Big Brothers Big Sisters

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast worked together to partner North Port High School sophomores with city of North Port employees to learn more about what they do.

NORTH PORT — Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast brought its Beyond School Walls program to North Port recently.

Beyond School Walls is a workplace mentoring program which pairs students with city employees to learn more about local government.

Last week, six sophomores from North Port High School were paired with six officials from across different departments in the city.

Denise Kruzel, mentor manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, said she paired students and mentors with similar interests. It was a bit trickier since the sophomores may not have a clear career path.

“You try to do (it) with similar interests,” Kruzel said.

The group will meet once a month and will wrap up with a mock commission meeting in the spring, according to Kruzel.

“Our hope is (the) 10th-graders will continue through their senior year,” Kruzel said.

Kruzel said it’s great exposure to businesses and gives students insight, but also shows them that not every job needs a college degree. The Sarasota County School District has been encouraging students to be college and career ready and explore other options for after high school.

North Port High Principal Brandon Johnson was there with his students to celebrate the launch of the program.

Johnson said the program was an opportunity for students to explore careers and that the school is fortunate to have the partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the city of the North Port.

“It became a natural match,” Johnson said.

Johnson celebrated the six students chosen for the pilot program and how they’ll represent the school during the next few months.

Joy Mahler, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, said she got together with City Manager Pete Lear and former Economic Development Program Ruth Buchanan to bring the program to North Port — Buchanan resigned from the city in late September.

Mahler said the program allows students to ask questions and gets them real hands-on experience.

“They’re pretty brave,” Mahler said.

She hopes that the relationships develop over the next few years.

To learn about Big Brothers Big Sisters or becoming a big brother or sister, visit


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