Blake Dowling: Salute to mentors — because it takes a village

Helpful male teacher using laptop at class, working on a project with his teenage students. Experienced mature mentor working with teenagers at school
Cheers to the village, as it does indeed take one.

I was fortunate to have the pleasure of working with several Floridians who are (or were) mentors in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

Drew Piers from Sachs Media; Tom Derzypolski from Bowstern; one of my mentors, Steve Evans, was a Big Brother; Sam Vance from Ladies Learning to Lead; Mickey Moore who also is a consultant for our firm, Samantha Sexton from the University of Florida; too many to mention them all. We all need mentors and none more than the young people in our communities around the state.

Cheers to these citizens for being there for our youth.

While our state and nation continue to battle through 2020, what has happened in the world of youth mentorship? Many traditional interactions have ceased, but new opportunities appear.

As I mentioned to Katie from WCTV this week, while traditional outings — sports, the mall, fair, etc. — might be on hold, the local BBBS Agency launched a new activity that mentors and their “littles” could collaborate on.

It started as a casual idea for a talent show and two months later, the ‘Big Talent Showcase’ was born. The mission was to challenge all the youth involved with the agency to create a one-minute video of their talent and send it for review.

After all the videos were compiled, the committee would select the Top 4.

TJ, one of the finalists.

Next up voting for the No. 1 spot. All four finalists were listed on the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Big Bend Facebook page, and the one that gets the most votes wins.

There are gift cards and awards for all the finalists, and the winner gets a trophy, too. The contest is a fundraiser for the agency so each dollar = a vote. Pretty cool.

You can check them all here.

These videos were diverse as they included musicians, artists, singers, karate, dancers and much more.

It also served as an opportunity for these youth to get excited about something and show off a little. You can tell they each took pride in the engagement as there are huge smiles in every video.

For the finalists, there is also a sense of accomplishment as they separated themselves from the other contestants with their special talent.

You can hear from the “Big” in the WCTV clip earlier say how proud she was of her “Little.” From the Agency perspective, there was an opportunity to get the brand in front of the community and keep their audience engaged in their activities while traditional events were canceled.

I checked in with my pal, Alva Striplin, CEO of BBBS in Tallahassee and she spoke up about the new event.

”With your support for the Big Talent Showcase, we will be able to keep our children connected during this time of social distancing, school closings, and stress related to the coronavirus,” Striplin said.

Moving on to another part of Florida I checked in with Jasmyn Copeland from BBBS Gainesville. Copeland serves as program director of Alachua County; she gave me her thoughts on all things mentoring as she works directly with making the matches happen.

“I loved what one little said during a match meeting,” Copeland said. “I want to get the opportunity to see the way others live. To learn more. And be able to make the best decisions for myself. There is no greater gift, but to expand the horizon. To broaden the vision.”

Awesome. Thank you for sharing, Jasmyn.

We all need mentors. especially our youth. And we all have to continue to get creative in 2020 to get our brand out there; even with the recent reopening announcement, things are still very different.

Mentors help us achieve our goals and help make our state and communities a better place to live. This one is for all the Big Brothers and Big Sisters out there, the staff and the volunteers that support them.

Cheers to the village, as it does indeed take one.


Blake Dowling is the CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and the host of the Biz & Tech podcast. He writes for several organizations and can be reached at [email protected]

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at


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