When David was 12 years old, his parents, David and Julie
Martinez, moved from Littleton to Pueblo. His parents both wanted to attend
dental school to advance their careers, so David helped care for his two
younger sisters, Ashley and Alexis. Then in 2004, when his father asked him to
volunteer at the Denver Rescue Mission, David agreed. He helped his father
provide dental care and learned first-hand about the needs of homeless people.
“We're always helping each other and people who are less
fortunate than we are,” said David, 25, of his family.
But in 2006, David wanted to do more. His question to
himself was: “What else can I do?” His uncle, Michael Ontiviros, suggested a
place to serve. Ontiviros participated in Big Brothers Big Sisters in Phoenix,
Ariz. and he encouraged his nephew to do the same.
“I never had a brother,” said David, as he sat in the living
room of his Broomfield apartment. “What better way to get a brother than
through Big Brothers Big Sisters?”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado is one of 15 mentor
organizations in The Youth Mentoring Collaborative (YMC). The YMC offers volunteer
opportunities that enable adults to impact youth’s lives and make a difference
through mentoring. The YMC will
work to match adults with mentoring options that best fit their interest and
In July 2007, after a three- to four-month application
process, David became a Big Brother to 12-year-old Willie Serrano of Thornton.
Willie is the youngest of Diane Serrano's three children. Willie's siblings,
Santanna, 15 1/2 and Allen, 14, also are involved with Big Brothers Big
Diane Serrano, a single parent who works long hours, said
she appreciates Big Brothers Big Sisters because the program allows her
children to enjoy recreational outings. “They have a lot of fun with this
program,” she said.
David shares interests with Willie and has given her son
“another friendship,” she said. David also provides an older male role model
for Willie, a seventh-grader at Niver Creek Middle School.
As the family gathered in their apartment, Santanna said of
Willie: “When he's with David, since he's known David for a while, he opens up.
But if he doesn't really know you that well, then he'll be shy until he gets to
know you...He's a really fun person to be around.”
Willie, who was quietly listening, appreciated his sister's
compliment. And his mother didn't miss her son's reaction: “Oh, look at that
smile!” she said.
David remembers how Willie's quietness began to fade as they
played basketball one day. “I started to see his aggressive side, his
competitive side,” David said.
“That kid likes to win, no matter what.”
As their relationship deepens, Willie becomes more at ease
with his “big brother,” David observed. “You get to see his personality more
and more as he gets comfortable.”
Recently, David took Willie, who is 4 feet 11 inches tall
and about 75 to 80 pounds, to learn a new sport. “He just showed me how to box,
how to defend myself,” Willie said.
Willie also has accepted David's help with school. When
Willie's grades started slipping, David began meeting with him on Friday nights
– in addition to Sundays when they regularly hang out – to help with
“If I get straight B's, he will take me shopping,” Willie
Encouraging Willie to stay in school, keep good grades and
avoid dead-end jobs are among David's goals for his relationship with the
youngster. “Success for me would be to see him go to college,” David said.
When the weather is good, David and Willie participate in a
lot of outdoor activities when they get together on Sundays. They also join
outings offered by Big Brothers Big Sisters. For example, David and Willie
recently went skiing with the group.
As David builds a relationship with Willie, he also juggles
classes as a biology student at Front Range Community College. In the fall,
David plans to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he will
study integrative physiology with a minor in Spanish. David plans on keeping up
the family tradition and becoming a dentist, like his parents.
David's days are busy, but he makes time for Willie. “There
are 24 hours in a day and it's basically time management, what you do with your
time,” he said. “Especially being in college, you have to learn time
David and Willie can continue a relationship for as long as
they want. Big Brothers Big Sisters does not outline a time frame for these
mentor relationships. And that's perfectly fine for David, who said he feels
his friendship with Willie is personally rewarding: “He feels a part of me.”
In addition to pairing adult volunteers with
youth, the YMC offers training including:
information about the mentoring agencies in the Collaborative, the role
of a mentor in a youth’s life, and tools for developing positive, effective
relationships with youth. For more
information call Mile High United Way’s 2-1-1 or visit www.MetroVolunteers.org to create a better
future for our youth in our communities.