Our 2024 Matches of the Year
Our 2024 Matches of the Year
January is National Mentoring Month. It’s a time when we pause to focus on the amazing interaction known as mentoring and to celebrate those exceptional people who make that process possible – our matches. In addition, we take the opportunity to highlight our Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas Matches of the Year. This year’s winners are Big Brother Mitch Holtz and Little Brother Jiovanni, and Big Sister Macy Malechek and Little Sister Jon’Viave.
If there’s one thing these matches know… it’s competition. Whether on the basketball court or over a board game at the library, these Bigs and Littles are always up for a challenge.
MACY & J
After Macy signed up to be a Big, she began to wonder if she was ever going to be matched with a Little Sister. “I applied and I did not get matched for about eight months. And I was like, ‘I’m so qualified, why don’t they want me?” she laughed. “Once I got to know J, I totally understood. We are so very, very compatible. I still cannot believe how amazing our match is.”
Macy connected with Big Brothers Big Sister because of the wonderful mentors in her own life. She wanted to pay forward these positive influences. “I was fortunate to have several women who made lasting impacts on my life, instilling a deep appreciation for mentorship,” said Macy. “Little did I know that this journey would not only transform the life of my Little Sister, Jon’Viave (J), but also profoundly shape my own.”
Matched in 2018, J was just in kindergarten when they met, and it was a memorable first encounter. “J’s older sister was getting a match at the same time, and we were all at a table in their dining room,” said Macy. “And J looked up and said, ‘I want her.’ But it was the other Big.”
It may have been an awkward beginning, but since that time the pair have formed a strong bond and shared many adventures, most of them competitive in nature. “J is the most competitive human I’ve ever known,” said Macy. “A love of competition is something we share, and it is something that has only been strengthened by countless hours of 20 Questions during car rides and competitive board games at the Austin Public Library. She is so intense. To know J is to know her love of winning.”
“I mean, the kid has been beating me at checkers since day 1!” laughed Macy. “From challenging memory games to some heated moments of Connect Four, I never once needed to let her win. We usually go for ice cream afterwards because it softens the blow. Though, we always leave laughing and sharing our favorite strategies.”
J loves sports and has been very involved in playing volleyball, even winning a championship. Macy has also introduced her to basketball games at UT where she has started getting to know the game and the players.
Over the six years of their match Macy has watched J’s love of learning evolve. They would spend their hangout time finding new words to translate for an elementary Spanish class or quizzing each other on multiplication which resulted in J earning the title of “Math Master.”
Consequently, it was concerning when Macy saw J’s attitude towards school change. “I asked for a better understanding of her experience. At the root of the behavior, I learned that J was feeling misunderstood. J and I had a long conversation about feeling and showing emotions, discussing the intention behind words and body language versus how others might perceive them. I shared the power of apology, even when you didn’t mean to hurt someone’s feelings. When J returned to school the next day, she shared a heartfelt and vulnerable apology with her teacher. Together, they positively moved forward in class with a better understanding of one another.”
Being understanding and having a big heart is something J shares in all facets of her life. She likes to help her mom at home and often tells her Big Sister how much her mom does for their family and how grateful she is that Macy is helping her mom. During a recent gift giveaway, she was so intent on getting gifts for her family she didn’t realize she was supposed to be the recipient.
Her optimism and kindness also helped her Big Sister. “During the pandemic, I suffered from depression that often felt overwhelming and isolating,” said Macy. “J gave me a reason to get out of the house and socialize. Her laughter and optimism were infectious. She unknowingly became a source of joy and human connection that were pillars of strength during that challenging period.”
Macy sums up their match eloquently. “Our journey embodies the essence of mentorship—providing support, joy, and a platform for shared growth. As we look ahead to the future, I am excited to continue our sisterhood and witness more growth and success of my incredible little sister, Jon’Viave.”
What does J have to say? “I love Macy as my Big Sister because she’s really nice. She’s not rude and she doesn’t shame me for what I like,” said J. “I really enjoy going to the Longhorn games with her. I play volleyball and it inspires me to do better. She supports stuff I like, and she helps my mom, so I really appreciate her.”
