Answer: “My friend Melissa has been a Big for several years and has invited me to get involved more than once. I’ve been working with kids in different school districts for almost my entire career, so I thought that I potentially had something to offer. I ended up attending the Biggest Info Session Ever event with her and signed up!”
Q: What were your expectations of the program going in?
A: “I thought I would be spending some time with a kid who didn’t have anyone else to spend time with him. I thought Big Brothers Big Sisters was mostly dealing with students that have behavioral or academic challenges at school, but that’s not really the case. Some kids do have challenges, sure, but many just want another positive adult in their life.”
Q: When you first started, what were you nervous about? Was there anything you were worried about?
A: “I just wanted to make sure that I made a good impression and was accepted by my Little’s parent(s). Having a stranger involved in your child’s life has to be difficult, so I just knew it was important for us to get off on the right foot. Looking back now, my relationship with his mother is fantastic! She is so supportive of the Match and likes to offer ideas for what Elijah and I can do, too. She trusts me.”
Q: What was it like the first time you met your Little? How did you get to know each other?
A: “Meeting Elijah for the first time was great. He loves to talk, so he made it very easy for us to get comfortable and get to know each other. He is very open and honest, but is also conscious of your feelings. One time I took him to the jazz museum. He prefers to do things that are really active, so he wasn’t super into the jazz museum, but he still did his best to show appreciation for the experience, even if it wasn’t his favorite thing to do.”
Q. How has navigating the COVID-19 pandemic together been for you and your Little? What have you done to stay in touch and connected?
A: “A lot of our time is spent just talking and hanging out and trying to be consistent as possible. Early in our Match we found out that we both enjoy art and like to draw, so we went to Walmart to buy some art supplies and try to make some flip books together! We make sure to hang out where we can be socially-distanced but still be together while we work on designing our flip books. Drawing together has been the best for us because we both like it and we can talk about anything and everything while we do it.”
Q: The stories of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and several others last summer sparked lots of conversations between Bigs and Littles. Have you had conversations with your Little about that, and how have those been?
A: ”It did actually come up pretty early in our Match. I let Elijah talk about it and let him kind of lead the conversation. His main thought was just: “Racism is stupid,” and I said, “Yeah, it is stupid!” He’s had some recent changes in his life where he has experienced being or feeling “different,” like moving to a new school district. At his new school he is one of only a few Black students, and he noticed it, we talked about that.”
Q: You’ve been matched for about 6 months already! What are some of your biggest takeaways so far? What memories stick out? Any important lessons learned?
A: “Elijah had been ice skating since he was very young, and we recently got the chance to go skating together for the first time! I’ve also just been spending time learning more about him and his likes and dislikes and using that to plan our outings and time together. One of the lessons we’ve been working on together is the importance of school. He claimed very early on that he didn’t like school. While I understood where he was coming from, I also wanted to show him that school is important, without taking an approach that felt like a lecture to him. One of the things we talked about is just how smart he is — he can analyze situations and people very well and respond appropriately. He’s very aware of what’s going on around him, so I’ve been using that to help him understand the importance of school. I try to tie the value of school into what he’s already good at so it can have a new meaning for him.”
Q: We’ve just kicked off another year of the Big Draft to recruit more Bigs. If you were talking to someone who was on the fence about becoming a Big, what would you say to convince them to do it?
A: “I would tell them that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because you get to directly, positively impact someone’s life. It takes you away from the drudge of day-to-day life and you just get to pour into and invest in someone else’s life.You’ll learn so much about yourself and take a lot away from it, too. It’s rewarding and inspiring.”