OuttaDeeBox Podcast

Empowering Youth Through Mentorship: It takes little to be BIG

January 25, 2024 Season 4 Episode 7
OuttaDeeBox Podcast
Empowering Youth Through Mentorship: It takes little to be BIG
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Have you ever mistaken AM for PM and turned an entire day upside down with humor? That's exactly how we kickstart our vibrant conversation with Tracy Anderson and Merv Seymour—forces behind the "It Takes Little to Be Big" campaign by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County. This episode is a heartfelt rally cry to bring new volunteers into the fold, focusing on the power and urgency of mentoring. Steering the community outreach, Tracy paints a poignant picture of the 200 kids, especially boys of color, awaiting life-changing connections. With his transformative journey from Mississippi to Madison, Merv lends his voice to the narrative, unraveling the compelling reasons that call one to mentorship and the mutual enrichment it fosters.

Laughter and earnestness intermingle as comedian Marv jumps into the fray, underscoring the gravity of community participation, especially in the African-American sphere. Our six-week recruitment drive takes flight with innovative strategies aiming for hearts and minds across Madison. We swap stories that tug at the heartstrings, sharing how being raised by single mothers has sculpted our views on family dynamics and the tenacity it takes to steer such households. As the curtain falls on this powerful episode, we extend our deepest gratitude to Tracy and Merv, who've woven their tales into our larger narrative, leaving us richer for the shared experience.

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Speaker 1:

What's up everybody. This is your host, the star, here with.

Speaker 3:

Tracy Anderson and Merv Seymour.

Speaker 1:

How you guys doing this morning.

Speaker 2:

We're good.

Speaker 3:

I'm good, I'll take good afternoon Good, good enough afternoon Right. So yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

How you guys doing this afternoon.

Speaker 3:

Same as I was this morning. Good. The road seemed a little better, so are you trying to confuse you trying to confuse us a little bit. That's a trick question. All right, how am I doing Huh?

Speaker 1:

This afternoon. This actually is a that is actually a deep question.

Speaker 3:

Hmm, how am I doing? How am?

Speaker 2:

I doing.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I'm doing.

Speaker 2:

I thought I was okay, but I'm good. I gotta think about it, I know.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you caused all that. You did all that. Sorry about that. So, tracy, tell us why we are here.

Speaker 2:

I would love to. So D thank you for having me back on the podcast. I'm Tracy Anderson, community outreach and volunteer manager at Big Brothers, big Sisters of Dink County. D is always helping us out when we want to get the word out about things. And we have this big campaign that we're launching and it's called. It takes little to be big. It's a six week campaign and it's a recruitment campaign. We're looking to try to get at least like a hundred new volunteers in the door, preferably men of color, preferably men in general, and just really see if we could put a dent in our waitlist. We have quite a waitlist. It's close to 200 kids that are waiting. Most of those kids are kids of color and most of them are boys. So, you know, obviously, as community outreach and just as the organization in general, we're always out recruiting. But we thought, you know, let's go into 2024 and do something big and do like a big recruitment campaign. So that's why I'm here.

Speaker 1:

And you brought this fine gentleman here with you. Can you tell who are you talking?

Speaker 3:

about? Where is he? Oh, you're talking about me. Oh, wow, you're talking about me, okay.

Speaker 2:

I did so. I brought Merv Um. I met Merv. Actually, he reached out. I believe you were referred to someone at your job.

Speaker 3:

Correct yeah.

Speaker 2:

And he reached out, you know, as community outreach, when I talked to different people, um, and if they're interested, they reach out to me, just to you know, a quick meeting, just to answer any questions, or they're thinking about it. And you know, honestly, that day I thought, okay, it's going to be, like you know, a regular, maybe 15 minute meeting. We're just going to talk really quick, I'm going to answer any questions. And Merv really impressed me. I think we stayed on for like an hour.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, probably.

Speaker 2:

With his stories. He impressed me, um, because he's a successful black male, but also because it moved me the reason why he was reaching out. So I thought I would love to have Merv on just uh, I think you really represent. It. Takes little to be big.

Speaker 1:

Is it kind of like mirroring the reason why you chose to become a big sister?

