Milledgeville man Georgia Big Brother of the Year

alopez@macon.comApril 2, 2014 

Big_Brother

Lavance Hurt is the Georgia Big Brother of the Year for 2014 for his mentoring work in Milledgeville.

WOODY MARSHALL — wmarshall@macon.com Buy Photo

Lavance Hurt dropped out of school in ninth grade. He spent his teenage years in and out of the juvenile justice system and other institutions.

“I still remember how those places smell,” said Hurt, 44. “I don’t want to ever see a young male -- black, brown, white -- to go through the suffering I went through. That is why I mentor.”

In February, Hurt beat out thousands of other Georgia volunteers and was announced as the 2014 Big Brother of the Year. Big Brothers Big Sisters is one of the largest mentoring organizations in the country. Hurt, who lives in Milledgeville, is now in contention for the national Big Brother of the Year award, which will be announced this month.

Hurt said he made bad choices early in life, but he also counted on a strong single mother and the legacy of his grandfather, a man who raised 10 children. Both helped him change direction and find his calling.

Since rehabilitating from a life of drugs and petty crime at 21, Hurt has earned several degrees and dedicated himself to helping people as a nurse. He was matched with a young man named R.J. Pyatt almost three years ago and has served as his “big brother” ever since.

Hurt’s work with R.J., now 13, was a big reason he won recognition in the state, said Dianna Glymph, president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Heart of Georgia, which is based in Macon.

“He was chosen as the male big brother that made the greatest impact on the child’s life and on the agency,” Glymph said. “Advocating for other big brothers, recruiting, helping us with fundraising, things like that, being a part of our family, really.”

Hurt said he turned his life around at 21, but to have the greatest impact on at-risk children, he thinks the key is early intervention, preferably before middle school.

R.J. lost his stepfather less than a year before he was matched with Hurt. He displayed behavioral problems, Glymph said, but now he is thriving academically and socially. In seventh grade, he is also enrolled in a college preparatory program at Georgia College & State University.

Hurt keeps in touch through text messaging and sees R.J. about four times per month, he said. He introduces R.J. to cultural touchstones like the James Bond series and encourages him in his interests.

Last year, Big Brothers Big Sisters provided circus tickets to Hurt and other big brothers. On the outing, R.J. excitedly recited everything he learned while researching elephants. He wants a career studying animals, Hurt said.

While R.J. benefits from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, there are thousands of children in Middle Georgia who need mentors to step up, Glymph said.

Mentors needed

Hurt works with six other men in Baldwin County in a network of mentors called Brothers Bridging the Gap. He said he drives around with volunteer application packets but has found recruiting difficult. Middle Georgia needs more male mentors because the need in the black community is tremendous, he said.

The goal for this year is to serve more than 800 boys and girls in 15 counties, mostly in Bibb, Houston, Peach, Baldwin, Monroe and Jones, Glymph said. But even when Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Heart of Georgia reaches its goal there will be a thousand more children on the waiting list, she said, most of them black boys.

“They are just waiting for someone to say, ‘Hey, I’ll help you out. I’ll be your friend. You can count on me,’ ” Glymph said. “The dads have walked out on them, and they don’t have that role model to show them how to not be that type of dad themselves, how to be successful, how to be a asset to their community and their family and not be a drain.”

To demonstrate the benefits of mentoring and the Big Brothers Big Sisters model, Glymph pointed to an initiative started in Baldwin High School in 2007. The organization matched ninth-graders identified as at risk with kindergarten students at a nearby elementary school who were behind on developmental milestones.

“Four years later, 100 percent of those ninth-graders who were most likely to drop out of high school graduated,” Glymph said. The kindergarten students also benefited, and most developed reading skills meeting state standards by the time they reached third grade, she said.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program requires potential volunteers submit to a background check and an interview to help match them with a child and asks them to commit for at least one year.

Hurt said the sacrifice of an hour or two per week is worth it to make a difference in the life of a child.

“R.J. does more for me than he can imagine,” he said. “Mentoring, period, does more for me than kids will ever know.”

For more information on the Big Brothers Big Sisters program or to become a mentor, call 478-745-3984 or visit www.bbbsheartga.org.

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 256-9751.

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