Za’quari J. of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County is part of Disney Dreamers Academy Class of 2011
MIAMI, FL, April 8, 2011 – Following the words of Walt Disney, “If you dream it, you can do it,” Za’quari J., a Little Brother from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County, graduated with the 2011 Class of Disney’s Dreamers Academy, inspired to follow his passion, make his dreams come true and set a positive example so that others may follow in his footsteps.
Za’quari was one of 100 students chosen from 4,000 nominees by a distinguished panel of leaders from the communications, education and entertainment industries, including Steve Harvey, Yolanda Adams and Stephen A. Smith, for Disney’s Dreamers Academy, a program developed to motivate, inspire and empower young people and teach them the process through which to attain their goals. As a Little Brother, Za’quari had already begun to boost his confidence and compelled the judges to select him, showing them he deserved the opportunity because he would lead by example in taking his dreams to the next level.
Za’quari, like many children in Big Brothers Big Sisters programs, comes from a single-parent home. The fifteen year old lives in Miami, Florida with his mother, Ya’Shiqua, and four younger siblings. Believing he could benefit from the program, one of Za’quari’s teachers recommended Big Brothers Big Sisters to Ya’Shiqua. The mother of five went to the website to learn more and was fortunate to have a home visit from a representative from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County. Determined to help her children beat the odds, Ya’Shiqua was successful in enrolling all five of her children in the program.
“I am so thankful that Big Brothers Big Sisters came into our lives,” Ya’Shiqua said. “This program gave each of my kids someone to call their own. At home, the five of them have to share me. But with this program, they can say, ‘That’s myBig.’ It has been wonderful for my entire family.”
Za’quari was in seventh grade when he first enrolled in the Big Brothers Big Sisters. Agency professionals who supported Za’quari, his family and their volunteer mentors, described him as very reserved and shy. Ya’Shiqua says at the time, her son was unfocused, with dropping grades and behavioral issues. He had recently switched schools, had few friends and wasn’t active in sports, despite a dream of one day playing in the NBA. The agency teamed with Za’quari, his new Big Brother and Ya’Shiqua to establish goals for him to develop his confidence and build upon his existing attributes. Together they worked to expand his communication skills and ability to share his feelings and teach him the importance of education to improve his chances for the future.
While personal circumstances caused Za’quari’s Big Brother to end the match after six months, the teen’s mom believes the relationship had a positive impact on her son. According to Ya’Shiqua he has grown up a lot, and likewise she is impressed with the changes she’s seen in all of her children, each of whom was matched with a volunteer of diverse background. The children’s mother says the program has provided her kids with opportunities that they might not otherwise have had.
“It is important to me as a mom for my kids to experience the differences in life,” said Ya’Shiqua. “The real world isn’t made of just one kind of person. I want my kids to be able to adjust to any environment.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters, the nation’s largest donor supported mentoring network, provides children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better. The organization uses donations to carefully match children with volunteer mentors and provide ongoing assistance for mentors, mentees and families to help sustain long, successful relationships. Partnering with volunteers, families and others in the community, the organization holds itself accountable for children in the program to achieve measureable outcomes, such as higher aspirations; greater confidence and better relationships; educational success; and avoidance of delinquency and other risky behaviors.
Za’quari’s mother says today her son is a confident and motivated young man, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County echoes her sentiments. Though he has just entered high school, he is already looking ahead to graduation and college, hoping to attend Duke, North Carolina or Ohio State, and preparing for a bright future. His mother is already thinking about taking him on college visits to all three campuses and is creating a vision board for his room, so he’ll have a visual representation of the path that he wants his life to take.
“My son didn’t know what his gift was at first, and now he knows what his dreams are,” said Ya’Shiqua.
Disney Dreamer’s Academy gave Za’quari the skills and the drive to get started on that path. Za’quari and the other Dreamers learned networking and interview skills, took part in workshops focusing on things like entertainment and entrepreneurship and heard inspiring stories from other young people who had achieved their own big dreams. The experience gave Za’quari an even greater motivation to push himself and reach for the stars. According to his mother, Za’quari came away from the once in a lifetime weekend with a clear view of what he wants to be when he grows up—a medical examiner.
Za’quari is also proud to be setting an example for his younger siblings, actively supporting them and hoping they follow in his footsteps.
“Being part of Disney’s Dreamers Academy was better than I could have imagined. It taught me I can follow my dreams and showed me how to be a better person,” said Za’quari. “I want to show my brother and my sisters, and other kids too, that they can do anything they want and be anything they want.”
Za’quari also says that he’d like to become a Big Brother himself, once he is old enough.
About Big Brothers Big Sisters
For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.
Partnering with parents/guardians, schools, corporations and others in the community, Big Brothers Big Sisters carefully pairs children (“Littles”) with screened volunteer mentors (“Bigs”) and monitors and supports them in one-to-one mentoring matches throughout their course. The organization holds itself accountable for children in the program to achieve measurable outcomes, such as higher aspirations; greater confidence and better relationships; educational success; and avoidance of delinquency and other risky behaviors. Most children served by Big Brothers Big Sisters are in single-parent and low-income families or households where a parent is incarcerated. Headquartered in Philadelphia with a network of about 370 agencies across the country, Big Brothers Big Sisters serves nearly 250,000 children. Learn how you can positively impact a child’s life, donate, or volunteer at BigBrothersBigSisters.org.