For Marissa Miller, it started in school. "My mother is a teacher and growing up I spent a lot of time in her classroom," she said. Marissa remembers having teachers, professors and colleagues throughout her school years who gave her advice and guidance, and helped make her who she is today. "They have given me so much. They were family," she said. They were mentors.
Prior to joining the Talent and Professional Development Team at Comcast, Marissa worked for a management consulting company. "I travelled quite a bit," she said. "I didn't have the opportunity to mentor because I was always somewhere else. So to be able to be home and to volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters was a great opportunity." Two years ago, Marissa signed up to become a Big with Comcast NBCUniversal’s Beyond School Walls program, and was matched with Shenia, then 11 years old.
"She’s a phenomenal kid. She’s so smart, sensitive and thoughtful. She’s a really talented artist," Marissa said. During their time together, Marissa and Shenia talk about school, art class, and other every day, ordinary topics. As they grew closer, Shenia, began to share more about her life and struggles. "Middle school is tough and I’m comforted that she’s confiding in me," Marissa said. "We work on problem solving strategies. She’s been able to communicate what’s going on in her life that she hasn’t been able to say before. We work on dealing with stress. She takes what we’ve learned about communication to build a support system. She knows I’m there to help her make positive decisions."
"I’ve ‘got her back,’ as she would say," Marissa said.
For the school children like Shenia who are enrolled in Beyond School Walls, being matched with "a Big" introduces them to futures, careers and possibilities they might not otherwise have explored. "It’s helping her to recognize the potential that she has and the broad world about her," Marissa said. She’s so insightful and kind, but at first she couldn’t see past her circumstances today. Now when we talk about her future, she imagines being an artist or an art teacher. Then she sees that her grades and attendance are important to helping her get there."
Marissa has also, unexpectedly, learned some lessons that she believes make her a stronger employee. "Talking to Shenia makes me think differently. There are times when I’ll stop and think about how I approach challenges," Marissa said. "I work in learning and development. Just like with Shenia, we hear about stress among other issues we all face. This has inspired me to put together a course on stress management to support our employees here at Comcast."
The opportunity provided by Comcast to be a Big brings extra meaning to Marissa’s life and her job. "Insights from our conversations continually broaden my perspective, encourage me to consider various problem-solving approaches that strive to ‘keep it real,’ embrace and overcome challenges, and focus on meaningful growth."