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‘My favorite thing about being a Little Brother was having another person that I could talk to.’

Big Brother’s ‘mission’ to guide once shy child

When Nelson Ramos became a Little Brother at age 11, he was shy and uncomfortable when meeting new people. It would take a committed Big Brother who had the patience to draw the young boy out so the two could form a long-lasting, life-changing friendship. Fortunately for Nelson, Manuel Sosa was the perfect match.

“My mission was to take a very shy, very quiet kid who wasn’t performing in school and guide him,” Manuel says. “It took a while for him to open up.”

But Manuel was up for the challenge. “My hope was to have an impact on him for the rest of his life.”

The pair got together every weekend, often taking part in scheduled Big Brothers Big Sisters’ activities. “Manuel would try his hardest to find events to go to that would be really fun for me,” says Nelson. Golfing and go-cart racing were among their favorite things to do though often-times their unstructured get-togethers had as much – or more – impact on Nelson.

“My favorite thing about being a Little Brother was having another person that I could talk to,” Nelson says, “and that he always wanted to help me in any way possible.” This help frequently extended to homework. “Manuel always offered to help me with my school work.”

Manuel notes that Nelson’s grades improved to A’s and B’s after the two started working together but stresses, “I provided the opportunity for him to work but the creativity and effort was all Nelson’s.”

The work that Nelson put into school, coupled with encouragement from Manuel, is paying off. Nelson is now beginning his sophomore year at Western Michigan University as a Kalamazoo Promise Scholarship recipient. The criminal justice and Spanish double major is aiming high with his career aspirations. “After graduating I would love to join the FBI but first I really want to earn my master’s degree.”

Nelson says that his Big Brother helped spark his interest in law enforcement. “Manuel helped me understand more about the daily routine of a police officer by taking me to tour a lot of police stations.”

Manuel and Nelson’s match officially closed when Manuel moved to Florida for work as Nelson was beginning high school; however, the pair has been in regular contact ever since. They speak on the phone, text and email regularly, and were able to catch up in person last summer when Manuel, who now lives in Chicago, visited for Nelson’s 18th birthday and to celebrate his high school graduation. “It had been a while since we’d seen each other and I wanted him to see how I turned out,” Nelson says.

This is all a part of Manuel’s commitment to Nelson. “Big Brothers Big Sisters says the match ‘closed’ when I moved out of state,” Manuel says, “but it was never closed for me. This is a relationship for life.”