BY YVETTE BROWN
On Jan. 28, elected officials joined the Big Brothers, Big Sisters of New York City for a ribbon cutting ceremony, which was part of National Mentoring Month, and to commemorate the organization’s new office in Jackson Heights. While commemorating the new office, they also honored the 2015 “Queens Big of the Year” for his work and commitment to his “Little.”
After the ribbon cutting ceremony, Nick Gulotta, Queens borough director for Mayor Bill de Blasio and representatives o f the offices of U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens/Bronx), Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Corona), state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) joined BBBS of NYC to honor Big Brother Mark Zustovich, who is a resident of Jackson Heights, for his commitment to his Little Brother Spencer, a 14-year-old from Jamaica.
“Being a Big Brother or Big Sister means being a friend, a mentor and someone who can help fill the gaps in a young person’s life. Many Littles come from single-parent households, and their parents or guardians want a helping hand to make sure their child has as many opportunities and role models as possible. It also means just having fun, and we do everything from hiking and Mets games to playing in the park and ice skating,” said Zustovich.
Zustovich introduced Spencer to photography as a hobby and now they share a tradition where they create a photobook with memories from each year. Zustovich has boosted Spencer’s confidence through guidance and support and he continues to ensure that Spencer is on a good path.
“I grew up on Long Island in a stable household with a quality education at a time when neighbors and friends watched out for us. Many young people don’t have the same kind of oversight and opportunities, and that’s why I think it’s important for me to give back as a Big Brother,” said Zustovich.
During the month of January, BBBS of NYC held a series of ceremonies with public officials, community organizations, schools and current BBBS in Brooklyn and Staten Island to celebrate the organization’s continued expansion in the boroughs. During the celebrations, BBBS of NYC honors “Borough Bigs of the Year.” They recognize mentors for their dedication to their Littles.
“I couldn’t be happier than to have a Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC office just a couple blocks from my home. For the organization, it helps them get more New Yorkers into the program, particularly when there is a need for more male mentors and more female Littles to meet their demand,” said Zustovich.
BBBS of NYC currently serves more than 5,000 young people each year through a variety of specialized mentoring programs.
“Sometimes we shy away from volunteering because we don’t think we have the time, or believe we have to save the world in order to be effective. Imagine if every New Yorker took one young person under their wing. We could have positive impacts on our communities by changing the life of just a single individual. That is where mentoring really has power: bringing about a greater good through the smallest of impacts,” said Zustovich.
To become a “Big,” a person needs to be 21 or older and reside in one of the five boroughs. It’s free to volunteer. To become a volunteer, mentor, donate or learn more about BBBS of NYC and National Mentoring Month, visit bigsnyc.org.
Reach Yvette Brown at (718)357-7400 ext.128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @eveywrites.