Celebrating National Mentoring Month

by Emily Simeral Roberts

The Human Rights Campaign is celebrating National Mentoring Month by sharing the special mentor/mentee relationship between Nik Harris and Katie Paff. Harris serves as HRC's Director of Strategic Outreach and Engagement and Paff was recently named an HRC Foundation Youth Ambassador, but the pair initial connected through Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Harris and Paff met in 2019 through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County's BIG Pride program, which focuses on the needs and vulnerabilities of LGBTQ+ youth. Harris was recently named Big of the Year for Broward County and is now up for the statewide honor in Florida.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is also a partner organization of HRC Foundation's Project THRIVE initiative, a collaborative effort of many national organizations committed to identifying opportunities within their own sphere of influence to increase awareness about and provide resources to address the unmet needs of LGBTQ youth and to highlight best practices and success stories from their respective professional fields.

HRC spoke with Harris and Paff about their relationship and the lessons they've learned together over the years.

How has your mentor/mentee relationship impacted your lives for the better?
NH: My Little has been in my life for over two years. I was prepared for the commitment the program requires. I wasn’t fully prepared for how much my Little would look to me for guidance and look up to me. I never take this for granted. It makes me mindful of the example I set. I have a fresh perspective on gratefulness. Katie has taught me that no matter how difficult things get, one can always find something to be grateful for. My Little has endured so much, but continues to show up with so much gratitude. Katie has become my North Star in many ways. Helping me recognize new aspects of privilege and power.

KP: We have been matched for about two-and-a-half years and I really don't know where I would be without Nik in my life! She has been there for me when I need it the most.

How did you connect with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program? Would you encourage others who are able to seek a mentor or consider becoming a mentor?
NH: I was always familiar with the program. However, I attended a workshop and a BBBS representative shared about a new pride program. That really caught my attention because I know as a queer little person, this program would have made a difference in my life. I would and do recommend the program to anyone wanting to make a difference in a young person’s life. I receive as much as I give.

KP: I found Big Brothers Big Sisters through an LGBTQ+ youth group and figured that I could use someone else in my life due to me losing my mom a few months before.

How will you bring lessons learned from your mentor/mentee relationship to your work with HRC?
NH: Perseverance is the biggest lesson. Katie has dealt with so much at a young age. Yet, they have a fighting spirit. The work we do doesn’t always show immediate returns. Some of the hate and painful losses can take a toll. This relationship has strengthened my resolve that you may knock me down, but as long as I can get back up there is hope for a better day. I bring that spirit to my work at HRC. I won’t ever stop fighting for equity and equality.

KP: Nik has taught me to never give up no matter what I am dealing with so I want to share that message with other youth to never give up!

LGBTQ+ Youth