Jesse Sendejas, MO Big Sister of the Year, reflects on her 10 year Match | Big Brothers Big Sisters Kansas City

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Jesse Sendejas, MO Big Sister of the Year, reflects on her 10 year Match

It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since I first became introduced to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City and was matched with Jasmine. I didn’t know much about the agency at the time, but after attending an introductory event I knew I wanted to be involved. After securing a permanent job, I had decided it was time for me to give back to the Kansas City Community. I always knew mentoring kids to help them see their potential was something I wanted to focus on and BBBS was just what I was looking for. In July of 2007, Jasmine and I were matched.  She was 9 years old and very shy and sweet. It took time for us to get to know each other and for her to open up to me.

In the beginning, I struggled many times to get ahold of Jasmine to set up a visit. Her mom worked very hard to provide for the family, but at times they did not have a consistent working phone and there would be times when they would forget about our scheduled visits. I would say these struggles just inspired me to keep trying and be a constant in Jasmine’s life.  I could tell things were a little crazy for her. For example, in the beginning of our match, she spent a lot of time with a babysitter in the evenings, because of her mom’s work schedule. After a few years of being matched, Jasmine was telling me more and more about missing school. I would inquire on our weekly visits about how school was going, what new things she was doing, and how her grades were. There would be weeks when she would tell me about going to school only once or twice the entire week. Her absences were not due to illness, but rather what appeared to be not making school a priority.  Jasmine’s mom does not drive, so if Jasmine missed her bus, or just didn’t feel like going, she would miss school. I started to express the importance not only of getting good grades, but also attendance. I explained to her that school was extremely important for her to reach her goals and that school was the only thing that helped me achieve mine. I wanted her to see a correlation between working hard and being rewarded for that.

Jesse and Jasmine at their teaming in 2007

Initially, she told me one of her main goals was to get away from Kansas City for college. She wanted to pursue a degree in fashion. Although we always talked about all things in Jasmine’s life, a lot of the focus of our visits would turn to school. Overtime, I encouraged Jasmine to reach out to me if she woke up late and missed the bus so I could take her to school because it was better to get to school late than to not get there at all. As time went by, that is just what she did and her absences were becoming less and less. She also knew she could reach out to me for help with school supplies, uniforms, books and anything else she might need for school. It was amazing to see her transform and really start to care about school. She would be so excited at the end of a week that she attended school every day. She would get in my car and light up telling me about it. By the time Jasmine entered middle school, I could tell she had really changed her focus from just ensuring she was attending school, to staying caught up with her school work and pushing herself to do well. The school she attended at the time had a ceremony for students finishing 8th grade, entering high school, and Jasmine worked so hard that she got to speak as the class valedictorian.

Jasmine and Jesse, 2016

Jasmine continued on to high school at that same school, but as she was ending her 9th-grade year the school started to have some financial difficulties and it was unclear if they would remain open. I realized then that Jasmine needed to go to a better high school to ensure her success in continuing on to college. I worked with Jasmine to get together her application materials for one of the top schools in Kansas City, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. Due to her high grades and test scores, she was accepted and started there her 10th-grade year. Jasmine chose to take very rigorous courses and continued to amaze me with her passion for school. She pursued a full International Baccalaureate and received great grades. Jasmine never went back to missing school, or not getting her assignments done. She graduated from Lincoln in May of 2016.

Jesse and Jasmine at graduation

She was accepted into a few colleges, but after I took her on just one college visit to Missouri State University in Springfield, that is where she chose to go. A very exciting day in our relationship was the day I got to take her entire family and help move her into her college dorm. She had accomplished that goal that she voiced to me when she was just 9 years old. She was “going away” to school. I am so proud of Jasmine and although I know our match has made a huge impact on her life, it has been just as impactful on my life! I can’t wait for our match to continue and to see the great things she’ll accomplish.

Jesse and Jasmine in Jasmine’s dorm room