In the News

South Bay Little: Ready for a Big Change

Names have been changed to insure the privacy of our subjects; all other information is factual.

One autumn, just before Thanksgiving, Sebastian’s mother died of Leukemia. He was four years old. Without knowing his father, who left when he was a baby, Sebastian has grown up living with his grandmother, aunt, and other extended family in a duplex in San Jose, California.

Now 11 years old, Sebastian still misses his mom. “I remember a lot about my mom, she was so nice to me and gave me a lollipop every day and let me eat cookie dough but not too much.” He clings to his mother’s memory, while his father somehow seems even further out of reach, “... I don’t know my dad. I know that he used to beat my mom and drink a lot, I kind of hate him because he did that to my mom.” Sebastian’s concept of his parents is tainted with sadness and anger.

Without both parents, his grandmother has been the stable force in his life. “My grandma is the kindest person and she takes care of me,” muses Sebastian. His grandmother knows that Sebastian needs additional support, enrolling him in the Boy Scouts and local after school services. Recently she reached out to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area after hearing about the program from school staff.

She worries about Sebastian because he mostly plays video games alone at home and has had many challenges at school. He’s been threatened with a knife and spit on by classmates. This negative attention is perhaps exacerbated by the fact that kids at school know he has strong reactions so they can easily press his buttons. While friendly with his teacher, he’s easily distracted by peers. He has a lot of energy and likes attention. But he also loses interest in things very quickly. He seems to need more guidance and healthy ways to connect with others.

Sebastian’s grandmother would like him to get out and have someone that he can talk to about any issues going on which he may not feel comfortable speaking about with family. Sebastian understands his grandmother’s hopes for the program “She told me that this program will help me a lot and help me accomplish stuff, it will help me improve my grades; because I am always around the house moping around, trying to find things to do” he explains.

Excited about the prospect of having a Big Brother, Sebastian is looking forward to trying things he hasn’t done before and wants his future Big Brother to know his interests, “I like to play a lot of video games, football, basketball, riding my bike, and skateboarding… I like shrimp cocktails from Puerto Azul. I like to watch movies and listen to music.” But the excitement is tempered with some hesitation. He wonders what his Big Brother will look like and if he will be safe and secure around him. “I want to know his record, if he is dangerous or not.” He wonders if he can trust this person that he’s never met. He’s uncertain but hopeful.

Strengthened by the knowledge that his family will support him through the process, Sebastian wonders, “What should I tell [a Big Brother] about my family? They are really nice. They will accept him.” This point was further illustrated when, after a two hour interview with Sebastian and his grandmother, she warmly invited Big Brothers and Big Sisters staff to have dinner at her home anytime.

Sebastian is trying to find positive ways to work through his past. He is willing to trust a Big Brother even after his father abandoned him so early in life. And, likely as a way to address his mother’s Leukemia, Sebastian says that he would like to become a doctor that cures cancer when he grows up. These are productive paths forward for him. He just needs help staying on track.

Sebastian says that what makes him special are his freckles. But that’s just on the surface. Looking a little deeper, someone like a Big Brother will get to know the countless ways Sebastian is special. There’s so much potential to make a BIG impact in his life.

If you or someone you know would like to be a South Bay or San Mateo Big Brother please visit

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