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Live A Little: Male mentors needed

Mentor 2.0 focuses on college readiness and success for high school students.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee is looking for more male mentors for its Mentor 2.0 program.

The program focuses on college readiness and success for high school students, particularly those who are slated to become first-generation college students. 

Gerald Witt has been matched with his little brother, Will, for three years now.

"He is an athlete. He's clever. He's very smart," Witt said. 

Mentors and mentees at South Doyle High School communicate through weekly writing activities, discussing important topics such as professionalism, perseverance, self-advocacy, college financial aid and career choices. 

"Guys gotta look after guys," Witt said. "One of the things Mentor 2.0 really does is how to prepare what happens after high school. What are you going to do in college? How are you going to get to college? Is college your thing? Is it going to be something else? How do you get involved in that?"

Dipakkumar Patel was recently matched with his little brother, Devin, and the pair are already hitting it off.

"There are a lot of grounds where we connect with each other. We're excited to see each other," Patel said. "At that age, we need a lot of direction. We need to know not only where we're going but why."

In addition to email communication, mentors and mentees in the Mentor 2.0 program meet in-person eight times per year at Big Brothers Big Sisters-sponsored activities. 

Several students are currently on the waiting list.

"We still have about five boys to match, but we are always looking for more, so if we can get ten mentors or we can get fifteen mentors, that would be ideal," said Mentor 2.0 Program Coordinator Jake Thomas.

Leon Duquella, an engineer, was matched with his little brother, Ken, four years ago. Ken is now preparing for life after high school.

"These are good kids, and I can see in a big school where they can get lost and the need for having a role model, somebody that's there just to listen to them, just to give them advice and help them make better decisions or good decisions can make a difference in our community," Duquella said.

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Andy Fendley and his little brother, Noah, were matched two years ago and the pair have seen big developments.

"Every meeting we go to it seems, man, you've really learned a lot in the last month," Fendley said. 

Fendley hopes their relationship helps Noah navigate high school better.

"It can have such a huge impact that they could actually take those words of advice and pass them along to somebody else," he said.

"What does a mentor look like? Well, it looks like you. You are a mentor. You're a brother. You're a father. You are a sibling. You are a friend. That is exactly what a mentor is," Patel said.

Click here to become a mentor.