every Tuesday and spending time together every other weekend—the consistency has had a positive impact on Dante. “Rob doesn’t just go places with me—he asks me how I’m doing,” explains Dante. “He calls on the phone. I talk to him about stuff that I can’t talk to my mom about. Like, he doesn’t want me messing around with girls, and he says that I have to respect women. He also helps me get along better with my mom.”
Donna says Rob has left a big impression on her son because of his commitment to Dante to always be there for him. “As a 14-year-old boy, Dante doesn’t want to tell me anything, but now he has someone to talk to,” explains Donna. “I’m not sure if it was a teenager thing or a boy thing, but he’s no longer disrespectful. His Big Brother gives him advice, and he takes it. If I am having problems with Dante, I’ll call Rob, and he’ll address it directly with Dante.”
Dante recalls one particular afternoon he spent with Rob at a museum as one of their most memorable outings. The trip included a visit to the planetarium, a show on how the earth was created, and exhibits on dinosaurs and different animals across the globe. But the most lasting impact for Dante cannot be packaged in one day, or one memory.
“Rob makes me feel good about myself, and I look at him as my actual big brother,” Dante says. “Big Brothers Big Sisters can help change your life in different ways—they gave me something different than what teachers and parents can. They really help you solve your problems—without Big Brothers Big Sisters and Rob, I would be doing worse in school and would be very shy like I was.”