Mentors and mentees smiling
February 26, 2024

Highlanders win big with Big Brothers Big Sisters

Two UCR undergrads awarded 2024’s Mentor of the Year for impact on their ‘Littles’

Author: Malinn Loeung
February 26, 2024

Two University of California, Riverside undergraduate students have been named 2024’s Mentor of the Year by Big Brothers Big Sisters, or BBBS, of the Orange County and the Inland Empire region.

This annual announcement honors individuals who demonstrate how mentoring relationships help mentees — or “Littles,” achieve their biggest possible futures, while also creating long-lasting impacts on the mentors — or “Bigs.” 

This year, UC Riverside Highlanders from the College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences, or CNAS, took the only two spots awarded in the category of “College Bigs Program,” which pairs college mentors/Bigs with high school mentees/Littles of similar backgrounds.

Bigs help Littles overcome education and economic barriers while strengthening their college readiness. Involvement ranges from regular text/call check-ins, attending BBBS bonding events, helping with college applications, and discussing life worries or other concerns of emerging adults. 

Meet the UCR Awardees 

Smiling student

Nandita Akilan 

“Mentoring is valuable to me because I share my life experiences with my Littles while giving them the space to be open, true, and honest about their journeys. I’ve learned so much about life through my Littles’ perspectives. Helping one of my mentees brainstorm and edit her UC application essays was extremely rewarding. I was very grateful that she trusted me enough to share the vulnerable parts of her life. I'm extremely proud of both of my Littles and watching them grow and navigate their lives has truly been a pleasure.As for this award, I was surprised when the announcement came out. I am extremely grateful to my Littles and BBBS for this wonderful award.” 

Akilan is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree from CNAS, in cell, molecular, and developmental biology, and is expected to graduate from UCR in 2024. Post-graduation, she hopes to attend medical school. 

Darwin Sumida

Darwin Sumida

“I allow my Little the space to take initiative. I recognize that building a strong relationship contributes to trust, and I have created a foundation where impactful moments and shared interests strengthen the overall connection,” Sumida said. “When I first learned I had been awarded, I was honored and elated. It was a welcome surprise.”  

Sumida is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree from CNAS in biology and is expected to graduate from UCR in 2024 with honors. Post-graduation, he hopes to attend medical school. 

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