Our Match of the Month for June is Chase and Jason!
Chase enrolled in BBBS in 2011 because his most important relationships were with his grandma, mom and sister. Both his grandma, who originally signed him up, and his mom wanted him to have a Big Brother to do ‘boy things’. Chase remained on the wait list for almost 3 years…until we found Jason.
Jason moved to Ann Arbor to attend Graduate Student at the University of Michigan and getting involved in his community was important to him. Chase and Jason were matched in Dec 2013…so have been matched for over 3 years now. They had a match relationship that began cautiously, doing activities in Chase’s home so that he could get to know him and feel comfortable before going out in the community. But once they developed that bond, they got out and about….going to the Hands on Museum, playing Laser Tag, going on hikes and have recently taken up chess. And because they live 30 minutes from each other, they spend a lot of time in the car….and Jason says that may times ‘it’s the best part of our outing’…having some pretty great conversations and getting to know what is important to each other.
Jason was nominated by Chase’s mom as our Match of the Month. During our regularly check in with the family she shared, I can’t believe we lucked out with Jason, they are just two peas in a pod. Jason is that positivity that Chase needed in his life. He is someone always looking on the brighter side and being positive and that is great for Chase to see. Both Jason and his wife are a part of the family. I hope we get to keep him around awhile longer.
RayQueeha’s mom enrolled her and her two sisters shortly after moving to Ann Arbor from Flint. The family was going through a lot of changes on top of moving – RayQueesha’s father had passed away and her oldest sister moved out of the house, both of whom she was very close with. Her mom really wanted her to have someone to connect with, look up to and gain insight from. And that turned out to be Joanie. Joanie was motivated to become a Big Sister to help support and empower a young girl in our community, and that’s what she’s done for the last year and a half.
They spend their time talking, doing arts and craft, eating, cooking and working on homework. Joanie and her husband, Michael recently helped RayQueesha with her school science project. They also come to a lot of our group events, especially activity nights, which we host at our office each month with a different theme.
Once matches are made, we provide professional supports to ensure child safety, relationship development and just to check in. During a check in with Joanie, she shared a great story with us.
I wanted to share a very special thing that RayQueesha did for me that made my day! Her and I were talking about making pies because she was making a pie for her neighbor. I told her that I have never made a pie before but that I have always wanted to make Michael a strawberry rhubarb pie because it was his favorite. She asked me a lot of questions about rhubarb, and we ended the conversation saying we should make pies together in a future outing. The next day she texted me and said that she found a recipe online, walked to Kroger and got all of the supplies and that she had made Michael and I a pie and asked if we could come over and share it with her family. This moment made me so happy and I cannot believe she did all of that on her own just do something nice for Michael and I. She is such a special young lady and I just thought it was a story that should be shared with you!
I think that it shows not just how special RayQueesha is, but how strong their relationships is…the consistency and commitment of time that Joanie has given RayQueesha is what so many of our Bigs do for our Littles…just a couple of hours, a couple of times a month can make a world of a difference!
The Early Years - Dennis and Kaleb taking on the Rock Climbing wall at Planet Rock
Kaleb’s mom enrolled him when he was 7 years old...and was looking for someone who could be a male role model, someone he could build trust with and help him come out of his shell…be less shy. About a year after enrolling him, we matched him with Dennis.
Dennis had had three sons of his, the youngest having had just graduated from high school. He had been very involved in their lives, and served as a cub scout leader, and wanted to stay connected to helping kids.
We matched Dennis and Kaleb in May of 2008, which means that they are about to celebrate their 9th Match-A-Versary, as we call them. And really, Dennis and Kaleb have connected over very everday activities. They go out to eat, to movies, ride bikes, go to the park, Dennis helps with homework….and have taken up bowling. It’s something that helped Kaleb’s confidence grow, as he practiced, his skills grew too! But hanging out and showing Kaleb that he’s going to be a consistent person in his life is the real key to their friendship.
Now that Kaleb’s 16, their conversations have shifted. He’s more talkative. They talk more about their lives and plans for the future. Dennis describes it as ‘just natural’. And Kaleb’s mom states that it’s been a great experience for him and his confidence has grown so much in his time with Dennis.
Our Match of the Month this month is Kyieyan and Nancy. Kyieyan and Nancy have been matched for just under a year, but in that time have developed a really strong, trusting friendship. Kyieyan is a 12 year old boy who lives with his mom and is the 2nd of 4 kids, so one-on-one time is hard in their household. He loves football and basketball and really just being active. He’s also a charmer! Nancy is retired from NSF….she was a VP and traveled all around the world for her work and is now working her dream job mentoring athletes through the M-PACT program at UofM. Nancy is a huge Michigan fan, and has shared that love with Kyieyan. They attended several football, women’s and men’s basketball games and love going to the movies and out to eat.
There are a couple of things that make this match really special. Nancy has been patient in allowing the trust to build….doing fun things with Kyieyan that peek his interest, but then relates that back to the important ‘lessons’ that a Big can teach a Little. For instance, when trying to promote reading, Nancy might have Kyieyan read her things from the game programs. And when he made the basketball team at his school, they starting talking more about attendance and grades, in order to remain eligible. Once, when at the park, Kyieyan littered….and they ended up having a great conversation about all of the trash along the roads, and what if everyone littered, and the roads were full of trash. The next time they went to the movie, when the lights came up, Kyieyan started walking around and picking up the trash. When Nancy asked him what he was doing, he said, “I’m picking up all f the trash, because if not, then who will”.
I could go on and on….from Halloween costume shopping stories, to serious topics of conversations after movies, to just grabbing a bite to eat and catching up. Nancy’s consistency and the commitment that she’s shown to Kyieyan has allowed him to trust her, and that’s where the real growing between a Big and a Littles begins to happen!
