NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — From the “whatever happened to…?” file.
Whatever happened to Nasir, the son of a Fort Eustis-based U.S. Army sergeant, who enrolled in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program back in 2012?
This “Wednesday’s Child” was one of hundreds of children in single-parent families here in Hampton Roads, hoping to be matched with a mentor.
His mom, Nyria, based at Fort Eustis, was in the midst of a battle on the homefront, needing help with a son growing up with one parent.
“We came together about seven or eight years ago,” says Anthony Dodson, Nasir’s mentor who works at Newport News Shipbuilding.
“To me it, started off kinda slow,”Anthony said, adding it took time before they clicked as buddies.
Nasir remembers being nervous that day.
“I was in fifth grade and I got called into the office. I thought I was in trouble,” Nasir said. “Me being younger, I was like — uh — I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do that.”
But, as it would turn out, mother knows best. On that day, his mother Nyria had him pulled out of class to meet with a representative of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Nasir was about to be matched with a mentor. They would meet at least once a week in person or by phone to just talk, hang out, have fun, do “guy” stuff.
Nyria remembers being in a similar program while growing up.
“I thought it was a great experience to deal with somebody that wasn’t necessarily family, friend, or anything like that. And I had a great relationship with my big sister at the time. So, when I got stationed in Virginia, I wanted the same thing for my son, too.”
And, she got it. S
“As time went on and the more time I spent with this man, with Anthony, then I realized like, this is pretty cool, this is fun, I like this,” Nasir said.
Their relationship was not all play.
“I was going back to college to get my degree,” Anthony said. “As our relationship began to tighten up, his grades got better, and in return, my grades got better, because I was being challenged by him.”
Nasir and Anthony did not like the challenge of change. Nasir’s mother got orders to move and was reassigned to Fort Hood, Texas.
“We were sitting in the car crying,” Anthony recalled. “Because we knew we wouldn’t see each other again.”
But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Nyria and Nasir gave Anthony two good reasons to come to Texas recently, even during a pandemic.
“Well my son just graduated from high school — a virtual graduation because they couldn’t have an actual graduation — and then, not too long after that I just retired from the Army after 22 years,” she said.
Anthony says he checked with the Killeen area health department in Texas and was comfortable with the relatively low pandemic exposure rate.
Upon arriving, concern about COVID-19 disappeared when the two saw each other.
Nasir looks like he could contest for a spot on the New England Patriots offensive line. And, not only tall, but wide. Anthony, the “big brother” looked like he could have hidden behind his “little brother.”
So, what’s ahead for the freshly minted high school graduate? Football? Nope. College, then, the kitchen.
“My dream right now, I want to go to an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) in Houston, and I want to graduate with a business degree then I want to open a restaurant over in Louisianna.”
And both Nasir and Nyria said there are no plans to follow in his mother’s footsteps and join the military.
One of Nasir’s best customers will likely be Anthony.
“At this point in your life, Nasir, I want to be a part of it. I want to continue to be there for you,” Anthony said.
And, from a grateful mentee: “To Anthony, I say thank you, thank you very much.”
To find out more about mentoring, contact Big Brothers Big Sisters on the Peninsula, and Team Up Mentoring through the Up Center on the Southside.
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