Speaker 2:

Not exactly, and I think that's a really good point too. Is that so many people have so many different reasons, right? I think probably, um, and we can talk about this a little more, but the commonality is we're people of color, and that was my number one reason. Like I wanted, I was matched in September. I wanted a black girl, you know, a young black girl, so she could have someone to look up to, and that was, you know, really the biggest reason I wanted to do it.

Speaker 1:

For the people that don't know. You, Merv, can you tell us who doesn't know?

Speaker 3:

Wait, let's stop, Stop, stop, stop. Who? Who Did you see his bio? Who in here don't know who I? Who doesn't know me?

Speaker 1:

Wait, okay, you're right. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Speaker 3:

It's like you don't realize sometimes the things you've done and accomplished in life and, um, it's like almost like, oh, where do I begin?

Speaker 3:

But uh, in general I'm, you know, originally from Mississippi and I moved to Madison when I was eight years old and then I went to high school, middle school, all that stuff here, and decided that, um, I got tired of being the only black kid in all my classes so I wanted to go to a black historically black college and I went to uh, Alabama A&M initially and then I ended up transferring to Southern University, which is in Baton Rouge, alabama A&Ms in Huntsville, and then I got a degree in journalism broadcast journalism.

Speaker 3:

Came back to Madison after college, couldn't get a job and I think I worked at a brick factory and after almost two years of that kind of work I said, man, I did not go to college for this. So I ended up packing all my stuff up had, I think I had a thousand bucks at that time, which was a lot of money you can still lose a lot of money and I got in my car and I went back to Louisiana and I had a job in uh, the TV business two weeks later, started off as a camera guy and I worked my way into becoming a news reporter. So I work at PBS Wisconsin in Madison and I cover social justice and uh political types of issues.

Speaker 1:

Well, you're in the state. So what is one of the things that really drew you to? Big Brothers, Big Sisters?

Speaker 3:

I mean, it's really the admission statement their overall impact on community and not just the community, but our community specifically, you know, and I just I just wanted to be part of of the success of of what they do and what they're out to do and what they're looking to accomplish and then to just better, better the life of some young person. They just spoke to me when I saw there was a need and you know I've been here three years, I've been back three years. I moved here from Sacramento, california. I was in Sacramento for about five years.

Speaker 1:

Sack Town.

Speaker 3:

Sack Town, you know, and I wanted to just make myself available to be used in any way. Could help.

Speaker 2:

I do want to just jump in and say that's one of the biggest things for this campaign. Right, it takes little to be big. Not only do we want to recruit, you know, a hundred new volunteers, you know bigs but in from diverse backgrounds and things like that. But you know, there's just a lot of misconceptions about becoming a big. You know, when I'm out, a lot just presenting or at events, you know, one of them is time, you know, and another is just the burden of, maybe, mentorship, and it really takes little to be big. You know, having someone get a slice of pizza with you or some ice cream, or, you know, looking at and that's one of the things you know, besides some of the stories that you told me that were moving, of why you chose to do it too, but having a little look up to you with all that you've accomplished, you know, and, like you said, they might not want to be a journalist, but they're exposed to it. You know this is something that they can see and you know. Again, I do want to stress, we're not asking people to be perfect, we're just asking you to be present and that's really it.

Speaker 2:

I mean, when I first became a big, you know, at first you're like, oh, I got to do all this grand stuff, you know, and I feel like for me I did come from a two parent household and that was one of the other reasons why it pushed me, because I know a lot of the kids on the wait list are not coming from that home. I tried to do these big things. You know, I took my little to a badger football game. She was like I'm nine, I can't keep my attention during this. You know, I thought it was a big deal, which I think it was still, because when would she have gotten the opportunity? But then you know what I really started, making it simple, it takes little to be big. We like went and got lunch one day and she loved it. You know, we played with slime. I'm a slime fan.

Speaker 1:

Now, so that was one of the things I wanted to ask you, tracy is what is the ideal candidate for a big? What are the qualifications or the characteristics that you're looking for in a big?

Speaker 2:

So I would say this I mean definitely, since I've taken the role of community outreach we need more bigs of color and we need more men. I mean, it's just the truth, that's what we need. Qualifications, just in general 18 and older, being able to pass a background check, having a valid driver's license, auto insurance, but in general, you don't have to be perfect, just be present, just you. Living a life is enough. Like enough of an example.

Speaker 1:

So when you say, pass a background check, what does? That look like.

