These Bigs are recognized for their extraordinary dedication to helping their Littles achieve their biggest possible future. They are hard-working, passionate, and dedicated. They are cheerleaders and best friends. They are mentors and supporters. They are difference makers and catalysts for change — all just by being themselves. Above all, they represent what it means to be a Defender of Potential.
Due to social distancing measures that are currently in place, we haven't been able to interview this year's winners in person — so we asked them to interview themselves at home! Check out their incredible stories and videos below.
Maurice Kratz — Big Brother of the Year
Maurice has helped his Little Brother, Malachi, grow so much. When they first met, Malachi was very quiet and struggling at school. Maurice stepped up and treated him as a brother and has continued to help Malachi become a better Malachi. Whether it's just going out to eat, shopping, or to the movies, Maurice makes every minute count and always shows Malachi the way to be a gentleman and a great man.
For a long time, it had been hard for Malachi to trust anyone when they would say they would do something. Maurice has helped show Malachi that, yes, people can be trusted to keep their word, and that Malachi is worth showing up for. Maurice has been there for Malachi for every holiday since they started. He even stays on top of the little things, too, like always making sure to text him and tell him "Happy *insert holiday*!"
From Malachi's mother: "I can't thank Maurice enough for everything he does for Malachi — I have seen so much growth in him. Maurice helps Malachi experience life from a man's perspective, and no matter what life throws at him, he still is there for Malachi. It is so hard to put into words everything that Maurice is to our family and how much he has helped me by just being there for Malachi.
He has attended school meetings and sports events. He has helped talk to Malachi about being respectful to me and he has helped Malachi learn how to not be so angry all the time. Maurice has helped my son find his voice and his passion in life, and I can never express it well enough or thank him enough for bringing my happy, goofy, playful, ball-of-energy Malachi back."
From Little Brother Malachi: "I think he is really special because he helps me stay motivated to do better in school. He always talks with me about how to be a better person and how to be respectful to people. He is a very caring and gentle person and I hope that when I get older that I will be that way, too. Maurice has changed my life for the better, and I’m glad that I can be myself with him."
Jasmine Baudler — Big Sister of the Year
Jasmine is someone who leads by example. Throughout the years, Little Sister Kaliyah has come to depend on Jasmine for support in all areas of her life. Academically, Jasmine is involved in Kaliyah's schoolwork, projects, and events at school. She encourages her to do and be her best at all times. They also go to the library often and study together. Behaviorally, she instills in Kaliyah that your attitude can determine your altitude.
Additionally, Jasmine is constantly thinking of Little Sister Kaliyah's well-being and how she can help her have a better future. For example, Kaliyah recently started to show a true passion for volleyball and became interested in a club team to help enhance her craft. Jasmine spent her own time to reach out to different teams, coaches, and organizations to find a spot for Kaliyah. After finding a club team they were interested in, Jasmine volunteered to pay for a portion of the tuition so Kaliyah could be a part of the program. That's the type of selfless Big she has been for Kaliyah: steadfast, loyal, and driven to provide Kaliyah with the same opportunities she had.
From Kaliyah's mother: "What would we do without Jasmine? I don't even want to imagine. I trust her with my life and my child's life. My family considers Jasmine as family. Jasmine endlessly gives herself, her time, her resources, and her knowledge. She considers Kaliyah's spot in life and adapts accordingly for school, home, recreation, and fun time. She advises me on every project or event they attend. We love her and I believe that she loves us. Thank God for Jasmine and Kaliyah's relationship — it means the world to me that in Jasmine, Kaliyah has found true friendship, mentorship, and relationship."
From Little Sister Kaliyah: "Jasmine is my Big Sister in every sense of the word. She supports, spends time with, and looks out for me. I can talk to Jasmine about anything, and she listens. When I tell my friends about Jasmine, they become jealous. I wouldn't trade Jasmine for anyone. She knows me, what I like, and how I feel. I love her and she loves me, and nobody can change that. For life."
Matt & Joy Fulbright — Big Couple of the Year
Matt and Joy are extraordinary because they perfectly compliment Little Brother MarQeies' life. They both go above and beyond to ensure their Little Brother is doing well. Big Sister Joy is a huge academic influence on MarQeies and is consistently setting high standards for him. Big Brother Matt also has a powerful connection with MarQeies and has willingly stepped up as a male role-model who provides an incredible amount of emotional support for MarQeies.
Both Bigs have significantly impacted MarQeies’ life by providing academic, behavioral, and emotional support for him. Joy has worked hard to ensure MarQeies is academically successful and takes it upon herself to tutor MarQeies when necessary and plans their outings according to how he is doing in school. Matt has also been a huge influence on MarQeies. Matt is someone who MarQeies feels comfortable with discussing topics that teenagers MarQeies’ age want to discuss. Matt has also taught MarQeies to drive. When MarQeies has parent/teacher conferences and his mother cannot attend, Matt has no issues stepping up and attending them in her place. Matt and Joy are a solid support MarQeies' mom can lean on and depend on.
From the MarQeies' mother: "Matt and Joy are more than MarQeies’ Big Couple. They are our family. At times such as this, Bigs might give up and walk away from their Littles — but not Matt and Joy. There are moments when I feel lost and unable to assist MarQeies, and I know that I can always reach out to Matt or Joy. Just last week I was blessed to hear Joy say to me, “it’s not just you, it’s us too, remember that.” Matt and Joy are definitely a part of MarQeies’ village of love. We love their entire family — we wouldn’t have it any other way."
From Little Brother MarQeies: "Big Couple of the Year is an understatement — when it comes to Matt and Ms. Joy, they’re more like Big Couple of the Century. Almost everything that I know that didn’t come from my family, friends, school, etc., I learned from them. They are some of the best people in this world and they deserve so much. Ms. Joy is my biggest inspiration when it comes to pushing yourself in school — she’s so hard on me about school and keeping up with my grades, but it’s for the good. Matt is like a Father/Brother that I never had. I can talk to him about anything in the world, ANYTHING, and he guides me to the right decisions that I need to make. I know how to drive thanks to him; I know how to cook thanks to them both. I never want to disappoint them because they made me who I am today. Without them, I don’t know who or where I’d be. Without a doubt, they are the BEST couple in the world. I love them like no one else and they will always have a spot in my heart."