Volunteer Big Brother Gil Hanke and his Little Brother Robert enjoy reading in the school library during their weekly visits together. Photos submitted

NASHVILLE, TN — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee announces their Volunteers of the Year for 2019, Big Brother Gil Hanke and Big Sister Alanna Dodd.

Hanke has served as a volunteer mentor to his Little Brother Robert, who is currently in sixth grade, for the past four years.

Prior to their friendship, Robert struggled both academically and behaviorally in school, and his guardians knew he would benefit from a strong male role model in his life.  Hanke and Robert are part of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ school based program, so Hanke visited with his young friend at school and the two of them ate lunch together, read several books, and talked about ways to channel Robert’s exceptional energy.

Fast forward a few years, and there has been a remarkable improvement in Robert’s academics, his behavior, and his interaction with other adults – all in large part due to Hanke’s strong positive encouragement allowing Robert to excel.

Dodd has served as a volunteer mentor to young Jakaylia for the past eight years in our

Volunteer Big Sister Alanna Dodd and her Little Sister Jakaylia have been friends for more than eight years, enjoying all sorts of activities throughout the Middle Tennessee community together.

community based program.  With this program, Dodd communicates with her mentee’s parent or guardian and arranges a time to pick up the young person and enjoy activities throughout the community in general.

Dodd and Jakaylia have enjoyed all sorts of activities – trips to the park, visiting the library, and planting flowers together while talking about anything and everything.

Over the course of their friendship, they have set goals for academics and future career plans, and realized several extracurricular activities along the way.

Dodd’s support and encouragement of the now senior in high school have helped Jakaylia defend her potential, and she is truly on a path towards a great future.

“Robert Hanke and Alanna Dodd are passionate Bigs (mentors) investing their time and talent to the empowerment of young people,” commented Melissa Hudson-Gant, CEO for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee.  “We are honored to have their service, along with the hundreds of other exceptional volunteers, helping to defend the potential of our young people.”

The initial volunteer commitment for mentors is one calendar year for the community based program, and one school year the school based program. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee additionally offers an e-mentoring program where volunteers have three in person sessions with their mentee, and the remainder of their interactions are online with structured activities and discussions.

For more information on getting involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters, visit mentorakid.org or call (615) 329-9191.