Speaker 2:

So I think there's a lot of misconceptions that are around that as well. It is private. You know, once we check a background check, it's private. There is no charge. I think some people think there's a charge to a background check. It is not.

Speaker 1:

Some people think it goes on your credit.

Speaker 2:

Some people think it goes on your credit. It does not, and as long as it has nothing to do with youth, we're not going to. I really wanna stress this too. There are kids that are exposed to family members or friends that are incarcerated or what have you, and so having somebody come in your life that could be an example and say, look, this is what happened to me. I'm human, mistakes have been made, but look how I changed my life, and we definitely don't want people feeling like, well, I'm not gonna decide to be a mentor because I have a past. It really is a one-on-one, private conversation about what that is.

Speaker 3:

And again, as long as it has nothing to do with youth, on there, you're still a candidate I'd be curious to hear what kinds of things have people had on there and they were still able to be a part of the program. What kind of anything come to mind?

Speaker 2:

Nothing comes to mind, but I think that's a good question and I think that's something that when we're doing interviews or maybe just addressing more of the background checks, giving examples of what could be, because we don't want people to be afraid to be a mentor you know, you can actually change somebody's life by the things that you've done in your life.

Speaker 3:

No, you can. People can learn from it if you're willing to open yourself up to share that with someone for sure.

Speaker 1:

For some reason this phrase just keeps coming into my mind. I want to share. It takes one to know one. So it's like when you're saying you know we need more, you know bigs of color, we need people with lived experience. Right, it's just like, man, you know. It takes People like us, it takes people that has been in that type of situation to know the pitfalls, to know where to go, where not to go, what road kids are going down because they've seen it before. So it's like man, you're going down the wrong path. I know because I went there, I've been there, I've done that.

Speaker 3:

I feel like it's a challenge to folks to don't count yourself out, because you have something to offer in terms of someone learning from you. You know I've dealt with people who have been incarcerated who can really speak to the pitfalls of what led them there, and young people can learn from that and it's just a matter of us opening ourselves up, to be willing to share that piece of us and, as Tracy would say, the time doesn't take a lot just to have a little conversation with someone, for someone to pick up on something that's going to help them.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean honestly, with my little and I, we meet it's like every other week and, like I said when I started, you know and I tell people this too but it's funny when you become a big how you don't follow your own advice. You know, I was like you don't have to do anything big and grand. You know, in fact, do all the things that you love to do. Just bring a little along with you. I mean, that's basically it, because match support does a great job.

Speaker 1:

Matching and asking for the match support specialist.

Speaker 2:

They do an amazing job and it's a hard job because you know, you know they're getting your hobbies, interests and where you live. We like to keep the matches within 20 miles, but then they also check in on you. You know they do regular check ins once a month, especially the first year that you're matched, and they're just always there for you. You're not, you're not alone at all, but you know, I like to say too, just the things that you like to do, bring a little along with you. Like I said, the past few outings that I've had, as long as I've kept it simple, she's actually been happy. We've, we've both left happy, you know, like we have. So now I'm thinking next week, you know, maybe I'll take her for a slice of pizza. She likes Ian, so you know I do too.

Speaker 1:

Take me, who doesn't like the macaroni cheese pizza?

Speaker 3:

which I never thought I would like, but I was like okay, that actually tastes pretty good.

Speaker 1:

I like the scallop potato one.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah.

Speaker 3:

I haven't tried that either. Okay.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Well it's, it's really good. I like it Shout out to Ian's.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's us to check. Very good, very good pizza Got me hungry.

Speaker 3:

Right now the kickoff, can we get into?

Speaker 2:

that. Thank you so much. Yes, so we're doing a kickoff of the campaign. It's going to be at Lake Louis and it's January 31st, from 530 to seven, and it's going to be very chill, a mix and mingle, great time to socialize, network, what have you? You will learn about the six week campaign that we're doing, which is running February 1st through March 15th, and just how you know you can help, so it should be fun. I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

Speaker 1:

So from February 1st to March 15th, what kind of activities and events do you guys have going on after the first?

Speaker 2:

So the plan for the six weeks is to be everywhere, like we want to do a takeover, because we really want to see if we can recruit 100 new volunteers. So that means you could be in a restaurant and see table tents with it. It takes little to be big. I'm doing presentations with different businesses in Madison, qti, baker Tilly, just about the campaign, podcast interviews, radio. We've got some great radio partners. There are places that are doing a drink of the month, so Carbon 4 is going to do a drink of the month for us. So we plan on being everywhere.

