Big Friend’s Blog

Being a mentor can positively impact the life of a young person. Hearing this for the first time can be a bit intimidating for new Big Friends, or anyone interested in becoming a mentor. In order to help ease that process and make the transition a bit more inviting, we are going to do a series of posts about our current mentors. They will, in their own words, describe their experiences while being a Big Friend.


Gabe Martin has some advice for folks who are thinking about being a mentor for Yankton’s Big Friend-Little Friend program, “Do it. It’s a good experience…You would learn a lot from kids, things that you never thought you would learn from them.”

That’s saying a lot from a young man who’s had experiences most people never have.

Martin, a Criminal Justice major at Mount Marty College, is the son of South Sudanese parents. Born in Ethiopia, he spent most of his younger years in Kenyan refugee camps, fleeing countries caught up in war.

He, his mother, and his four siblings were eventually resettled in Kansas City after more than seven years in the camp. They arrived to Kansas City in 2005 but were supposed to have landed in the United States as early as 2001. The events of September 11th delayed their resettlement by four years.

“I don’t know if I’m going to be here [in the United States] the rest of my life,” says Martin, “or if I decide to one day go back,” taking his degree and his new experiences with him.

When asked why he decided to become a Big Friend, Martin seems to think it is a natural fit, “I helped take care of [my three younger siblings]. When we were in the camp, my dad wasn’t there…My mom mainly did the cooking and housekeeping. Taking care of my other little siblings was like my main job.”

A fellow student first introduced Martin to Big Friend-Little Friend, with Criminal Justice professor, Dr. Dana DeWitt, informing Martin that time spent as a mentor counts towards his degree’s service-learning requirement.

“Sometimes I try to teach him how lucky most kids get it here,” Martin says of his Little Friend, Patrick, who he meets with twice a week for a couple hours at a time. “I tell him stories sometimes. And, I can tell when I’m telling him a story, he is listening. And, he asks questions a lot, too.”

Martin wasn’t without his own role models, “Here [in the United States], you have mentors, and celebrities, and those things to look up to. But, back home, I don’t think we have that…My brother, growing up, was the guy I was looking to be like.”

And, how about managing the busy life of a college student—classes, studying, soccer practice—on top of being a Big Friend?

“I wouldn’t say it’s hard…the time management.”

And, it’s all worth it.

“When we talk, I know [Patrick is] going to keep this until he grows old.”

– Jordan Foos of Rooted Writing is the author of this interview. To contact him for services, check out his website for more information. 


To learn more about becoming a mentor, call 665-6365 today!

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