KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Mentors mean the world to the younger generation, and role models help kids succeed. That's why Big Brothers Big Sisters is trying to get more people to sign up this month and next.
It's all part of their "60 Bigs in 60 Days" initiative. The organization knows pairings of big and little brothers and sisters work because of success stories like Glenn Chenot and Coogie Pearson.
The pair may look like complete opposites, and although they are not bonded by blood, they find connection through friendship.
Chenot signed up to be a big brother when Pearson was in the second grade. He said his sister-in-law was a teacher at Lonsdale, and she told him about this "amazing young kid, who was getting in more trouble than he should have been in." The kid was Pearson.
"I thought, 'I don't know. It might be a lot of time.' And then I just prayed about it and said, 'Yeah, I think it's the right thing to do. I just feel called to do it,'" Chenot said. "I love children, and I think it'd be great for my kids to see dad serving, so I jumped on board."
Pearson remembers getting presents from Chenot at Christmas time.
The pair became fast friends. Chenot would often go to school with Pearson, bring him lunch and hang out.
Now, Pearson is a senior at West High School and a talented track athlete.
Over the past decade, the two brothers found time to play sports, eat and just sit to talk.
"He's more of a best friend like, you know, role model type of person to me," Pearson said. "He's someone I look up to, someone I can count on. Glenn is everything to me."
Through the years, Chenot has gotten a front-row seat to Pearson's success.
"As I've seen him grow and mature, it's mind-boggling," Chenot said. "The challenges that he's been through has been what also blows me away. He, I mean, he's lived in multiple different households and still keeps it together, he continually smiles, and even through the toughest of times, he just works through it."
They teach each other what it means to be a devoted brother.
"Glenn cares about a lot of people, and he has a big heart. And I say I took a lot from Glenn, I feel like I'm a little Glenn," Pearson said. "I care about people too. I have a very open mindset, and I just learned a lot. And if there's one thing Glenn taught me through life, it is accountability."
The pair won Big Brother and Little Brother of the Year for Tennessee in 2023.
"It's very humbling," Chenot said. "It's exciting. I mean, I didn't expect it, and I'm not really a big awards guy, but you know, I rode on his coattails. I mean, he's the one that's been through everything. I've just been there for him."
Now, Pearson is headed to college in West Tennessee to run track with Chenot's lessons in his back pocket.
"That's my best friend," Pearson said. "I'm definitely gonna need him throughout college. I know he'll definitely be there to give me advice because he's been through college."
Chenot said he will be there at Pearson's high school graduation in May.
Pearson said he wants to one day be a big brother himself after he graduates college.
While Big Brothers Big Sisters made the connection, the friendship is all them.
"I gained far more than I sacrificed," Chenot said. "The little bit of time that I've had to put in, it's worth it. It's the most amazing thing you ever go through, and probably one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. I think others should know about it too."
If that pair's story inspired you, sign up to be a big brother or big sister! You can do so at tennesseebig.org.