Speaker 1:

That sounds really interesting. And how can people get involved? If they hear this and they say you know what, I want to do it right now? What website do they go to? What phone number? How can they get in contact with?

Speaker 2:

you so you can go to our website BBBSMadisonorg and that should have all the information about. It takes little to be big and you know, just telling you how you can help. Like, if you want to become a big yourself, refer a friend, we will have yard signs that you can sign up for. So if you want to do that it takes little to be big and have them in your yard or business from February 1st through March 15th and just come to the kickoff. You know it would be great to come to the kickoff. Learn more on January 31st.

Speaker 1:

So this kickoff, I just want to go through the night I get there.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

What am I expecting? What, what, what magical things do you?

Speaker 2:

have planned for us.

Speaker 3:

In other words, what do you? What do you have that's free? What do you have that's goodies? What kind of incentives is you know?

Speaker 2:

Well, all right Well we're going to have. You know. Well, you know people want to know. So we are definitely going to have appetizers, light snacks, raffle prizes, drinks. You'll get a drink ticket and then you'll just get to be around our lovely big brother, big sister team, because we do have an amazing team around here.

Speaker 1:

So you guys absolutely do, yeah, we do so it should be fun.

Speaker 2:

You know we want to keep it light and again, like when we do talk about the campaign and just kind of educating people really about, you know, the six week campaign, what it entails, how you can help. We're going to keep it brief. We really just want people to come together, um, network, socialize and just have a good time and really spread the word. You know it takes a little to be big. Spread the word.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely so. One thing that I just learned that Marv is actually a comedian. Marv is actually Merv's. Did you just learn that, or did you see what I did there? No, you should see his face. Now what if I called you C star. Actually, that's my son.

Speaker 3:

Oh really yeah, his name's.

Speaker 1:

Chase, so I call him C star all the time. Shout out to my son, chase. Shout out to Chase after getting it done. Yesterday was his birthday Getting it done, happy, belated man, nine years old.

Speaker 3:

Chase, I got you the same thing I got you last year, so look for it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, look for it. It'll be in the mail on the 33rd.

Speaker 2:

Okay, on the 33rd.

Speaker 1:

Yes, there you go. So can you give us a quick three minutes stand up? Absolutely not Okay.

Speaker 3:

I mean, and if a comedian tells you he can, I want to check that comedian's resume. Three minutes on a podcast with no audience except except YouTube, I could laugh.

Speaker 1:

I don't even know how to feel right now.

Speaker 3:

I'm just saying it would hurt man. That's all I'm saying for now. Comedy's always, you know. But yeah, comedy's best experience, live and in person, you know, because you get people to look at you and they'll find some video of you on YouTube and then this and that, whatever, and they'll tell a friend. I just thought it was okay and it's like, well, you know, you got kind of need to be there. It's a certain, it's a different energy, different kind of energy.

Speaker 1:

So what is your final message? What is your message for the city? For it takes little to be big kickoff.

Speaker 2:

We are running a six week campaign because we want to put a dent into our waitlist. We want to cut it in half. So we want a hundred new volunteers with diverse backgrounds, definitely. And yeah, just please help us put a dent in our waitlist because, you know, what would be great is if we have mentors that are actually waiting to be matched instead of what we have now. So I'd like to leave you with that.

Speaker 3:

And I just want to challenge anyone that's out there listening that's even thinking or not thinking to think and get involved and and stop being selfish and stop. You know the time that you spend sitting on your couch doing absolutely nothing. It's time that you could spend, you know, serving and helping and being an impact to somebody else. You know, I know some folks out here in this community and they all have something to offer.

Speaker 3:

You know and obviously you know, we want African-Americans to get involved and because that's that's where this greatest need is, and I know there's enough of us in this town to be involved and to impact and to make a difference. So I challenge everyone out there to just just get involved. Make the call, you know. Go to the website, give Tracy a call. Let me give you her number real quick.

