KNOXVILLE, Tenn — It is not often you will find a uniformed officer sitting down to play a card game with an elementary school student, but it is becoming the norm for Jy'Zayiah and Knox County corrections officer Julio Barragan.
"He's a good listener, and he's funny," Jy'Zayiah smiled.
Mostly, they talk about school and books.
"I'm an avid writer myself, so poetry is one of the things that I like, and I tried to get him into that, yeah he wasn't about that," Officer Barragan said.
Nearly 100 children are currently on the waiting list for mentors with Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee, but there are not enough volunteers.
So some men and women in uniform are stepping in to help.
The non-profit launched the 'Bigs in Blue' program in partnership with local law enforcement to get more mentors in schools like Ritta Elementary.
"I think it's kind of cool, and I feel kind of special because I was the first one," Jy'Zayiah said.
He is the oldest of all six of his siblings.
Barragan is a big brother, too.
"I helped raise my sister," he said. "But I haven't had an experience outside of my own siblings, so it kind of changes the way you look at a lot of things. At 23 years old, he is giving me a life-altering experience, to be honest."
An experience he hopes is also life-changing for Jy'Zayiah.
"It kind of brightens your day in a way to know that you can make a difference in someone's life," said Barragan.
"I'm glad that Julio is mine because I think that we're a great match," Jy'Zayiah smiled.
Anyone can click here to become a mentor or volunteer a couple of hours of their time to help children through the program.
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