From refugee to American citizen; from Little Brother to Henry W. Bloch Scholar: Gregory’s story | Big Brothers Big Sisters Kansas City

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From refugee to American citizen; from Little Brother to Henry W. Bloch Scholar: Gregory’s story

Gregory was born in Liberia in 1997. As a toddler, he traveled to a refugee camp in Ghana after the outbreak of the Second Liberian Civil War and lived there for several years.

When he was 9 years old, Gregory and his family came to the United States to live with his grandmother.

The transition was not easy for any of them. Gregory’s father suffers from health issues, so Gregory had to look out for himself and his little sister at a very young age.

As a teenager, Gregory attended high school at Cristo Rey Kansas City. It was at Cristo Rey where Gregory first met Bill.

A shoulder to lean on

Bill Thompson began his career as a teacher, but he’s spent the past several years in IT sales and sales management. Over the past 40 years, Bill has been a Big Brother to three Little Brothers. Gregory was the third.

Gregory was 15 when he and Bill met through a mentorship program offered by Cristo Rey.

“I’ve always wanted to help kids that just need one more person that believes in them,” said Bill. “Gregory has been a great kid since the day I met him — so kind and generous.”

When Gregory graduated from Cristo Rey, their mentorship program normally would have ended. But Bill heard about Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 8th & Up program, which supports Littles throughout college until they are employed full-time. When Bill mentioned the opportunity to Gregory, he eagerly agreed to continue their friendship with BBBSKC.

Gregory is unlike most Little Brothers in the BBBSKC program. Today, he is 23, married, a father, and a full-time student. While they might not do a lot of the things you would normally expect a Match to do, they still get to see each other a lot.

“I try to advise him in any way I can. We meet for lunch about every other week just to talk about life,” said Bill. “He doesn’t have many adults in his life that he can turn to for advice, so I try to be there for him to offer that.”

‘He does the right thing at every turn’

After graduating from high school, Gregory wanted to apply for the Henry W. Bloch Scholars Program. Last year, they got the news that he won the scholarship!

“Him receiving the scholarship was probably one of the biggest moments ever,” said Bill. “My wife and I both cried when we read the essay he wrote. It’s a full ride scholarship, and he deserves it so much.”

Last semester, while working full-time as a lab technician to support his wife, daughter, and little sister, Gregory achieved a 3.40 GPA.

“It’s so inspiring to see him juggle all of the things he does in life so well. He’s succeeding at them all, in a gracious and kind way, too!” said Bill. “On top of everything else, he officially got his American citizenship about a year and a half ago. He did the work and made it happen.”

As far as the future is concerned, Bill and Gregory are in this together for the long haul. Just a few weeks ago, Bill took Gregory to a meeting at Mariner Wealth Advisors to help him set up a 401k and start investing for the future.

“I think we’ll be involved with one another’s lives for the rest of our lives,” said Bill. “He’s special to me, and I’m always one of the first people he thinks of when he wants to talk to someone about something important. He’s almost like an adopted son.”

“I have found one of the most responsible, kind, and decent people in the country to mentor,” said Bill. “I just couldn’t be any more thankful.”