Growing, Together

Little Brother Johnathan and Big Brother Adam

Even at age six, Little Brother Johnathan had a mind of his own. He was the one who said he wanted a Big. “I think he was jealous because his older sister was in the program,” says Parent LaTosha. So when Big Brother Adam met him – “a little shy, up to my hip with a freshly-shaved head” – Johnathan made an impression.

“He was smart, funny, and a bit of a dreamer,” Adam recalls. “He said he wanted to ‘fly planes’ when he grew up. From that moment on, his dreams were our dreams as far as I was concerned.” Their match, as they say, took off from day one.

Adam took being there as a Big for ‘John John’ seriously. And that contributed to serious growth. “Johnathan had problems, like I did, with school work,” LaTosha says. “But he went to tutoring five days a week at one of the schools he went to. Adam would always help when Johnathan had trouble with his homework.” She says Johnathan “used to be a type where you couldn’t tell him anything. We used to argue a lot. I think Adam talked to Johnathan about it. And it got better.” LaTosha smiles. “Johnathan’s determined, like me. We don’t like help unless it’s needed.

Year seven of their match brought unique opportunity for Little to teach Big. “Our community was divided when faced with the death of Michael Brown in a police officer-involved shooting,” Adam says. “Johnathan and I spoke often in the days that followed and throughout the unrest in Ferguson, which is just a few miles from his house. We drove through the aftermath of the protests. We had real unfiltered
conversations. We didn’t always agree, but we respected each other’s opinions. I tried to do as much listening and as little talking as I could. We both grew through Michael Brown’s death.”

Today, Johnathan’s nearly 18. He’s almost Adam’s height, in the top 10 of his graduating class, and ready to take off for SEMO (just one of several colleges that accepted him). Johnathan and Adam are fully engaged in a new relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri through its Big Futures program. But the biggest sign of this match’s success? What they say about each other, and how it embodies love, hope, and opportunity.

“My son loves Adam as a Big Brother – he really, really does…”

“Johnathan has made me a better man and father to my children…”

“Adam will literally be there for you through it all. I’ve always respected him for that… I know what he has done for me.”

To learn more about volunteering to be a Big Brother, Big Sister, Big Couple, or Big Family, visit Be A Big.

For more information on how you can share opportunity with alumni Littles and their pursuit of education, enlistment, and employment, contact Big Futures Senior Director, Tashanna Rucker, at

About the Author

Kristy Fairbanks