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Gregg Burdett, CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Hampshire, with two "littles" at CCA Global. (Photo by Cheryl Senter).

Gregg Burdett, CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Hampshire, with two "littles" at CCA Global. (Photo by Cheryl Senter).

Want to change a life? Be a mentor

A former “little” brother tells his story about how mentoring made a big difference

By Gregg Burdett, CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Hampshire

The whole trajectory of my life changed when I was 7 years old.

I was living in the housing projects of Roxbury, Massachusetts — one of the roughest areas around Boston. My brother and I had no idea how poor we were. We thought every kid was on public assistance, food stamps and Medicaid. Our mother was a single mom who worked really hard to care for us and keep us safe, but the one thing she could not provide was a much-needed male figure in our lives. A co-worker told her about a new program, then called “Big Brothers,” that provided caring, well-screened mentors to children. What happened next would change my life — and perhaps save it altogether. I got a Big Brother. I was matched with Ken, a 20-something, married medical professional. He shared a world of experiences that I could not have imagined. We visited museums, sailed on the Charles River, had picnics on Boston Common and (the best) went to Red Sox games! He showed me that there was more to life than my difficult environs. He instilled in me the values of hard work and of goal-setting as a means to break the cycle of poverty and reach my potential. He taught me about taking responsibility for chores, about shaking hands and looking people in the eye, about reaching out to those less fortunate.

When I was orphaned at 14, Ken made sure I continued on the right path. I graduated from high school and went to college and became a healthcare and hospital administrator.

Now I am CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Hampshire. It is the most profound and fulfilling work I have ever done.

We serve almost 1,300 kids, and our goal is to change the lives of every one of them for the better, forever. Just like Ken did for me.

But we need more Kens. We have more than 300 children on our waiting list for mentors, most of them boys. We know that, without mentors, they are far more likely to drop out of school, use drugs or alcohol, get arrested or worse. Those were the same odds I faced as a youngster. “Littles” with mentors do better in school, have improved relationships and trust, and are less likely to engage in risky behavior.

I was told, as a boy, that I would never have a chance of making anything of myself. Ken showed me differently. Ken and I beat the odds. Want to help a New Hampshire kid beat the odds? Please join us.