Big Brothers, Big Sisters program helps high school students graduate, seek higher learning 

Lawanda Byrd is teaching Makyla Hammond the keys to success. 

"It's about having the confidence," Byrd said. "You definitely talk more than I thought." 

Byrd and Hammond are taking part in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters School to Work program.  

"The School to Work program allowed us to have mentoring and volunteering at work and to be able to make a difference and impact in the kid’s lives," explained Byrd. 

The initiative is a three-way partnership between local school districts, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, and corporate and community partners.  

"It's just about having a relationship with the students. Having someone that they can talk to, having that consistent presence in their lives," Byrd shared. 

The duo was meeting once a month at Byrd’s workplace, Moffitt Cancer Center before the pandemic. Now, they meet by Zoom. 

"She helped me grow more as a person," Hammond shared. "She's like a God mom to me. She helped me a lot." 

The program's goal is to provide one-on-one mentoring in the workplace, for high school juniors and seniors to help improve graduation rates. 

"Really to be a sounding board to understand them and listen to them," Byrd said. 

For Hammond, it's been a lifeline.

"It's a good program you don't want to miss out on it. It helps you to grow as a person and learn things and meet different people and learn different things." 

Things that were changing the attitude and lives of students in the Tampa Bay area. Moffitt has been part of the program for four years. Hammond is at Hillsborough Community College and will be going to USF this fall to study to become a forensics scientist. 

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