Dustin and Gustavo: A 12-Year Journey

Dustin’s journey as a mentor began when he was 12 years old. Growing up in a household with four women, he could benefit from having a consistent male role model in his life. He never forgot the positive influence his Big Brother had on him.

“I truly felt once I was an adult and got myself a job, the next logical step was to give back,” Dustin said. “I thought if someone who stuck around for a few months could leave such a profound impact on my life, imagine what would happen if I got involved for a longer period of time?”

First a Little, Now a Big

Dustin and his Little Brother Gustavo, were matched on July 28, 2016.

Gustavo’s parents were looking for a mentor to motivate him to do better in the classroom, and show him how to be more respectful to his family. For Gustavo, a mentor would not only teach him new things, but also take him to new places far beyond the confines of the cramped motel room where his family lived.

On their first outing together, Dustin brought Gustavo to Top of the World park in Laguna Beach for an unforgettable view of the ocean.

“His face lit up like Times Square and he was smiling from ear to ear. It was the first time he had been on top of a mountain,” Dustin said. “My idea of getting to know him over a hike was in my mind such a small gesture—I had no idea how profound of an impact it would have.”

Dustin gradually noticed Gustavo’s adventurous spirit become more apparent during each subsequent outing. Regardless of what they did or where they went, Gustavo always had a smile on his face and an eagerness to learn something new.

The pair’s go-to activities now include bowling, eating Italian food and going to museums.

Overcoming Obstacles

Like any other match, Dustin and Gustavo have still encountered their fair share of ups and downs. However, when a difficult situation does arise, Dustin knows he is ready for whatever comes his way, thanks in large part to his time as a school teacher.

“That shaped me in ways few can understand, and if anything, it over-prepared me for being a Big Brother,” Dustin said. “Today, if my little, his parent or a match support specialist says they are having a challenge with something, my answer is usually the same: bring it on.”

While Dustin may no longer teach for a classroom full of kids, he knows there is still plenty of mentoring left for him to do. At the start of their match, a significant source of concern for Gustavo’s parents was their son’s anger issue–often directed toward his family.

“I told him it’s very normal to get angry, but I also let him know that it’s important to control these emotions to keep your head clear,” Dustin said. “If we stop and think for a moment about everything, we can decide the best way to move forward.”

It’s lessons like these that remind Dustin of how seemingly small actions can leave a lasting impact on other people’s lives.

“I was having a horrible day at work, and really felt like I had accomplished nothing. Later that night, I received a call from Gustavo’s mother thanking me because she felt his demeanor and efforts in school had changed,” Dustin said. “She told her family that I am their guardian angel, and that they are forever grateful.”

Dustin’s fulfilling experience with Big Brothers Big Sisters has since come full circle, as he now serves as an active member of the recruitment committee. His message for those on the fence about becoming a Big Brother is simple.

“Be like Nike, and just do it. Do or do not, there is no try,” Dustin said. “Everybody knows that the person at the end of their life says not that they wish they hadn’t, but that they wish they had.”

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