STEUBENVILLE - Junior Payano of Steubenville said he has always appreciated the positive impact mentors had on his life, "people who took time out for me."
It was mentors in his midst, after all, who encouraged him to become the nurse that he is today although he initially laughed at the thought.
So he wanted to give back.
Junior Payano, left, a “big” with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson County, is shown with his “little,” 13-year-old Vonta outside the BBBS office in the Gallery building on Sunset Boulevard, Steubenville.
-- Janice R. Kiaski
About two and a half years ago, he became a "Big" with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson County program and has enjoyed his pairing with now 13-year-old Vonta, someone he had actually met through volunteer work he did at Urban Mission Ministries while a nursing student at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He graduated from there in 2008 and went on to earn his master's there as well.
"I've always been wanting to do it," Payano said of becoming a part of the BBBS program. "The concept of being a big brother sounded cool," said the native of New Jersey.
Cooler yet was that Payano and Vonta were matched in what seems to be a meant-to-be pairing.
The two enjoy spending time together whether it's playing Dragon Ball Z - Vonta's forte - or Super Smash Brothers, going to Kennywood or participating in a wilderness camp in North Carolina.
But the time together is not entirely focused on doing things and having fun, according to Payano. Sometimes it's just about "hanging out," talking on the phone, building a friendship that fosters open communication and reinforcing concepts such as setting goals and having a good work ethic.
Vonta appreciates Payano's presence in his life.
"It's better than not having anyone to talk to," he said. "They (a 'big') can help you if you need it."
Payano said he loves being a "big" and that his best moment as a mentor came while he and Vonta were in a grocery store.
"He met a friend and introduced me as his big brother," Payano said.
(Kiaski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)