He was matched with nine-year-old Evans for two years. The two spent at least eight hours a week together, hanging out and talking about Evans’ academic progress.
They went to the movie theaters, went bowling and ate meals together. Evans said Peralta would compliment him whenever he received good grades in school.
“If he was still alive, I would give him a big, big hug,” Evans said. “He was like the big brother that I never had in my life.”
Last Wednesday, BBBS honored Peralta for his mentorship by awarding him, posthumously, with their Volunteer of the Year Award. BBBS presents the award every January as part of National Mentoring Month.
BBBS also named its Queens office in Jackson Heights in Peralta’s memory. He allocated $150,000 in state funding to the nonprofit in July 2017.
Michael Coughlin, chief program officer at BBBS, said Peralta pushed the organization from a programmatic perspective. At Peralta’s urging, the nonprofit launched an education initiative to provide more wrap-around services for kids .
They also started a college success program to help students transition out of high school and into higher education. Coughlin added that they also created a program to work specifically with new Americans and immigrant youth.
“Those who knew Senator Peralta knew he was a very dedicated and passionate individual,” he said. “When he was passionate about something, he made sure we knew about that.”
Coughlin and board members from BBBS unveiled a plaque last Wednesday officially naming their 37th Avenue office after Peralta. Coughlin said it would serve as a reminder of the contributions Peralta made.
“He’s one of the few, maybe the only elected official who’s ever stepped forward as a mentor himself,” he said.
Evelyn Peralta said her husband believed deeply in the value of mentorship, and put that belief into practice.
When he initially approached her with the idea of becoming a “Big Brother,” Peralta said she thought he was “nuts” because of his already-packed schedule.
But after discussing it, she saw how important it was to him.
“Jose understood the unique challenges of growing up a first-generation Latino child in the city,” she said. “We have a need for more male mentors of color. I’m proud that my husband set an example by stepping up to serve.”
“Mentorship just works, that’s what he would say. I couldn’t agree more,” Peralta added. “His legacy lives on.”
Evans said it was a “very special day” to see the office named after his “Big Brother.”
“In my opinion, he’s the best big brother anybody could have,” Evans said.