Big Brothers Big Sisters Honors Nation’s Top Two Mentors

Big Brother of the Year and Big Sister of the Year Named at Big Brothers Big Sisters 2011 National Conference, Sponsored by Comcast

Dallas, TX – June 14, 2011 – When it comes to mentors, 81-year-old Michael Trueblood and 29-year-old Shatia Y. Edwards are in the eyes of Big Brothers Big Sisters – the best of the best. The donor and volunteer supported national mentoring network has named Trueblood national Big Brother of the Year and Edwards national Big Sister of the Year.

Comcast Corporation, sponsor of the 2011 Big Brothers Big Sisters National Conference and the Bigs of the Year awards, partnered with the mentoring network to honor Trueblood and Edwards at an awards gala, during the conference in Dallas.

Comcast has been the presenting sponsor of the Big Brothers Big Sisters annual conference since 2008 when Comcast began its three-year national partnership with the organization. Comcast recently announced that it will be extending its partnership to 2012. To date, the national partnership has exceeded $25 million in support and includes donated airtime for local and national public service announcements, local and national board member support, training for staff leaders and sponsorship of the Beyond School Walls™ workplace mentoring program. Additionally more than 225 Comcast employees volunteer their time as Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors in the Beyond School Wallsprogram.

“Shatia and Mike are model mentors who represent the nearly quarter million volunteers who are selected and supported by Big Brothers Big Sisters and are making a positive difference for children, families and communities across the nation,” said Charisse R. Lillie, Comcast Corporation Vice President, Community Investment and Comcast Foundation President. “Their talent, dedication and compassion are evident in the achievements of their mentees.”

Backed by studies proving its effectiveness, Big Brothers Big Sisters holds itself accountable for helping children of single, low-income or incarcerated parents stay in school; avoid risky and delinquent behaviors; and have higher self esteem and aspirations.

“We congratulate and celebrate Mike and Shatia.  They are the best of the best of the caring and committed volunteers our professional staff seek to match and support in long-term mentoring relationships to help children who face adversity succeed,” said Karen J. Mathis, president and chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.  “Our Bigs of the Year have succeeded in providing the proper amount of time, consistency and direction required to help their mentees improve academically; make positive choices; and elevate and achieve their aspirations. We would also like to recognize and thank Comcast Corporation and the Comcast Foundation for its ongoing generous support of mentoring and for announcing the renewal of a national partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters through 2012.”

Michael Trueblood – Big Brother of the Year

Charisse R. Lillie (right), Comcast Corporation Vice President, Community Investment and Comcast Foundation President, presents the 2011 National Big Brother of the Year award to Michael Trueblood (center) at the Big Brothers Big Sisters National Conference in Dallas, Texas. Michael was joined at the conference with his Little Brother Joseph S. (left).

Long before he met his Little Brother, Joseph, four years ago, Michael Trueblood was already a believer in Big Brothers Big Sisters.  Trueblood had been a Big Brother when he lived inPhiladelphia decades earlier.  He also was a member of the board of directors, even serving as president, with Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters in Los Angeles where he and Joseph are matched.

“Still, when going through the process again, I was impressed with the careful matching process – the interviewing and background screening,” the 81-year-old Trueblood said.  “They were thorough, even with my affiliation with the agency.”

So Trueblood was not surprised that he and then nine-year-old Joseph hit if off almost immediately.  “Joseph was shy at first.  But I knew he was very gifted.  He’s a good conversationalist with a lot of personality and a broad variety of interests, including music, sports and reading,” he said.

Joseph’s elderly great-grandmother, who is raising him and his seven siblings, learned about the program from the children’s grand uncle, who felt it might help the then nine-year-old become more disciplined at school and at home.  Joseph, whose father has died, is part of the agency’s special Mentoring Children of Promise program.

A South Dakota Tennis Hall of Famer, Trueblood introduced Joseph to the sport and practices with him regularly.  Shortly after they met, he also took his new Little Brother on a field trip to California State University Fullerton, where Trueblood is on the faculty of the Business School and director of the Family Business Council.  The visit left no doubt in Joseph’s mind that he also wants to go to college.

In the months and years since, Trueblood has helped Joseph open a college savings account and advised him to deposit a portion of his allowance.  The two go to museums, spectator sporting events, and Big Brothers Big Sisters fundraisers, where Joseph has had opportunities to practice public speaking.  Trueblood takes his Little Brother to libraries, book stores and to his adult son’s home where Joseph has become consumed with the family’s Hardy Boys book collection.  He also introduces his Little Brother to other role models, including an African American tennis professional, who has begun to coach Joseph and has encouraged him to begin playing in novice United States Tennis Association junior tournaments.