We absolutely adore the both of them!
Our Match of the Month for February is Brittany and Stevie. Brittany is the Big and Stevie is the Little; she is 11 years old. These two have been matched in our program for over 2 years.
Brittany and Stevie really epitomize the "consistency" component of our program, which is vital to positive youth development. They set goals and strive to complete them through consistent work and effort! One simple example of this is learning to knit together. A more complex example is learning proper conflict resolution--an area that Brittany is helping Stevie improve in. This match also focuses on giving back to their community! They often spend their time volunteering together. Their first volunteer opportunity was with Operation Shoebox preparing care packages for our troops overseas. Now, these two frequently volunteer at a senior living facility.
Stevie's most memorable moment in this match is when they went ice skating for the first time. Although neither one of them will be winning any gold medals soon--they actually fell down a lot-- they both had an amazing time and still about it to this day.
Congratulations to our Big Brother of the year, Tom, and our Big Sister of the Year, Kate! The criteria we consider when choosing our Bigs of the Year is that they have an impact on their Little's social, emotional, and academic growth, but also that they connect with the organization in other ways by participating in our fundraising events or recruiting other Bigs to be in our program.
Kate and Cherie have been matched for almost two years and will be joining us at the BBBS office to commit to another more year in our program. Kate has positively impacted Cherie most visibly through her confidence. Before matched in the program, Cherie really struggled to verbalize her strengths and weaknesses. Today she proudly shares her skills with others, including her art talents.
Tom and Joseph have been matched for just under a year and are planning to join us at the BBBS to commit to another year in our program, just like Kate and Cherie. Joseph and Tom plan on spending their next year together talking about after-high school plans, and are considering taking some campus tours this coming year. Tom is very intentional with his match with Joseph. He is always asking to find ways to incorporate future-planning with Joseph. They have talked about the importance of organizational skills, and continues to find ways to engage Joseph and learn more about his interests.
Tony and Jalen have been matched for 8 months. Tony is the Big and Jalen is the Little; he is 13 years old.
Jalen is an only child, and he and his mother live in Belleville. Jalen is described as being shy and chill, and he spends his time reading about sports, listening to music and playing basketball at the YMCA. With just Jalen and his mother in the home, Jalen was in need of a positive male role model. Tony was just the guy for the job! He says experiences from middle school and high school helped him become the person he is today, and wanted to help kid who may have experienced the same things. The pair quickly bonded over going bowling, playing basketball and watching sports together.
More recently, Jalen and Tony had the opportunity to ride four-wheelers together! This was the first time Jalen rode a four-wheeler, and they had a ton of fun! Jalen was all smiles after this outing.
Jalen has experienced a lot of change within the last year- and even switched schools. Tony has helped Jalen keep his mind off of things by just chatting with him and hanging out together. Tony has learned that with consistency, patience, and trust even a teenager will open up to you.
Kate and Cherie are our Match of the Month for November. Kate is the Big Sister and Cherie is the Little Sister, she is 11 years old and the two have been matched for about a year and a half.
Kate and Cherie are a unique match, with very unique stories. They like to play with the kittens that Kate fosters and eat Saganaki together, but one of their favorite activities is going boating. Cherie says that going out on the boat with Kate has made her feel braver! This is important because one time when they were going on a nature walk together, right before they were going to go boating, Cherie was chased by a goose!
This match is very reflective. Cherie has shared that Kate has taught her a lot about integrity and has helped her be more strength-focused and confident. Before being matched, Cherie was very quiet and shy, but now she can proudly tell you about all the things she’s good at—like art and running races—and she feels comfortable talking to new people.
As a side note, we recently wrapped production on a short video that will premiere at Rise and Shine for Kids’ Sake. Kate and Cherie participated and we were really blown away by Cherie’s confidence speaking on camera!
Our Match of the Month for October is Haley and Serenity. Haley is the Big Sister, a student at the University of Michigan, and an advocate for BBBS! Serenity is the Little Sister; she is 15 years old. These two have only been matched since February of this year, but we can already see the impact of their relationship!
Because Serenity is an older Little in our program, she has been able to be more vocal while planning match activities. One favorite activity was just walking around in Ann Arbor. This was a first for Serenity! Another first was attending a University of Michigan soccer game through tickets donated to BBBS. As Haley puts it, this was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. These two have a lot of fun spending time with each other in the community, but they also incorporate great life lessons! They’ve started budgeting together for their activities, which is a great skill to learn when you’re young.
These two both have very busy schedules, including spending time together, but they still make time to advocate for Big Brothers Big Sisters because they realize the impact their relationship makes on each other. Haley has already recruited two other Big Sisters! We’re constantly in need of adult volunteers to mentor the children on our waitlist!
Our Match of the Month for September is Lauren (Big) and Travon (Little). Travon is 11 years old and this match will be celebrating their two-month anniversary in the program this month!
These two are always moving around by going to SkyZone, Airtime, or swimming in the summer, but they also love doing simple activities like grabbing breakfast together. They actually spoke at our Fall Fundraiser last year, which is an event we held again this September.
It’s important to remember that BBBS doesn’t just encourage matches to have fun in the community! We also have targeted outcome area and goals for each individual match. One outcome of our program that we use to measure youth development is academic success. In our program, 86% of youth increase their educational expectations. This is as simple as feeling confident about graduating high school or planning to go to college.
Travon and Lauren are making great strides when it comes to academic success. Together they worked on Travon’s application for Wolverine Pathways, a program through the University of Michigan, which challenges and supports young students academically. It could even result in a scholarship to the University! We just found out that Travon was accepted into the program. We’re thrilled that he’s so excited about doing well in school! For more information about becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, click here.