From Mentee to Mentor, Big Brother Juston White Dedicates Life to Helping Youth Facing Adversity
“I’ve always had an interest in giving back with mentoring…With my father passing when I was nine years old, there were a number of individuals who stepped up and became mentors and role models for me. I understood the importance of it from that standpoint,” said Juston White, Big Brother and Executive Director of KVC Health Systems.
White, a former WSU basketball player, is a well-known community leader in Wichita who has dedicated his life to helping support youth facing adversity. White started his nonprofit career as a volunteer at EmberHope Youthville which progressed into director a few years later, then he became the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas, and eventually he landed on his current leadership position at of KVC Health Systems in May 2019.
His experience from having mentors in his own life at a young age, to volunteering as a mentor, to working professionally with at-risk youth, has given him an in-depth perspective on the power of positive mentorship.
“I Saw the Need”
“Me getting to know the stories of the kiddos that we serve, their backgrounds and some of their contributing factors to whatever adversity they were experiencing. A lot of it dwindled down to either the result of not having, I would say, positive figures in their life or that overcoming some of their obstacles, having a positive role model would be beneficial in their success.”
White first became a Big Brother to Mario through a specialty KS Big Brothers Big Sisters program called “P3” in 2015 that helped youth who had experienced with the juvenile justice system to transition into more positive futures. He was matched with Mario for one year in the program to help him with college and career advice.
At the conclusion of that match, White wasn’t ready to stop volunteering his time as a mentor and asked to be matched with another Little. In March of 2017, White was matched with Damall and maintained a fruitful friendship for three years. While matched, White and Damall shared their mutual love of sports and often played football and basketball and shared many meals together. As Damall began to thrive in his teenage years and became more confident in his independence, White realized their friendship had evolved and didn’t need as much of his attention. Then White had an idea. He talked with Damall and his mother to see how they felt about closing the match within the formal program while still keeping in touch as close friends – which would allow him to get matched with a different Little who was still waiting.
“One thing in the back of my mind that I am always thinking about is the number of kids who are still waiting to be matched,” said White. “I tell all of them that you're stuck with me for life, as long as you want me around. So, I never really see the matches as ending. It's just more evolving to a different type of relationship.”
All three of them had a conversation and agreed that this the right way to move forward. In November 2020, Juston was matched with his current Little Brother DeAndre. “We’re off to a good start…he runs track, plays football and loves basketball so we go to the gym and sometimes workout together. Sometimes we spend time doing homework and we go out to eat. He’s very modest and has a lot of potential. I think we’ll be matched for some time.”
As an example of keeping in touch with his previous Little, White shared details of a phone conversation he had with Damall to give him advice about making Valentine’s Day plans ahead of time including dinner reservations in order to not upset his girlfriend and have the best day possible.
Understanding Firsthand the Benefits of Mentorship
When his father passed away early in his childhood, White was invited to play on a basketball team that led to the coach stepping in as a much-needed influential mentor in his life.
“For me having a mentor, it was someone that I can mirror myself. He was more of an example than anything. He was somebody that in many ways I wanted to become someone similar to him as far as his morals and values and what he represented,” said White. “I mean, he's a family man. He was a hard worker. He was a stand up type of guy and he was a youth basketball coach. He also worked for the energy company in town at the time, but in his free time, he mentored his own children. And then he mentored many, many kids in the Wichita community through basketball. And he didn't have to do that. It inspired me and I wanted to become someone similar to him.”
White’s own experience of having a mentor at a young age helped him realize that a caring adult can help a youth realize their potential for success by simply setting a positive example.
“I think having a mentor really put me on the right path to wanting to be successful. But also overcome a lot of the statistics that you see with children that come from single-parent homes or just some of the statistics as me being an African American young man having to overcome – having a mentor helped me greatly with that.”
The KSBBBS one-to-one mentoring program is an outcomes-based model that demonstrates how youth matched with a Big have increased self-esteem, perform better in school, have better relationships with peers and family, and are able to make better decisions and avoid risky behaviors.
You can BE THE ONE to make a difference in the life of a youth facing adversity. Take the first step and inquire online today.
White’s Favorite Inspiring African American Leaders:
Maurice Hobson (White’s older cousin) – From GSU: Dr. Maurice Hobson is an Associate Professor of African American Studies and Historian at Georgia State University. He earned the Ph.D. degree in History, focusing in African American History and 20th Century U.S. History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests are grounded in the fields of African American history, 20th Century U.S. history, comparative labor, African American studies, oral history and ethnography, urban and rural history, political economy, and popular cultural studies. He is the author of award-winning book titled The Legend of the Black Mecca: Politics and Class in the Making of Modern Atlanta with the University of North Carolina Press.
In popular media, Dr. Hobson was consulted for the Netflix documentary "The Art of Organized Noize," which featured the Atlanta production team that changed the sound of hip-hop with their work with OutKast and Goodie Mob.
Rip Gooch – Ulysses Lee "Rip" Gooch (born September 13, 1923) is a former pilot, aviation entrepreneur, and Kansas politician. Gooch was a member of the Kansas Commission on Civil Rights, 1971–74; member of the Wichita City Council, 1989–93; and a Kansas state senator (D-Wichita, 29th District - central-northeast Wichita) from 1993 until retiring in January 2004 as the state's oldest serving senator, at 80. Gooch was one of the first inductees to the Black Aviation Hall of Fame.