“Joseph is a voracious reader and he loves learning in general,” Trueblood said.  “I was surprised a while back when he told me he was not doing too well in math.  I did some algebraic formulas on a napkin and he solved every one of them.  I shared this with Betty Gutierrez, our Big Brothers Big Sisters match support specialist, who told Joseph’s grand uncle.  He investigated and learned he wasn’t turning in his homework and didn’t have a computer to help with his assignments.”

“My math grade was below a C.  Now I get B’s and some A’s,” said Joseph, who is now 13.  “Hanging out with Mike makes me feel good and wanted and important.  He makes me want to be a better person.  I learn a lot and we have good conversations.  My behavior’s better and school’s good now; too,” he added.

Gutierrez, who checks in regularly to see how the match is going and to offer guidance when necessary, receives twice monthly written updates from Joseph, describing his outings with Trueblood.  Joseph’s great-grandmother, who said spending time with his Big Brother makes Joseph happy and calm him down, is helping him compile a scrapbook from their match activities.

Shatia Y. Edwards – Big Sister of the Year

Shatia Y. Edwards (center), joined by her Little Sister Ka’Necia H. (right) was presented the 2011 National Big Sister of the Year Award at the Big Brothers Big Sisters National Conference in Dallas, Texas by Charisse R. Lillie (left), Comcast Corporation Vice President, Community Investment and Comcast Foundation President.

It was nearly eight years ago, but Shatia Y. Edwards remembers the day she met her then 9-year-old Little Sister, Ka’Necia, as though it were yesterday.  At the time, Edwards was a second-year college student who wanted to give back to her community.  She felt a Little Sister would be a good way to make a contribution while having someone with which to spend her free time.

“I was so nervous.  I wondered whether she would like me or if we would have anything in common.  But we hit it off right away,” Edwards said. “It was so natural.  I grew up as an only child and always wanted a little sister.  I couldn’t believe how amazingly well Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Heart of Georgia did putting us together.  I felt like I’d known Ka’ Necia my whole life.”

Ka’Necia, now 18, is one of five children of Keshia Bell, a single mother, who enrolled her daughter in the program after seeing a public service announcement on TV.  Bell was deeply concerned at the time about Ka’Necia’s self isolation and low self esteem.

“Ka’Necia’s father was incarcerated and really didn’t want to have anything to do with her. She always felt left out and angry when her siblings’ fathers would spend time with them.  I was overwhelmed by her rebellious attitude and willful misbehavior,” said Bell.  “Since being matched with Shatia, my daughter has blossomed into an intelligent young lady with a sparkling personality.”

Ka’Necia recalls the day her mother took her to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Heart of Georgia agency.  “I wondered why they were asking me so many questions,” she said.

Seven years later, she understands as she marvels at how perfectly in sync she is with Edwards and how much she has blossomed since their mentoring relationship began.

“I was really bad; I used to always get in trouble.  When I met Shatia, I trusted her right away.  I realized I was acting out to get attention.  I get all the attention I need from Shatia.  I’m really thankful; I don’t know what kind of person I would be if I didn’t have my Big Sister,” said Ka’Necia.

Edwards takes Ka’Necia to movies, restaurants and cultural events. When she was an undergraduate student, her Little Sister tagged along, hanging around with her on campus.  Now that she is enrolled in medical school, Edwards has had Ka’Necia visit her new campus in Atlanta.   Developing a deep bond with her Little Sister’s mother and working closely with their match support team, years into the mentoring relationship, she also got permission to take her Little Sister on her own family’s Family Reunion cruise.  Several years ago, Ka’Necia was diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disease.  Edwards was at her Little Sister’s side, even showing up for doctor’s appointments.

“Shatia has taught me so many things, table manners, study skills, and has been with me when I thought I wasn’t smart or pretty enough to help me understand my self-worth.  She always welcomes me with open arms, like a real sister,” Ka’Necia said.

“When I was in 10th grade, I was behind in social studies.  I went to the library with Shatia and stayed up till midnight until she helped me catch up,” she added.

“Shatia is an ideal role model,” Ka’Necia’s mother said.  “Where we live, there’s a lot of crime, a lot of violence, not many positive influences.  When you expand a child’s opportunities, it makes a difference.  Just by Shatia taking my daughter to a college campus, she knew college was for her.”

While raising her children, working full-time and sacrificing to provide for extracurricular activities, such as golf lessons for Ka’Necia, Bell takes college classes, but has not yet finished.  However, she said since meeting Edwards, Ka’Necia has been telling her mother she would definitely go to college, either to Mercer University in Macon, where Edwards was a student when they were matched, or Spelman College in Atlanta.  This fall, Ka’Necia enters Spelman as a freshman, majoring in political science.  She was awarded an Annexstad Foundation scholarship, which is only eligible for students who have matured through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and demonstrate outstanding performance in high school, with special emphasis placed on academic achievement, character, and qualities of leadership.  Ka’Necia has also already signed up to be a Big Sister and has been matched with her own Little Sister, Trinity.

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

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