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Making a Difference: The Benefits of Becoming a Big Brother

We talked with Liam Bartlett ’23 about what he has learned volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts.

Liam Bartlett ’23

In this series, Karen Guzman talks to Yale SOM students about how volunteering complements their business education and connects them to their community.

Student: Liam Bartlett ’23
Organization: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts

What drew you to this particular volunteer opportunity?

In 2019, I wanted to connect more with the city of Boston, beyond my network of undergraduate peers. A close friend spoke passionately about her involvement in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and encouraged me to sign up. As a Big, you act as a mentor to a local child, hoping to develop positive relationships that can have lasting effects on the lives of young people. I’ve always enjoyed supporting youth. I have fond memories from high school back in Syracuse, New York, where I ran summer day camps for a group of kids from our street.

l interviewed with Big Brothers Big Sisters and was matched with my Little, Devin, a remarkable nine-year-old boy from Boston. Nearly three years later, we’ve developed a lasting friendship by exploring Boston, playing virtual charades, watching movies, and much more. Now that I’m at Yale SOM, Devin and I connect through Zoom.

What are the values that motivate you to volunteer?

Big cities in the United States regularly exhibit significant levels of both economic inequality and social polarization. By mentoring one of the thousands of Littles waiting for a Big, I’ve had the opportunity to be a role model while also being exposed to enriching experiences that differ from my own. Connecting people from contrasting backgrounds promotes inclusive behavior and enables valuable reflection of your own experiences. Today more than ever, understanding and appreciating one another’s unique perspectives is necessary to drive positive and lasting change.

How does volunteering complement your MBA education?

Understanding how to address meaningful challenges facing our society is inherit to Yale’s mission. The Yale MBA experience and my time with Big Brothers Big Sisters have offered me the resources and guidance to expand my commitment to inclusion and empathy.

What’s one surprising thing you have learned through volunteering?

I’ve found that the more time I spend with Devin, the more I make a deliberate effort to put myself in his shoes to understand his feelings, intentions, and perspective. As I continue to learn from Devin, I’ve developed a new and valuable outlook. After our six-month match anniversary, the program coordinator shared a survey response with me stating that my time with Devin had made him feel better about himself and had improved his confidence. This brief yet powerful response, indicating the positive impact I’m having on him, encouraged me to further expand my commitment to empathize, not only with Devin, but also with my colleagues from all backgrounds.