Nathan (Skip) Luce is interested in heritage, in the chain of knowledge, as he calls it, that connects generations. He was born and raised in Connecticut, but his late father was an Islander generations deep.

“A big part of moving back here was wanting to reconnect with my Island lineage,” he told the Gazette Wednesday morning. Last week, he accepted a position that will allow him to help form a different kind of lineage on the Island, one not bound by family ties. He will be the local program coordinator for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cape Cod and Islands program, helping to facilitate connections between adult mentors and Island children.

“We’re thrilled,” the program’s regional director JR Mell told the Gazette by phone from Hyannis. “It’s going to be very exciting for the program and the kids we serve on the Island.”

Mr. Mell said the program currently serves 35 children on the Island, and there are 12 children on the waitlist for mentors.

Mr. Luce is a painter, musician, sculptor and religious scholar. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“The agency is at a point now where it’s imperative to have a staff person on the Island who’s able to interview families as well as volunteers,” Mr. Mell said.

Mr. Luce will be charged with finding mentors through outreach, with continuing to check in on existing mentoring relationships, and with organizing programs for mentors and mentees to get to know one another.

Mr. Luce was introduced to the program about a year ago while visiting friends from college in Asheville, N.C

“One friend showed up at my other friend’s house with a young person in tow and introduced him to everyone without explanation, like this is my friend,” he said. The child was enrolled in a Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and Mr. Luce’s friend was his mentor.

“It was so sweet how natural it was.”

Mr. Luce returned to the Island and promptly enrolled to become a mentor himself. He declined to give specific details for privacy reasons, but said the experience has been profoundly and mutually positive.

“It can be hard as an adult with a job in the world to carve out time to go on a two-hour walk,” he said as an example. “This gave me the opportunity to do that.”

Mr. Luce has worked in programming at the Oak Bluffs Library for the last three years, and he’s also a musician in the band Tree Fruit, a sculptor, a painter, and an aspiring religious scholar. He recently took his artwork to a show in Maine, and he’s currently working on a thesis on the Wixáritari (Huichol) Indians of northern Mexico and their religious artwork as part of his master’s degree from the Harvard Extension School.

He will be the Big Brothers Big Sisters program’s first employee this decade to live on Island. For the last several years, program coordinators have commuted from the Cape. He says being embedded in the community will be a great advantage in growing and running the program.

“In a wider angle, I feel like I’m contributing to this community that has given me quite a bit over my time here,” he said.

Mr. Luce was raised mostly by his mother and grandmother. While he has positive memories of childhood, he said he could have benefitted from an adult male mentor to expose him to some skills and ideas traditionally associated with masculinity. His grandfather owned an auto shop, he said, and his father would often brag about being able to replace a car engine at a young age, but he doesn’t really know how to maintain his car. That knowledge wasn’t passed on, he said.

Mr. Luce said being a mentor does not require a lot of time or money, just commitment and consistency. Mentors are asked to spend time with the children twice a month for at least one year. He said Island businesses such as the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society and the Ice Arena occasionally sponsor the program so mentors and mentees can go for free.

He said things can be a bit rocky at first as everyone gets used to spending time together, but the results can have a big impact.

“The thing I keep coming back to is confidence,” said Mr. Luce. “Having relationships outside of close family can really expand kids’ horizons.”

Islanders interested in mentoring or in enrolling a child through Big Brothers Big Sisters can learn more at the program’s website at