September 18, 2019 Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Success Story – Cassidy and Big Brothers Big Sisters


During the 2018-19 school year, Cassidy was enrolled in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast program. Since 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”) predominantly from low-income, single-parent households, ages five through young adulthood in communities across the country.

Cassidy was matched with a male mentor at Sallie Jones Elementary school. At the beginning of this pairing, the going was rough with Cassidy stating, “I don’t like to read, and school is no fun to me.” His mentor stayed consistent and continued to show up each week even though Cassidy reported he was not happy being in the program. His mentor made their time together as fun and rewarding as possible. His consistency and persistence paid off. Six months into the match, as their relationship strengthened, Cassidy began to open up, and both of them enjoyed their weekly time together at the school.

Over the summer, Cassidy wouldn’t meet with his mentor but, looked forward to reconnecting weekly during the next school year. Not wanting Cassidy to lose any of the reading skills he had gained over the school year, Big Brothers Big Sisters invited him to participate in a weekly group participating in the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s Suncoast Summer Reading Challenge, funded by The Patterson Foundation.

Cassidy agreed to come to the North Port Library every Friday for six weeks. The first week, Cassidy appeared to be unhappy, and he did not willingly engage. At the end of the first session, he stated, “I had fun, but I would rather play video games.”

Cassidy’s grandmother, who is his guardian, convinced him to try the program for another week. On his way to the second session, Cassidy rode in a car with some of the other students. The students were friendly and talkative, and by the time they arrived at the Library, they were all laughing and happy to be together. The relationships Cassidy was building and the sense of belonging he felt turned him from an unhappy reluctant participant to a leader. As the session started, Cassidy shocked the adults by asking if he could read aloud from the book. He began to confidently read the first half of the book and then encouraged one of the other boys who had been in the car with him to finish the book.

What a difference! The week previously, no one would have guessed these two boys would emerge as leaders for the other children. Cassidy displayed an interest in reading and confidence in his reading skills. Big Brothers Big Sisters is thrilled with the progress and confidence Cassidy showed. This kind of transformation affirms the importance of relationships. Cassidy benefitted from the relationship he built with his mentor over the school year and the relationships he was able to make during his involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters over the summer.