2017-01-05 / Schools
Agoura High alumnus has ‘Big’ heart as youth mentor
Agoura High School graduate Justin Regan has a big heart. So big that he was recently honored as one of 2016’s “Bigs of the Year” by the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff, the Arizona city he now calls home.
As a “Big,” Regan has mentored the same boy for four years and counting, an experience that not only benefited a boy in need of guidance and friendship, but proved to be equally rewarding for Regan.
“It’s been a great experience,” he said. “It’s fun to forget all of your adult problems for a while and play with a kid, whether it’s tag at the park, football, sledding or hiking.”
Regan said that being a mentor to his “Little,” who he chose not to identify by name, didn’t mean that he was expected to be a “wise or strong person who changes the world through grit and passion.” Instead, he just became a friend to the youngster, a student at an elementary school in Flagstaff.
“You just have to be a friend,” he said. “It’s a lot easier and more fun than most people would expect.”
The program offers opportunities to build relationships between adults and children through school and community programs.
Regan’s relationship with the BBBS organization grew from an internship in Ventura County during the summer of 2012.
“I came to appreciate the organization and what they stand for,” he said. “I also learned about how pretty much every BBBS organization across the country is in desperate need of mentors, especially male mentors. When I went back to Flagstaff, I decided to do my part and help a kid who needs a friend.”
The friendship between the child and Regan blossomed. The boy developed trust, confidence and a sense of self under Regan’s guidance, and Regan found that helping a child in need brought joy to his life.
The relationship between Regan as a mentor and the young student he has come to admire and adore has changed over the years. For the first two years, Regan developed his relationship with his “Little” at school. Once a week after school the two friends would hang out with other adult/ child matches, following structured group activities presented by program facilitators.
But after Regan graduated from Northern Arizona University, he moved the relationship into the BBBS’ community-based program, where he and his “Little” spend time doing activities on their own. Regan said they sometimes hang out in the park together or play catch, but they also enjoy taking in a movie and attending festivals.
“So essentially, community-based is more one-on-one and you decide what you do together,” Regan said.
He said he had no idea that he was in the running for the recognition from the BBBS organization since all of the Big Brothers and Sisters are treated to a holiday dinner each year.
“So I got the award in front of everyone in the program,” he said.
As thrilled as Regan was to be recognized for his work as a Big Brother, what has meant the most to him is the relationship that has flourished with his young friend over the years. He said he will continue to be a mentor to the boy for a long time.
Regan’s mother, Jodi, said she is proud of her son for his giving and generous nature.
An Eagle Scout with Troop 127 who graduated from Agoura High in 2010, Regan is now a reporter and host of “All Things Considered,” a radio show at KNAU, Northern Arizona’s NPR affiliate.