Dr. Samuel Bennett, professor of education at Southeastern University, was recently named 2013 Big Brother of the Year for the Tampa Bay Area. Bennett’s involvement in Big Brothers/Big Sisters has been extensive, including serving on the Community Resource Board and helping with recruitment, and his nomination for the award rose from his commitment to the organization and his consistency in working with the little brothers in the program.
The Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization works to match children with supportive and encouraging mentors that can have a positive influence on their lives and their future. Bennett was matched with Nick (then age 6) and has mentored him through the second, third, and now in the fourth grade.
Bennett says, “As Nick and I meet together, we have fun just talking with each other and exploring life. During our time together, I have tried to teach Nick about some very important words: respect, self-confidence, attitude, and encouragement.”
Bennett’s parents taught him as a young man to strive for the success of others before the success of self. This motivation is what caused Bennett to become involved in mentoring programs during his period as a teacher in Polk County, specifically the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program.
“I learned as a teacher that you reach inside the student and grasp the heart; the student will then respond in a positive, productive way,” Bennett says.
Currently, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Tampa Bay Area has over 900 children waiting for a match; the majority of those children are boys who have been waiting for over a year.
Bennett says, “I try my best to help Nick believe that he can be successful and reach for his future goals. Leadership author, John Maxwell, wrote, ‘People go farther than they thought they could when someone else thinks they can.’ I think Nick can!”