Pairing young people with caring mentors

Gable Crowder learned early on the difference having a positive role model makes in a kid’s life. Growing up in the projects of Baltimore, he was the only kid he knew who had a father at home.

“I was the only one that had both of my parents,” he said. “My dad kept me out of drugs, into sports, made sure I did not become a statistic out of Baltimore, either dead or in jail. He worked hard at keeping me level-headed.”

Today, Crowder finds mentors for children through Big Brothers Big Sisters, the national organization that matches adult volunteers with youth ages 5 to 16 for professionally supported one-to-one mentorship.

As the director of community engagement for BBBS South Texas, Crowder recruits adults to serve as mentors throughout the chapter’s service area, which includes San Antonio and surrounding areas from Corpus Christi to College Station. Currently in South Texas, 325 kids are waiting for a caring adult to mentor them.

For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has recruited, screened, matched and supported mentoring relationships that have changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people across the country. Mentors, or “Bigs,” commit to being matched with a little brother or sister for a minimum of one year, meeting at least one time per month.

The program delivers measurable benefits to the young people it serves, most of whom come from single-parent homes.

“It’s proven through us that if you have a mentor, you have an 87 percent chance of graduating to the next grade,” Crowder said. “If you’re in the program 3 years or more, there’s an 89 percent chance you’ll graduate from high school.”

The benefits extend to the Bigs as well. In addition to working for BBBS since 2021, Crowder has served as a mentor off and on since 2000. Crowder said that he gets to rediscover the joys of life by experiencing them along with Jaden, whether they’re special events or a simple fast-food meal.

As a Big Brother to Jaden, he’s taken him to basketball and soccer games, the DoSeum, the Witte Museum, the Scobee Planetarium and other places, giving him experiences he might not have otherwise. When BBBS recently offered tickets to mentors to a live event at the Tobin Center called “National Geographic Live: Secrets of the Whales,” Crowder took Jaden.

“I would have never thought about going to that, but after I got there I appreciated that I went because it was very powerful. I learned as much as he did,” Crowder said.

Crowder also took Jaden on his first visit to Chick-Fil-A.

“He didn’t know what to order, but he was just ecstatic,” Crowder said. “A lot of the things we do, he’s doing for the first time. I love the fact that I get to show him his first of so many things.”

The mentors Crowder works with tell him how meaningful it is for them to have a positive influence on a young person.

“They get the opportunity to change a life in a positive way and they get to see the impact of those moments on the little’s face when they experience something new,” he said. “They love those moments.”

Crowder went into the military and retired after a 25-year career in the Navy. He relocated to San Antonio in 2016. When he learned of an opportunity at BBBS, he met with leaders at the organization, who created a director position for him.

As a recent SVPSA Fellowship graduate, Crowder found both inspiration and education during his time as a fellow. As a director overseeing a department at a larger nonprofit agency, he was in awe of other fellows who were in charge of smaller organizations and wearing many hats at once with few or no other staff members.

He also appreciated the opportunity to strengthen his knowledge in different areas, especially regarding grant writing and nonprofit finances.

“I am truly a fan,” he said. “It really helped me out and I want to utilize it moving forward.”

His advice for incoming fellows is to use both ears and stay humble to take in everything coming at you.

“I would say sit back, listen, take in everything that you can, because it’s very worth it for whatever you’re going to be doing next.”