Katie is a Little who enrolled in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program after attending her SunServe youth group in July and hearing about the BIGPride mentoring program. They were eager to have a mentor as they recently lost their mom and have been navigating who they are and trying to find someone to support, listen, and guide them. Katie was adopted from Russia, raised by their mom and homeschooled for most of their life. In high school, Katie moved to Fort Lauderdale and enrolled in Broward County Schools.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward launched BIGPride with the goal of having a place to connect kids like Katie to a safe, nurturing adult that would help increase their acceptance and build their confidence to express themselves authentically.
Shenika “Nik” heard about the BIGPride mentoring program at an LGBTQ+ workplace training attended by the Big Brothers Big Sisters BIGPride director. Nik works as an LGBTQ Advisor to the Florida Department of Agriculture and admires the bravery she sees in youth, especially the LGBTQ+ population. Nik feels that kids are full of wonder and are adventurers at heart and wanted to become a Big to impart some good advice. Nik wanted to help kids and perhaps teach them to never give up. Nik signed up to become a Big and was matched with Katie. Katie’s father, although initially hesitant to have Katie matched with an LGBTQ+ mentor, has seen the benefit of the match over the last months – so much so that he raised $500 with The Oriole’s Organization to donate to Big Brothers Big Sisters for the holidays this year.
Katie and Nik spent their first few outings getting to know one another and attended LGBTQ+ friendly events such as the Human Rights Campaign Gala and Katie’s Gay Straight Alliance Summit in high school. The GSA summit had 300 LGBTQ+ youth in Broward and was a place where Katie felt they could be themselves. Since being matched, Katie has shared with their Case Manager the need for support at school and at home. Together, they attended a “Know your Rights at School” event hosted by SunServe where they learned how to advocate for themselves in school. Their Case Manager has coached Katie to help build their confidence and encouraged them to continue accessing resources that are invaluable; tutoring, advocating for a therapist that was the right fit, and attending SunServe youth groups.
Katie graduated from high school this year and is looking forward to staying matched with Nik for the next steps of their education at Broward College, where they plan to study social work. Now, when they encounter bullying, Katie now knows how to stand up for themselves. At home, they are learning how to share their emotional needs with their father and express their gender identity more openly.