Making a difference through mentorship

Story by Big Brothers Big Sisters

Summer 2024

As the father of five kids, an active volunteer and a senior manager, Mike de Bokx is a busy guy, but that doesn’t stop him. He is deeply committed to positively impacting young people’s lives. As an in-school mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) in Airdrie, Mike dedicates his time to being a positive role model for teens facing adversity.

What drove you to become a mentor?

When he was a teen, a soccer coach recognized and nurtured Mike’s leadership potential. “I learned from my coach there’s always a positive that comes if you work through hardships,” he says. These lessons stayed with Mike, propelling him towards volunteering with teens.

How has mentoring made a difference?

Now mentoring his seventh mentee with BBBS, Mike has witnessed first-hand the difference mentorship makes in the lives of the youths he works with. Many of his “little brothers” come from backgrounds lacking positive male role models, and Mike provides much-needed support and friendship. “At the beginning of the year, we set a goal about what we can work on together and I ask how I can support them with it.” Over the years, he’s observed remarkable transformations in his mentees, from increased confidence to improved social skills. “You get a sense of purpose because you know that you’re helping a teenager to make sense of what they are going through; it can have a major impact on their life,” Mike shares.

What about those who say they are too busy to mentor?

When people tell Mike they are too busy to volunteer, he encourages them by saying, “You find the time for the things that matter.” With the in-school mentoring program requiring just one hour a week, Mike has made it work, even with his busy schedule.

Do you have any tips for talking to your employer about volunteering?

For those hesitant to approach their employers about volunteering commitments, Mike offers valuable tips. He approached his own employers with sincerity, emphasizing the personal significance of his volunteer work. By framing volunteering as an opportunity to give back to the community and enhance personal development, Mike showed how volunteering could be seen as an asset, rather than a distraction. “Some employers have asked if I can make the time up somewhere else – I just work through lunch one other day,” he says.

How has BBBS supported you in your time as a mentor?

Mike also says it’s easier because of the support and guidance he gets from BBBS and the resources they bring, including games and activities, to engage the students. “When you go into it as a volunteer, it’s not just reliant on you,” he says. “There’s a real support team to help you be successful.” When asked what he says to others considering being a mentor, Mike states. “It’s a lot of fun. You are playing games and remembering what it’s like to be a kid again. You’re pouring into the life of someone else and having fun while you’re doing it.”