Spotlight on Mary Gillock
Providing mentoring support is a key component of what match support specialists do at Big Brothers Big Sisters. They “coach” both Littles and Bigs on how to form relationships that last. It’s a perfect role for Mary Gillock, match support specialist, who has a background in both sports management and behavioral therapy.
“I mentor our mentors,” said Mary, who has been at BBBS for two years. “I generally build my deepest relationships with our Bigs because our families are relying on them. Everyone in a match has insecurities, and I’m here to help them deal with those and to provide parents with different ways of handling any challenges that they face. One of my favorite things to hear is, ‘Oh, I didn’t think about it that way.’”
Being a match support specialist is a supportive role that Mary believes her past work experience has equipped her to handle. “I worked in the fitness industry in college and got used to managing trainer/client relationships in a professional way,” said Mary. “Regardless of whether I was teaching a spin class, Pilates or weightlifting, I had to establish individual relationships with people and literally coach them through things. This background has allowed me to be more confident in my match support role at BBBS. I’m still working to provide people with information, guidance and support. I’m just doing this for matches now.”
Plus, just as she did in her fitness classes, Mary provides each of her matches with customized support. “I like having the freedom to help matches as I need to, based upon their specific needs and perspectives,” said Mary.
It’s the focus on relationships that drew Mary to BBBS’ mission in the first place. When she got out of college she worked in a medical lab and enjoyed the research and science aspects of the field. She concluded, however that she wasn’t really happy with her job. “At that point I wondered if science was really a part of what I wanted to do,” said Mary. “I determined that it was, it’s just that I am interested in the science of interpersonal relationships.”
“Our whole mission at BBBS is about relationships,” she said. “It’s about building healthy ones and, when a match comes to an end, it’s about teaching participants how to end the match in a healthy way.”
One of Mary’s favorite aspects of her job is seeing her matches grow closer and having the opportunity to study the factors that create a happy, healthy bond. This is something she is exploring outside of BBBS as well, as she is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Counseling with Marriage, Couples, and Family Therapy as her concentration at St. Edwards University.
Originally from Houston, Mary spent her post-college years in Portland, Oregon and in Salt Lake City, Utah, before returning to Texas. “I have a close connection with my family who still live in Houston,” said Mary. “I’ve always been really close to my younger brother who is 12, and who inspired me to find this agency.”
“I think people understand how important relationships are, but I don’t think they always understand how relationships shape them and how they impact other people,” said Mary. “Helping people understand this is part of our work at BBBS.”
When she’s not studying or working, Mary enjoys hanging out with friends who often encourage her to join them at shows and at local activities. “It’s nice,” Mary acknowledges. “I never had a solid group of friends growing up and I always felt kind of isolated. I’m beginning to understand how nice it is to go out with everyone just to eat.”
Mary is also a big makeup and hair styling enthusiast. She enjoys researching all sorts of products, styles and techniques and watching YouTube videos on the subject. She also watches a lot of music and skateboard videos, which she laughingly acknowledges is an odd combination.
“I’ve just been happy with my life ever since making the move to Austin and BBBS,” she said. “I am grateful. I feel very fortunate that things have come together the way they have.”