NUWC Division Newport engineer releases his inner child as mentor with Big Brothers of Rhode Island
Brian Fuhrman, an engineer and head of the Hull Arrays and Distributed Sensors Engineering Branch of the Sensors and Sonar Systems Department at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport, spends some of his free time playing video games and taking field trips to museums.
Fuhrman, a resident of Tiverton, Rhode Island, is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island. He mentors Little Brother Logan, age 10, and has done so for two years, staying connected virtually during the pandemic.
A self-described “child at heart,” Fuhrman chose to volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island to offer a boy another positive role model in his life.
“I have always wanted to give back to the community and volunteer for something that is beneficial, but really wasn’t sure what to volunteer in,” Fuhrman said. “I have also always enjoyed interacting with younger kids. What better way to let one’s inner child out than to hang out with a younger kid? One of my close friends suggested that I look into Big Brothers Big Sisters. I read about their program online and was incredibly impressed.”
Studies show that children in the program feel more confident of their ability to complete their school work than children who did not have mentors, according to information posted on the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island website. [link- https://bigsri.org/] Research also shows that children in the program feel more confident in school; tend to be more engaged and perform better; miss fewer school days than their peers who did not have mentors; and have greater high school graduation and college admission rates.
For more than 50 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island has been pairing children with adult mentors, creating lasting friendships and empowering each child to actualize their maximum potential.
“My Little Brother is a funny and very caring boy,” Fuhrman said. ”He has an amazing positive attitude on life and it is incredibly easy to feed off of that positivity. I have seen him grow in the two years I’ve known him. I’ve seen him become more self-confident. He’s more comfortable asking for what he wants, whether it be requesting help at a bowling alley or wanting to socialize with other Little Brothers at an organization-sponsored event.”
The pandemic meant there were many virtual visits during the past year, but Fuhrman said that hasn’t affected his connection with Logan.
“Up until recently, we met on Zoom,” he said. “At first, we would play games like hide-and-seek and he would walk out of camera shot and then I’d have to guess where in the room he was. We would also do riddles where we’d each come up with a riddle for the other person or look them up online. With the magic of screen sharing, we’ve played kid-friendly and educational games on ABCYA.com.
“Lately, we’ve been playing another online game called Smash Karts, where we can both play in the same arena. It is a blast! Zoom and FaceTime (his mom recently gave him an older iPhone) have really allowed us to stay connected. I think he really appreciates having a Big Brother play with him and express interest in his thoughts and feelings.”
Before their initial meeting, two years ago, Fuhrman was anxious about how it would go and what he and his Little Brother would talk about. A match support specialist from the organization assisted in making that first meeting comfortable by having them each fill out a questionnaire, then share the answers. When the two had their first outing, Fuhrman said all their anxiety disappeared.
Fuhrman has some advice for others who are contemplating mentoring with the program.
“Do it! It is OK to be nervous and to have concerns about being able to relate,” Fuhrman said. “Big Brothers Big Sisters is there to help you through the first meeting and to give advice. Mentoring a Little is just being there for a child, expressing an interest in spending time with them, expressing interest in their thoughts and feelings, and being a positive role model.
“Big Brothers Big Sisters is in need of good role models, especially men,” he said. “They only require four to six hours of your time per month, so it is not a huge time commitment.”
The vetting process for the program is similar to the process for getting a security clearance, in which you answer questions about your background and provide three references. Once vetted, all potential mentors attend a training course and then are matched with a child. The organization follows up with mentors and the child’s family to make sure things are going well to ensure all matches are safe.
When Logan is age 18 he will no longer be part of the program, but some Big Brothers and Little Brothers stay in contact well into adulthood, Fuhrman said.
“I fully plan to stay involved as long as possible,” he said.
More information, including how to apply to become a Big Brother, can be found at https://bigsri.org/
NUWC Division Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.
NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.