Every year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Inland Empire recognizes two outstanding matches that illustrate how the mentoring relationship helps youth achieve their biggest possible futures and makes a long-lasting impact on the mentor. The 2023 Bigs and Littles of the Year finalists all have distinct, inspiring stories that illustrate the Big Brothers Big Sisters mission.
The two winning matches will be announced January 26 on Thank Your Mentor Day as part of National Mentoring Month.
Juan Figueroa and Diego | Matched since 2017
When he came to Big Brothers Big Sisters, Diego needed a role model who could give him the 1:1 attention he was missing at home with hard-working parents and a special-needs sibling. While others wanted to label Diego as “rebellious” or a “troubled student,” Juan recognized that he was an energetic and gifted kid with great potential. Persevering through some early ups and downs, Juan taught Diego how to manage his emotions and channel his energy into more positive outlets, such as basketball and soccer. Five years later, these two young men consider each other true brothers and have supported each other through all of life’s triumphs and challenges.
Justin Moran and Ethan | Matched since 2013
For nearly a decade, Justin has been the one consistent adult role model in Ethan’s life. He was there to teach Ethan his multiplication tables, help him deal with bullies, and encourage his passion for building computers. Justin never failed to show up for Ethan, always there to be a guiding light through dark times. Because of this relationship, Ethan has never let his past be an excuse to not excel. Today he is a 4.0 student with a dream to follow in his Big Brother’s footsteps, hoping to become a teacher—a career where he can continue to inspire others and pay it forward.
Ryan Aqui and Logan | Matched since 2017
Ryan and Logan have shared a special bond since the day they were matched. Both were raised by strong single mothers, love sports, and have an infectiously positive attitude towards life. Through this bond, Ryan has become Logan’s safe space over the last five years, helping him navigate mental health and behavioral issues. He’s the first person Logan shares his big future plans with; from making the Varsity football team, to his entrepreneurial interests, to joining the military after graduation. Whichever path Logan decides to take, Ryan will be right by his side
Carlene Fider and Alissa | Matched since 2020
When Alissa started our program, she had recently made the switch to homeschooling because of her social anxiety. Her parents hoped that having a mentor would help Alissa work on her self-esteem and social skills; they got that and more in Carlene. Through empathy, compassion and trust, Carlene has helped Alissa discover her worth and confidence. Carlene, a professor with a background in minority youth and child development, has also helped Alissa set and focus on her personal and academic goals. This year, Alissa equipped with newfound confidence and courage, has returned to public school as a sophomore and is now excelling.
Felisha Gathings Dix and Joan | Matched since 2018
Growing up with three brothers and her dad, Joan was missing a positive female influence in her life. Enter Felisha! Felisha has not only gone above-and-beyond to fill that role, she has also built a village of support around her Little Sister. Always making Joan a priority in her life, she has modeled positive behaviors and values and being her confidant when problems come up at home or school. With her Big Sister behind her, Joan has blossomed into a mature and happy teenager. She has joined her school’s basketball team and photography club, and she enjoys serving her community through her youth church group.
Megan McCann and Marlee | Matched since 2017
Megan and Marlee are a great example of how mentorship can bring two worlds together for the better. As one of five siblings being raised in and out of the foster care system, Marlee had to grow up quickly. While Megan is the first to admit she will never know how it feels to be in Marlee’s shoes, she is committed to being there for her every step of the way. She reminds Marlee to enjoy being a kid, driving across the county to go mini golfing, to picnics at the beach, to journaling and doing arts and crafts together. With the consistency and support of her Big Sister, Marlee is now a resilient 6th grader with great grades, new friends, and an unstoppable excitement for what her future holds.