Making a DifferenceRaul Garcia Michigan’s Big Brother of the Year


Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Flint is a non-profit organization dedicated to “help all children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with volunteer mentors.” Raul Garcia, a longtime Flint resident, had never considered being a Big Brother. But one day while working as a firefighter for the Flint Fire Department, Channel 12 filmed a segment of “Monday’s Child” at the fire station. “Monday’s Child” is a weekly feature in which a reporter interviews a child looking for a Big Brother or Big Sister. Santino Guerra, a spunky, excitable, 12-year-old boy was interviewed that day. His father in prison, Santino was being raised by a single mom. Raul thought to himself, I think I like that kid. “When I saw him, I knew he was someone I would like to be around,” he says now. And before he knew it, Raul was officially a Big Brother to Santino and the two began to spend time together.

“When I saw Santino, I knew he was someone I would like to be around.”

bbbsraulgarcia-1Raul and Santino went on outings and activities they both enjoyed. And, they spent a lot of time just talking. “Sometimes, he would talk to me about his dad and how he thought he had gotten a bad rap,” Raul remembers. “I told Santino, ‘You have to take responsibility for your own actions and not blame the system.’” Raul also became involved with Santino’s family. “I’m his godfather,” he smiles. Both Raul and Santino were interested in politics, which lead to some lively discussions. That interest in politics spurred Santino to become president of the student council in his senior year of high school. He was also a page for Senator Debbie Stabenow and worked at her Washington, D.C. office one summer.

Raul was recently selected Michigan’s Big Brother of the Year, an honor that means a lot to him. He always knew the importance of having a good role model and mentor in your life. “The biggest thing my father taught me was my work ethic,” he says. When he was younger, Raul was hanging around the wrong crowd. The police chief was a friend of Raul’s father, and had told him that Raul was headed down the wrong path just being associated with that group. He suggested Raul enlist in the military, which he did; he joined the Army and was a recruiter for many years. After that, he was a firefighter with the Flint Fire Department for 16 years. He is currently the Blight Coordinator for the City of Flint.

Santino graduated from Kearsley High School this year and will attend University of Michigan-Flint in the fall. He plans to study law. “I always encouraged Santino to get an education,” says Raul. “If you have an education and a work ethic, you’re way ahead of the game.” At Santino’s graduation party, Raul told his mom, Sandra, what a great job she had done raising her son.

bbbsraulgarcia-2Raul says Santino made his role as a Big Brother very easy. “I always told him that you can choose to be the good guy or the bad guy. He chose to be the good guy. I see him after he gets out of college being a Big Brother himself,” Raul shares.

Santino says that Raul made a positive impact on his life. “Even when we had different schedules we kept in touch,” Santino says. “We used to go bowling, play catch, and just hang out. He’s been my godfather ever since I was in elementary school.” And Raul imparted some very valuable life lessons. “He stressed the importance of being involved with the community,” says Santino. “He is active in the community and I always admired that. He taught me to try to make a positive difference in someone’s life.” Santino believes it was a very valuable life experience, and when he graduates from college and finishes law school, he plans to be a Big Brother.

What would Santino like to say to his Big Brother? “Thank you for being a positive figure in my life and for inspiring me to do the right thing.”



Photography by Eric Dutro


Comments are closed.