Empowering night: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex/Hudson/Union graduation stats are worthy of celebration

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson & Union Counties had plenty to celebrate at its recent graduation ceremony.


An impressive 96% of the kids in the program graduated high school — and, of those, 100% have a post-high school plan.

Then, there’s this: 78% are pursuing further education, a significant increase compared to the national average of 31% for youth living below the poverty line.

All of this shows Big Brother Big Sisters’ mission to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth is working.

Carlos Lejnieks, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson & Union Counties, said the students deserve applause.

“This celebration is a testament to the resilience, dedication and potential of our graduates,” he said. “We are immensely proud of the Class of 2024 and excited to see the positive impact they will make in our community and beyond.”

The celebration honored the diverse paths the graduates are taking, including: enrollment in two-year and four-year colleges, participation in trade schools, careers in fire and law enforcement, and immediate entry into the workforce.

The event highlighted the theme “Youth Choice and Voice: Empowerment for a Bright Future,” underscoring the organization’s commitment to empowering young people and facilitating civic participation through volunteerism.

The event featured a keynote address by Lt. Gov. Tahesha Way, inspiring remarks from students and recognition of the mentors who have supported their mentees an average of six-plus years, their parents and students for outstanding achievements and scholarships.

“I am thrilled to join Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson, and Union Counties to celebrate the Class of 2024,” Way said. “For over 15 years, this organization has paired littles from across these three counties with ‘Bigs’ who help guide them in the right direction in many different areas of their lives.

“The success of our young people is the key to our future, and I appreciate Big Brothers Big Sisters for their continued work in our communities. Together, we can make sure every young person has the guidance and support they need to achieve their full potential.”

How to become a ‘Big’

Big Brothers Big Sisters is dedicated to uplifting underserved communities through educational, economic and social advancement. Its programs are designed to empower young people to express their voices and make informed choices. With over 500 youth currently waiting for a mentor, they invite you to support the next generation of graduates by signing up to mentor. The commitment to be a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor is only four hours per month, but the impact lasts a lifetime. For more information, contact Heather.Keller@bigsandkids.org, or visit bigsandkids.org.

The celebration’s theme of “Youth Choice and Voice” emphasizes the importance of allowing young people to make decisions about their futures. By empowering students to choose their own paths and express their opinions, we foster a sense of agency and responsibility. This empowerment is crucial for civic participation, as it encourages young people to engage in their communities, advocate for their beliefs and take on leadership roles. Studies show that youth mentored through Big Brothers Big Sisters’ one-to-one mentoring program are more likely to earn a four-year degree, volunteer and take on leadership roles.

Annually, the local Big Brothers Big Sisters leverages over 50,000 volunteer hours to support its students’ path towards high school graduation, and over $1 million in college readiness programming and scholarships to support its graduating classes’ post-high school plans. This investment ensures that every youth has the needed support and opportunity to pursue their dreams, reflecting its commitment to social justice. By doing so, we are not only investing in their personal success, but in the overall health and sustainability of our communities.