Melody Gross always knew she wanted her career path to help her give back to the community.
As a communications professional, she moved to Charlotte in 2011 from New York and got a job at the Levine Museum of the New South before eventually becoming the director of marketing and communications at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Carolinas, an organization focused on mentorship for kids. The kids, or “Littles,” spend time with their “Bigs,” who are volunteer mentors, to form meaningful relationships through the mentorship program that helps kids learn and grow.
“I felt like BBBS of Central Carolinas was a place that was special, and I saw the benefits of mentorship. I didn’t have a mentor growing up. I feel it made me take a little bit longer to find my passion and my drive,” Gross said.
Having mentored a group of young women in New York and seeing the benefits of similar relationships when both of her brothers had mentors as kids, Gross is dedicated to the work she does — she said she knows the impact it has.
Gross answered five questions for CharlotteFive about her career, its challenges and more.
(1) What do you think is the biggest takeaway for a child in Big Brothers and Big Sisters?
“The biggest takeaway is their ability to find their potential, feeling empowered to find their own potential. Part of our commitment is empowering the potential of children. Sometimes, that can look like just providing access. That’s truly the benefit of it — seeing their growth. Oftentimes we have stories of children … they connect with their mentor and their lives are changed — they do better in school, they’re less likely to be involved in the juvenile detention system.”
(2) What has been the biggest challenge for you in this role?
“Making sure people understand that we are not here to ‘fix’ their children or save their children; we are here to guide their children. We want to make sure they have all of the tools necessary to reach their full potential. If you’re coming on as a Big, we want you to be a friend to them and explore different things with them that they may not have experienced before so they have the opportunity to be successful, however that looks to them.”
(3) You’ve worked as a communications freelancer for more than 5 years. What advice would you have for someone looking to branch out into freelancing?
“I am a huge proponent of a side hustle, of not being afraid to put yourself out there. Oftentimes I think we hesitate to share that side hustle, but it helps fuel creativity and networking. My priority, of course, is still to the mission and vision of BBBS, but through freelancing I’m connected to community. So my advice would be: Make sure what you’re doing has community in mind and you’re passionate about it. And charge for your work. Do not be afraid to charge for your work.”
(4) If you could take a path not taken, what would you do?
“I’d probably be a full-time doula. If there was a time where I’m like, OK, marketing and comm isn’t working out, what do I fall back on? I would say that, because I’m also a certified doula. Although, I usually take whatever path I want to take, so that’s tough.”
(5) For people unfamiliar with Big Brothers Big Sisters in the Carolinas, how can they get involved?
“If they are interested in becoming a Big Brother Big Sister, we have orientations. Or they can join us on Aug. 10 at Camp North End. We are hosting a back-to-school program event. We’ll be talking all about the process of being a Big — it’s a lot easier and takes up less time than people think.”