When Your Life Support Is Also Tech Support

By: Russell White, AmeriCorps VISTA Member

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Cedar Rapids and East Central Iowa has the mission to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships which will change their lives for the better. Randy and Cristian are a mentor/mentee match which perfectly embodies that mission.

Cristian is a bright young boy who lives with his grandparents in Marion, Iowa. Unfortunately, tragedy struck when roughly seven years ago Cristian’s mother was in a car accident and passed away. Luckily, Cristian has two loving and supporting grandparents – Teresa and Barry – who were there to take care of him after the sudden and tragic passing of his mother. They provide for him well, but not having any parents around is tough on any child. Several years ago, Cristian expressed an interest in receiving a mentor, partly due to a desire to have someone in his life who could help him to become and remain active.

That is when BBBS of Cedar Rapids and East Central Iowa paired young Cristian with Randy Witte. Randy works in IT and is quite handy with computers and technology, but he is also a natural when it comes to mentoring. Randy has served as a mentor with BBBS for approximately 12 years and tends to mentor IT interns in his office and provides them with new skills, knowledge, and job opportunities. Randy finds the experience of being a mentor to be incredibly rewarding, and his relationship with Cristian is no exception.

Cristian has a passionate interest in computers and also will play just about any kind of game that he can on his computer. In fact, Cristian’s favorite memory of him and Randy is one of their first memories: the day they built a computer together! Cristian had always been curious about building his own computer and wanting to know how, and Randy was more than happy to help Cristian build his own computer and teach him a few things along the way. Cristian loves his computer and the feeling that he and Randy built it themselves; but he also really appreciates the “tech smarts” that Randy taught him during it. For Cristian, this is when his relationship with Randy really began to take-off!

Randy often will take Cristian out to sports games – like football and basketball – and to the movie theater, which is Cristian’s favorite thing to do! These two guys have seen A LOT of movies together. They have gone to the theater to see the newest Star Trek and Star Wars movies, which Cristian is a huge fan of. In fact, if you even mention Star Wars with Cristian you can expect to have a full conversation on the characters and the plot. But one of Cristian’s favorite memories at the movies with Randy is when they went to go see The Avengers: Infinity Wars! But Randy also likes to take Cristian out to the parks or to his cousin’s family farm, so he can enjoy the outside and be an active kid. Occasionally, Randy and Cristian will also go to the bowling alley or the trampoline park. That sounds like a lot of fun!

Randy really enjoys spending time with Cristian and having genuine moments where they just hangout and talk about what is going on in their lives. The relationship has also affected Randy and he likes the fact that he will go out and try new things with Cristian and vice versa. Having someone to push your boundaries a little bit and to support you through it has noticeably affected both of them. According to both Randy and Cristian, they both feel more confident in themselves and in each other. Not to mention that Cristian’s grades are doing well, and he is getting out more and being active. Cristian really enjoys the fact that he can have someone to rely on and keep active outside. Even the most passionate of gamers need a break from the video screen.

As for Randy, he enjoys the relationship that he and Cristian have, and he enjoys being able to help him gain confidence in himself. Whenever someone young goes through a tragic and tough experience it is devastating. Randy feels rewarded everyday whenever he and Cristian make new memories with each other; new smiles; new laughs; and probably some new movies to go see. Randy’s advice to other mentors and potential mentors is this: “Don’t be afraid about what may or may not happen with your mentee. Just make sure you care for them and show that you care for them. You’ll be surprised how easy it is.

Additionally, Randy greatly appreciates and would like to thank the staff with BBBS of Cedar Rapids and East Central Iowa – especially Erin and Aleah – for all of their help throughout the years. In continuing with his advice for potential mentors, Randy wants to stress again to not be afraid of the process or of the match since the BBBS staff is always available to help or to give ideas. “I’d also like to remind the guys of Iowa that it’s important to stand up and be a part of a kid’s life – and BBBS is a great organization to get involved.” Thank you for your incredible service to your community, Randy!

Randy and Cristian’s relationship are the kind of relationships that BBBS envisioned when they made their mission statement. Supporting and enriching each other’s lives through a strong and enduring friendship that will last forever. May the Force be with you two, always.

You too can have a positive impact on a young person’s life and give them the life support that they need. Click here to find out how.