Mike Gandy, now 28, was frustrated, losing patience as he fumbled with his tie ahead of an eighth grade formal. He wasn’t sure how to tie the knot. So he called Austin Scee, his Big Brother mentor, who calmly walked him through the steps.
The next year, when Gandy decided to skip studying and homework his first semester of high school, Scee hopped on a plane from Boston to Atlanta and set up conferences with his teachers. Afterward, the pair sat down and outlined what would be possible if Gandy got his act together.
“It was the first time in my life I had set goals or anyone had helped me set goals for what I wanted to do,” Gandy recalled.
He would graduate high school three and a half years later with a 3.5 GPA, then attend college in upstate New York. Next spring, he will graduate from Harvard Business School and begin work at a top Boston consulting firm.
A variety of forces, both good and bad, have influenced Gandy’s trajectory. But Scee, his mentor, has been the constant. He believed in Gandy’s ability to thrive, with consistency, from the time the boy was in elementary school.
“He held me accountable,” Gandy said.
The two first met in 1997 when Gandy was 9 years old and Scee was in his mid-20s. They were paired up through the Big Brothers program in Atlanta, where both lived at the time. Born to a single mother and raised without a father figure, Gandy was a smart kid, but he was often in trouble for speaking out of turn and talking back.
Shy around adults he didn’t know, Gandy learned to trust Scee through their shared love of pizza and sports. The trust has grown because Scee did something relatively straightforward but that many kids never experience from adults: he kept showing up.
Left, Mike Gandy and Austin Scee at Scee’s Harvard Business School graduation. Right, the pair at Gandy’s high school graduation. (Courtesy of Mike Gandy and Austin Scee)