Bigs and Littles NYC Mentoring Intervene to Help Bullied Siblings

Posted on February 25, 2019 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

“They’re There for Me”

Bullied by classmates, Lillian, 11, pretended she was sick to avoid school; her grades plummeting from 4’s to 2’s.

A gifted dancer, Lillian had studied ballet since age 5, landing full scholarships to the School of American Ballet that opened a world of opportunities to this inner-city girl. But, as the only black girl in her class, she felt she could no longer take insults hurled at her by the other girls.  She dropped out last year.

Life was no easier for her at school.  A classmate began describing lewd acts he would like to do with her as he followed her down school hallways last year.

Lillian’s mother, Luz, a working single mom desperate to help her daughter, met with school administrators, called parents, scouted down anti-bullying research online.  But Lillian, her little girl who used to twirl through their apartment and skip down the street, descended into depression.  Meanwhile, Lillian’s older brother, Adriel, 14, began rebelling against constraints set by his public charter school that he felt a boy like him with ADHD could not avoid, receiving demerits for causes like accidently dropping a pencil and sneezing.

The family needed help and they needed it now.  Fortunately, they found Bigs and Littles NYC Mentoring. This Catholic Charities NY affiliate matched Lillian and Adriel with mentors while providing their mom with counseling and support.

Bigs and Littles NYC Mentoring addresses challenges facing youth living in New York City’s low-income neighborhoods by providing one-to-one community-based mentoring services, supported by family counseling and skill learning programs.

“When I tell Lillian and Adriel things it’s like just mom telling them,” Luz says.  “Now they can hear a different perspective giving them advise they value.”

Their “bigs,” as Lillian and Adriel call them, began rebuilding the children’s egos while introducing them to new adventures around New York City. They go to movies and picnic in parks.  Adriel says he enjoys doing “guy things” like chearing at Ranger hockey games, activities he never had a father to show him. 

“It’s nice going out, doing things I wouldn’t normally do,” Adriel says, slouching, then sitting up straight.  “But the big thing is he talks to me; he’s there for me.”

Lillian appears to feel the same way.  While she said she loves the trips she takes with her “Big,” Emily, it is the simple phone calls they share that make the difference.

“She calls me and we talk for a long time,” Lillian says, her soft brown eyes growing wide. 

“When I’m being bullied, she gives me advice, tells me to ignore them, that karma will go back to them.”

The truth is, Lillian and Adriel should already have earned a lot of good karma.  Their lives, from the get go, have not been easy.  While their mother strives for a better future for her children, she supports them now with her meager income as a teacher’s aide.  They make due by eating rice and beans nearly every night for dinner, typically with eggs, occasionally with chicken and always with frozen vegetables because fresh vegetables they cannot afford. 

Their dad, on the other hand, first left the family, she says, back when she was on bedrest due to a high-risk pregnancy with Adriel.  The father returned, then left for good six months after Lillian was born.

Thanks to Bigs & Littles NYC Mentoring and their connection to Catholic Charities NY, their financial straightjacket has begun to loosen.  They learned about Catholic Charities food pantries located throughout New York City.  Better still, Bigs & Littles helped Lillian and Adriel land scholarships in schools where they can excel.  Lillian now attends Epiphany Catholic School in lower Manhattan.  Adriel attends La Salle Academy, the third oldest Catholic high school in New York City, providing educational, spiritual and athletic opportunities to young men from poor and challenged families.

This is just the first step, their mom says.

“They have to go to college,” Luz says.  “There’s no way around it.”

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