MITCH & JIOVANNI
A love of sports is also characteristic of our other Match of the Year, Big Brother Mitch, and Little Brother Jiovanni. Matched two years ago, the pair started out with a focus on getting Jiovanni ready for his school’s basketball team.
“We both share a love of sports,” said Mitch. “Whether it’s watching an NBA or NFL game or playing 1-on-1 basketball or playing pick-up basketball at the gym with his brother and his brother’s friends – we just really enjoy the time we get together.”
As part of their relationship, they determined that they would set specific goals to achieve along the way – one being Jiovanni’s desire to try out for the basketball team. “In preparation, we went to Buda City Park to practice and play to hone his skills,” said Mitch. “Unfortunately, despite our efforts, he did not make the team. But rather than sulk or give up, Jiovanni and I have continued to play basketball most weeks. He loves the game, as do I, and he’s a persistent young man.”
It was a lesson in resilience. “Jiovanni has faced a number of hardships, but he always sees the good in situations and looks to overcome setbacks,” said Mitch. “We set goals together, work towards them, and celebrate our progress.”
It’s part of the guidance and encouragement Mitch learned from his mentors when growing up. Lessons that inspired him to be a part of BBBS. “I was fortunate to grow up with a great dad and older brother as well as trusted coaches, teachers, and other mentors that cared about me, invested in me, believed in me and my potential, and provided me guidance,” said Mitch. “I cannot overstate the impact these men had on my life during those formative years. I became a Big to pay it forward and invest in someone who may not have that kind of mentor in their day-to-day life.”
When day-to-day life includes dealing with friends at school it can be important to have a confidant on your side. Jiovanni’s grandmother was concerned about an increase in reports of drug activity at his high school and reached out to Mitch. “We were able to have an open conversation about this,” said Mitch. “Jiovanni was aware of those using drugs, but he hadn’t done so himself and never felt pressure to participate. His confidence in who he is has helped him make good decisions rather than follow the crowd, which is no easy feat!”
Part of that confidence is the result of having a mentor who offers validation. “He has continued to build confidence throughout our match,” said Mitch. “He continues to be himself and is not afraid to be unique. I think he knows how much I have enjoyed spending time with him, and this only furthers his confidence in being true to himself.”
The pair set goals together, work towards them, and celebrate their progress. Recently, Jiovanni decided to pursue a spot on the weightlifting team at his high school. To support him, Mitch has made sure they work out lifting weights together at his gym. “As Jiovanni grows physically stronger, I can see him enjoying that gratification and added confidence. What I love about weightlifting is it’s quite analogous to life,” said Mitch. “Results come after hard work – and no one is going to do that work for you. I’ve watched our workouts motivate Jiovanni to push himself further, and I’ve tried to use weightlifting as a teaching moment to encourage him to work harder in the classroom, too. We talk about habits and how habits ultimately dictate outcomes. We’ve both relished the chance to encourage each other to be better than we were the week before.”
Mitch admits that he didn’t expect to find a perfect match when he volunteered to be a Big. “We really do look forward to spending time together each week,” said Mitch. “Being matched has helped me to appreciate things in life that I may naturally take for granted. Jiovanni is one of the most positive, optimistic, and upbeat people I have ever spent time with. In more than two years, I’ve never seen him have a bad day. He is just so refreshing to be around.”
What does Jiovanni think about the match? “Mitch is special because of how wise he is, how supportive he is, and how competitive he is,” said Jiovanni. “Mitch has given me advice that will help me in the future. He is great at teaching and explaining things. He is supportive by encouraging me to succeed and try new things. He is also a great listener. He shows his competitiveness by always providing a challenge for me which makes me better and makes me want to work harder. Above all the things Mitch has taught me, the best is how to be a good friend.”
For those considering volunteering to be a Big, Mitch has words of encouragement. “The impact BBBS has on youth is measurable and meaningful – the results speak for themselves. I’m also grateful not just for the impact on the lives of the Littles, but for the impact being a Big has had on me. I’ve learned a lot from Jiovanni. He inspires me to be a more joyful, optimistic person. And I think I inspire him to work hard and dream big.”