Al is one of our Match Support Specialists at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washtenaw County. Like the other Match Support Specialists, Al conducts regular check-ins with Bigs, Littles, and families to make sure the match is running smoothly. He provides matches with personalized advice and resources according to their needs, ensuring that everything is in place for the relationships to grow and blossom.
Originally from Southwest Detroit, Al finished high school right here in Ypsilanti, MI. After earning his degree at Central Michigan University in sports management, he was not sure at first what he wanted to do with his career. He moved to Pennsylvania where he completed a bridge program in community and economic development, knowing that he wanted to find a way to serve struggling communities. Eventually, Al took at job with an organization called Playworks, which supports physical education in youth. Al worked his way up, starting as a program coordinator and eventually becoming a program manager. It was during his 6-year stay at Playworks that Al discovered his passion for working with children and youth. “I realized I would never venture out into another field,” he said. Because he grew up in a struggling area of Detroit, he was able to strongly relate to the kids he was serving, and that connection further fueled his desire to give back.
Around year six at Playworks, Al and his wife had their first child, prompting them to move back to Michigan to be closer to their families. Al’s first position when he returned to Michigan was with the Boys and Girls Club, where he ran the library program. Then, about a year ago, he made his way to Big Brothers Big Sisters, which has proven to be a wonderful fit. Al believes his background in sports management helps him to really connect with his clients and their families. He approaches his job with the confidence of years of experience of working with children and youth, and this confidence inspires families and puts them at ease. Now a father himself, Al knows what it takes to raise a child, and he is able to bring that whole new layer of experience to his career.
Working at Big Brothers Big Sisters has given Al the opportunity to reflect on his own childhood. Al says he didn’t have many role models as a kid, and therefore, he knows the powerful impact a mentor can have on a child’s life. One of the positive adult influences he recalls is his track coach, Mr. Wright. “Mr. Wright was a grumpy old man who never smiled,” Al laughed, “But he always gave me a fair shot.” Al recognizes that kids these days are not always on the same playing field. Some kids are born into disadvantageous circumstances that put that at a different starting line. However, Al says Mr. Wright was always “firm but fair,” and he is grateful to him for the opportunities he provided.
Al mentioned that his job can be hard at times. He says is can be difficult to focus on the 98% positive phones calls with matches when 2% of them are struggling. However, Al loves the feeling of making matches, watching them meet for the first time, and seeing them build rapport. Soon, he says, “You no longer have to introduce yourself on the phone. You can talk to the parents about what is going on with them.” Al is looking forward to continuing to grow alongside his coworkers. “I’ve been here for a year, and I am starting to feel more confident,” he says. We at BBBS are lucky to have him, and we are looking forward to watching him continue to learn and grow, as well!