The Secret to Effective Mentorship is Consistency
How Big Brothers Jake and Xerxes both utilized the power of consistent presence
Written by Hannah Gage
Even though nearly 20 years separate Xerxes and Jake’s mentorship pairings, a timeless truth emerged: the secret to effective mentorship lies simply in the power of consistent presence. These two have more in common than first meets the eye, both have served on leadership boards, are long-time Big Brothers, and are runners who have participated in the Chicago Marathon in support of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Xerxes and Jake share a passion for empowering others and promoting a sense of community in the Chicago area through youth mentorship. Both mentors believe that the key to success lies in being a consistent and reliable presence in their mentees' lives. As they continue their mentoring relationship into the next stage of life, Xerxes and Jake have found that their bond goes beyond childhood. They have become trusted friends, business advisors, confidants, and positive role models, guiding the next generation towards brighter futures. Over the years, they have been able to see their mentees grow into resilient, confident young men who are now passing it on and making a positive difference in their own communities. As mentors, seeing their mentees thrive and succeed is truly the most rewarding aspect of their journey.
Jake & Jorge
Jake and Jorge first met each other 10 years ago when they were matched by BBBSChi in 2013. Throughout the years they have shared many unforgettable memories, with most of their favorites being made while exploring the city of Chicago. Jake described the countless Bears, Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, and Fire games that he and Jorge were able to attend thanks to BBBS Chicago’s ticket partners, and the time spent cheering on their favorite teams together as well as the conversations on the ride home. Jake fondly recalls his memory of bringing Jorge to his first Bruno Mars concert on his birthday at the United Center. Jorge is a huge Bruno Mars fan, and ignited Jake’s own appreciation for Mars's performances as well.
Though Jake and Jorge have had a lot of fun together over the years, they have also dealt with growing pains and personal struggles. The biggest piece of advice Jake highlights “It's not like you're going to show up every time and have these groundbreaking conversations and life-changing moments, but just being there all the time. I'd only find out years down the road that something we talked about really meant a lot to him.” Jake also mentioned Jorge’s experience of trying out for the high school soccer team. Jorge was struggling with discipline and commitment, so Jake and Jorge worked together to train going running and practicing soccer skills. Though Jorge did not end up making varsity, he did learn discipline and became more goal orientated as a person from this experience. You can hear Jorge describe the experience in the video below.
The cornerstone of any mentor/mentee relationship is accountability and consistency. This program will only give you back as much as you put into it, and the timeline for a payout can be in years. Jake and Jorge’s relationship has changed and evolved over their 10 years, but they both still enjoy spending time together. Talking about how Jorge has grown was incredibly special to Jake. “Jorge went from a nine-year-old that physically could not order something off the menu because he was so shy. To now going to school and holding down a weekly part time 25-hour job. He saved his money (this past Christmas) to take his mom, brother, sister, and grandmother to the Wisconsin Dells.” Jake and Jorge still meet up with each other despite Jorge’s busy school and work schedule. In fact, when we were talking, Jake was looking forward to an upcoming dinner with Jorge, remarking that it was now Jorge trying to squeeze Jake into his busy schedule instead of vice versa.
Though Jorge graduated from the BBBS Chicago program and high school last year, Jake continues to support BBBS through other ventures. He was on the BBBS Chicago Junior Board for several years and is running the Chicago Marathon this fall in support of BBBSChi. When asked why he wants to go the extra mile for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chicago, Jake said, “It's a worthy cause that I feel good promoting. I understand dollars are the lifeblood of any nonprofit and how much BBBS relies on that, I felt like I knew I could tap into my network to help.” Jorge and his mother will be coming out to support Jake in the Chicago Marathon this October and will be cheering him on as he crosses the finish line.
Xerxes, Lee and Bobby
Xerxes's journey with Big Brothers Big Sisters has been one of steadfast commitment for over 30 years. Meeting his first Little, Lee, in 1985 marked the beginning of a life-changing mentorship experience. After watching Lee graduate from high school, Xerxes was ready to sign up to mentor again in 1995, where he was matched with Bobby, and this second mentoring relationship flourished with the same level of dedication and care.
Reflecting on his years with BBBS, Xerxes acknowledges that there have been some changes in the program over time, such as the starting age; however, the core mission of empowering youth through mentorship has remained constant. The foundation of the program, built on values of discipline and consistency, has persisted, and continues to be the driving force behind its success. Success that Xerxes has helped to guide through his leadership on the Board of Directors.
As time has passed, Xerxes gave us some insight into how his role changed as a Big Brother to more of an adult role in the lives of his Littles. Though the topics of the conversations have changed over the years, Xerxes notes, “you’re still offering advice, but at a different capacity. Now I’m more of an advisor or business professional to these guys, or even offering parenting advice from my own experience with my girls.” Xerxes went on to share how fulfilling it was to be able to share the next stage of life with his mentees. In fact, Xerxes told us how he has been helping Bobby start up his own business on the Northside of Chicago!
One sweet memory that sticks out from the rest was when Bobby participated in Xerxes’s wedding as his ring-bearer. However, Xerxes’s favorite memories are the simple moments he shared with Bobby and Lee. From picking them up, to attending events together, to enjoying a casual cheeseburger, it was the little things that created lasting memories. The most important thing Xerxes continually emphasized in our conversation was the importance of consistency and how your objective as a mentor is to provide balance in the life of your Little. Deciding to mentor can change your life, but it will only give you back as much as you are willing to put into it. Xerxes’s advice to those considering becoming a mentor is simple: “It’s not as intimidating of a time commitment as you may think, and the only skill that is needed is consistency.” He underscored the importance of understanding you are not a savior, but rather you are simply there to help your mentee and give advice. And the impact of consistently showing up is much bigger than you immediately realize; it can be life-changing.
Though most of two decades separates Big Brothers Jake and Xerxes, both came to the same conclusion: consistency is key. The impact of mentorship continues today in both their own lives and the lives of their now not-so-Little adult mentees. Jake and Xerxes are both still involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters, and though their roles have changed, their passion and belief in this program has never faltered. Jake and Xerxes hope to inspire more individuals to step up as mentors, runners, and active members of their communities, in order to expand the network of BBBS support in the years to come.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chicago is in need of more male mentors to support Chicagoland’s youth. If you were inspired by Jake and Xerxes, please share and encourage others to volunteer. Become a mentor today and change two lives: theirs and yours.