Speaker 2:

Please and honestly, I just want to stress two hours of your time, two hours. You know, like I said, the best time that I've had so far with my little is sitting down and having lunch for two hours, and you could just tell all she wanted was that one on one time and we both left, leaving so happy. So it's just a couple hours you can make it happen. And I do want to give a quick shout out to the sponsors, though. There's so many people that are always helping us out, like Louis. Thank you so much, you know, for having us, like Louis, and then the Muay Thai Blast, kickboxing. They've been amazing. Radio partners 93, one jams magic, 98, I heart the mallards are always helping out. I mean, there's just great partners in the community. So again, I know there's so many organizations out here and it just Madison continues to amaze me with the generosity. So thank you.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, just yeah, and when you step up, just get one other person to step up and let the chain begin, let the chain evolve, and we can.

Speaker 1:

we can put a dent in this thing, absolutely. You know, I do a podcast and in production class at the juvenile shelter and at the juvenile detention center and where I come and teach a two day class to kids. That's in a rough spot, you know, and I teach them podcasting and production, so it's two day class. So first the first day I come in, teach them the basics of audio and then how to conduct an interview, and then the second day I bring in a special guest, just those, and the classes are an hour and a half a piece. So I understand like just that little bit of time makes so much of a difference in the kids life. You know, and that's me and a few kids. I can just imagine if it was just one on one.

Speaker 3:

So yeah, well, we wait, and I think so many of us waste time on social media and just doing frivolous things that take up more than that in a week. And why not do something that's going to have an everlasting impact on somebody, something that's going to change somebody's life?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and you feel good.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's what I was about to say you feel good Like.

Speaker 2:

sometimes it is overwhelming how I feel when I walk away from you know, just having two hours with her, or the happiness that I feel.

Speaker 1:

Then you feel accomplished, like you actually did something with your week or your day.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, or sometimes I'm emotional. I mean there's times I'll just cry because you know I was worried with the job. I'm like, why am I crying? I cry a lot but it just, you know, like just to see people step up and take that time, and you know you'll see that my little, my little, took a bite of pizza and she loves it Macaroni and cheese she had the macaroni and cheese pizza.

Speaker 3:

It's so good, that's right.

Speaker 2:

Make me cry so good Pizza is so good, it was so good.

Speaker 3:

But I feel you, tracy, because I care to the point too that it makes me emotional and I'm dead serious Because I think back to like. I remember going to a bank once and there was this young man, you know, a father, with his two kids, and he was clearly teaching them how to money in a bank account and showing them what money is, and I remember him saying well, it sounded like he was giving them like a hundred bucks, which I wish he gave me a hundred bucks but he says to the teller would you mind just giving it to him so they can see what it feels like? You know, and I didn't grow up with a father, and so I just thought, wow, how cool is that. You know to have someone in your life that's gonna Show you how to value money and how to start. You know really, really early.

Speaker 3:

So you know, by the time you do become a teenager or you get to college and you get your first job, you know you totally understand how to manage it without Feeling like you have to, you know, go into debt to do those sorts of things. You know so it's. It is an emotional thing, you know, and when you care, and especially about our community. You just you can't help but be emotional. So I I totally feel you on that and I'm being dead serious about that.

Speaker 1:

And you'd be. You'd be surprised what you miss. Coming up without a father, without a mother, you know you'd be surprised, like the little things that you even see, like on bring your, bring your kid to work day. Or you know certain Interactions that you see between father and son when they come and pick them up from school. Or they, you know they come to a basketball game. You like, wow, that's how, that's how a dad supposed to act, that's how they supposed to feel, that's that's. And then you start living vicariously through that kids like man, I would feel like that, or I would. You know what?

Speaker 3:

I mean, I tell people all the time it's like, you know, look at your life and Take your father and all the things that he means to you and what he's done for you and taught you, taught you, impacts you, just all those sorts of things. Now Take them out of your life, like take, take away all the things that they did for you and what does that feel like? What does that look like? You know, and it's it hurts.

Speaker 1:

A lot of times the people can't even imagine it. Yeah, you can't imagine it, and so you don't know. You don't know.

Speaker 3:

Don't know and I tell you when I see, when I, you know, I started seeing family when I was in college, really, and I started spending my holidays at other people's families and and I learned, you know, because you know, when you have a single mom, you know and they're doing everything. There's only so much they can do.

Speaker 1:

Hey you guys. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate you guys. I had a great time. Thank you, I mean I appreciate the opportunity Absolutely. I'm D star until next time, guys.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters Recruitment Campaign
Big Brothers Big Sisters Kickoff Event
Familial Experiences and Appreciation