About Us: 2016 Big Brother State Winner
Big Brother Brian Scrocca and Little Brother Rhyeem
From a shy boy to a successful honor role student, Little Brother Rhyeem’s life changed when he met his Big, Brian Scrocca.
Little did Brian know, his would change too.
After losing his younger brother in a tragic fire, Brian sought to keep his brother’s memory alive. After hearing about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, he knew it was the perfect match. Not only would the program grant him a little brother, but he would be able to help another young boy experience the joy of having a role model. First joining the program at the age of 25, with no children of his own, Brian’s life would evolve thanks to his Little Brother Rhyeem.
When first arriving at the Big Brothers Big Sisters office for their first meeting, Brain was extremely nervous – fearful that he would “disappoint his Little or not be good enough”. Anxious thoughts ran through his head until he heard a little boy running down the hall. “I get to meet my Big! I get to meet my Big”! He could hear the immense joy in the boy’s voice. As soon as he saw Rhyeem’s face, Brian’s fears melted away. The two quickly developed a strong bond – becoming “two peas in a pod”, as Rhyeem’s mother would later call the pair.
Seeing the role of a mentor as someone who can provide and expose a child to new things, Brian takes Rhyeem on many outings that become his “firsts” – his first time playing basketball, first time swinging a golf club, and his first time even ordering his own food at a restaurant. Fearful of many things, Brian’s bravery and encouragement allowed Rhyeem to cultivate a sense of resolution not seen in him before the match. Afraid of even stepping foot into movie theaters, Brian encouraged his Little to go twice without a problem. Rhyeem’s uncontrollable nervousness soon faded away.
Becoming the missing male figure in his life, Brian quickly became a role model to Rhyeem. Brian taught him little things, such as shaking hands, to overcoming big obstacles, like facing bullies. He was his brave and strong Big Brother. When getting blood work done for a couple months, Rhyeem would tell his mother he had to be strong and brave for his Big. He wanted to emulate his Big’s courage and show him he could get through it without fear.
Since Rhyeem finds it difficult to retain a lot of information and build off his knowledge, Brian encourages his Little to learn something new at every outing. Making sure every outing is intriguing and stimulating, Brian focuses on activities that allow his Little to have fun, learn about growing up, and “just simply be a boy”.
One of Brian’s most memorable outings was going to see WrestleMania with Rhyeem. “I watched him more than the actual match”. His excitement to what was going on around him was more entertaining than the wrestlers on stage.
Three years into the match, both Rhyeem and Brian moved. Afraid the distance would change their relationship, Brian makes sure to meet with Rhyeem for longer periods of time. Although they are nearly an hour away from each other, their relationship has never waivered or changed.
Although Rhyeem was once terrified at the thought of change, the move did not shock him into his usual fearful self. He was brave and courageous – just like his Big Brother. At his new school, he was able to flourish in his academics, embrace new opportunities, and meet new people. Instead of cowering in the classroom, Rhyeem made the honor roll for four semesters in a row. No longer a wallflower, he is a star student among his peers. He even decided to join the track team on which he remained on for a full year – showing a sense of commitment Brian had never seen before.
After picking Rhyeem up from his after school program, Brian met one of Rhyeem’s teachers who would later become his wife. Rhyeem was even an usher at the wedding. Seeing the joy burst across his face that day is something Brian will always remember. “He truly felt like a member of the family”. He was a part of an integral moment in Brian’s life and Brian wouldn’t have had it any other way. No longer were they just a Big Brothers Big Sisters match, but brothers – a relationship that would remain a constant support system in both their lives. An “Uncle” to Brian’s three kids, Rhyeem is considered their idol.
“A little can go a long way” to make someone smile, Brian revealed. “In order to make an impact, you don’t always need to give money, buy new toys, or build a house”. You simply need to give a small amount of time. “Even when we were just sitting in the car”, Brian went on, “Rhyeem would have a smile on his face just because we were together”. Cherish the time you have with someone and appreciate every moment – that’s the gift of mentoring.
The two are constantly in contact – texting and calling when they don’t get to see each other. Today, Brian is an active member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern NJ’s board seeking the best possible ways to fundraise and work hard to grant other children, like Rhyeem, the chance for a brighter future.