January is National Mentoring Month….and the time when we recognize our Bigs of the Year. This year’s Big Sister of the year is Betsy McCallister and our Big Brother of the Year is Jeff Arnold. Betsy and Jeff both have been amazingly consistent Bigs and committed to supported BBBS in ways other than just being great Bigs!
Betsy was originally matched with Adrianna in our School program and in 2016 they transitioned to a more traditional Community program. She became Adrianna’s Big after raising her own 4 children…and they’ve become very close. Adrianna and Betsy have worked together to help Adrianna find tools for supporting her mental health. Adrianna has made a lot of progress in regulating her moods. In the past she would get upset and it would be hard for her to calm down. With the support of mental health providers, her family and the consistency of her Big Sister’s friendship, Adrianna has learned a lot of tools and she is more empowered to be in control of her emotions. This has led to less fights at school, less missed school and an overall improvement in her quality of life.
And when Jeff’s Little, David, first enrolled, his mother shared that she really wanted him to be able to experience some positive things in life. He was diagnosed with ADHD and his mom was worried that he might start making poor choices due to his high energy level. His mother also shared she was worried that he didn’t have a positive male in his life and really just wanted him to be able to have guy time with someone he can relate to. And Jeff has been that….they hit it off right away – and through lots of shared activities built a trusting relationship. And the results are in…his grades are going up and he said that a recent outing with Jeff to the Tree Runner park – a ropes and ziplining course – was the most fun he’d ever had in his life.
Two amazing adults taking the time to be the “a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction”.
Kailiah’s mother enrolled her because she wanted her to work on female empowerment and having more positive adult relationships. Kailiah was interested in developing a positive identity and have someone to help guide her into young womanhood. We matched Kailiah with Nina about a year ago. Nina has definitely helped and supported Kailiah this past year. They have created vision boards to show what their aspirations are for the future, come up with creative ways to earn money for activities Kailiah has wanted to participate in and worked on anger management skills. Nina and Kailiah have shared about how confident Kailiah is and how they have been able to build a strong friendship.
They love going out to eat, shopping, volunteering, going to movies, making food, and dancing to music and talking while they drive places in the car. They are always coming up with both simple and creative things to do together! Kailiah also shared that Nina has helped her to try new things like raw sushi and ice skating. Kailah went on to say that one of her favorite things to do with Nina is simply walking and talking. She said that it’s nice to have someone that she can be open with and someone who really listens to her.
One cool thing that they’ve done is spending some of the time on their outings dropping off job applications together, and Nina was there when Kailiah got her very first job! And Nina made her 15th birthday so special – she created a treasure hunt, and Nina used it as a way to tell Kailiah about all the things she loves about her. “Being Kailiah's Big Sister has opened my eyes to how much she has to go through. She's taught me how to be a better friend and how to relate to people with different life experiences. It's so fun seeing the world through her eyes.” And Kailiah just loves Nina, saying “Nina is special to me because she is the Big Sister I never thought I would get.”
Darrien is a 14 year old whose mom signed him up after his older sister left for college. They were extremely close and she had always been his confidant. He didn’t have a positive relationship with his dad, and mom really felt that having a Big Brother could help him build confidence, coping skills and with school.
Khurum came to us at last years’ Man2Man Big Brother recruitment event. He was a retired police officer and was identified as a mentor to one of our current board members. It was ‘the right time’ for him to step up and mentor in a more formal way through our program.
This match has been together since the summer, and is already developed a strong bond and had a significant impact on Darrien. Darrien and Khurum spend a lot of time outdoors and eating!! They’ve gone to the car show in Depot Town, hung out at Ford Lake and even spent some time on Darrien’s boat. Darrien really likes his time with Khurum, which is not always what we hear from 14 year old boys first matched, but I think that Khurum is such a great guy, with a great personality, that it’s just easy to develop a friendship with him.
Besides just hanging out and having fun, they have some pretty serious ‘adulting goals’. Darrien has his first job, so they are working on budgeting and money management. And mom let us know that Darrien got his first progress report at school and had all A’s, B’s and one C, which was a significant improvement over his previous report cards….and she attributes it to the time and attention that Khurum has given him these last few months.
Which is why, Khurum is our speaker at this years’ Man2Man event. Man2Man is a Big Brother recruitment Happy Hour. With nearly 100 boys and young men on our waiting list, we need every guy who has ever thought about being a Big Brother to take the leap.
Madison is a smart, spunky and bold 9 year old. Her mom enrolled her in BBBS a couple of years ago, after Madison learned that one of her friends had a Big Sister, and asked her mom to sign her up. It was just her and mom at home, and her dad had recently died, and mom felt that giving her another positive role model, would be a good thing.
Lauren had always known about BBBS and had decided it was now the time. She was motivated to get involved as she was in a male dominated field, and knew how much her mentors impacted her decision to change careers and move in that direction. She really wanted to encourage a young girl to be all that she could be.
Lauren and Madison have been matched for just over a year! During that time, they have shared a lot of great memories and match activities. They had a blast over the summer participating in our “Where in the World is Bowley” Contest. Bowley is our Bowl for Kids’ Sake mascot – we asked our matches to take him on outings with them as a way to show our bowlers how many adventures that their time and energy raising money for BBBS creates in the community. During the contest, they took Bowley to the library, to a Japanese calligraphy workshop, and local businesses in Depot Town, to Go! Ice Cream and to try on costume heads at Walmart.
Since being matched Lauren and Madison have developed a passion for the Arts, and in particular theater and music. The match has enjoyed some great community events such as Shakespeare in the Arb and are always attending Big Brothers Big Sisters group events!
This is a match that you should definitely check out on our Facebook page to see their photos with Bowley….and all of the other matches too!! So great!
Gabe was enrolled a little over a year ago by his mom. As a 15 year old boy, he and mom weren’t getting along great, which can by typical and she really felt that he would benefit from a man to spent time with and talk to. He was a bit hesitant to get matched, as he didn’t want a Big Brother that was going to treat him ‘like a kid’.
Hunter was a perfect match for Gabe. Hunter’s family has a long standing commitment to the community, volunteering, being on boards and supporting local organizations. He knew that it was time for him to step into the role, as he had graduated, was working full time and had time to commit to the program.
When I say perfect match, I mean one of those feelings that you get at the match introduction meeting that – oh, this is going to be so good. I say this all the time….Bigs and Littles many times just do everyday things…it’s not some grand gesture…it’s time spent, learning, growing, talking, listening – and that’s what Hunter and Gabe do. A lot of hanging out in Ann Arbor going to the Art Fair, Top of the Park, Pinball Pete’s…. walking around, eating, talking about sports, cars and shoes. Hunter is someone that Gabe knows is there to talk when he needs it.
I think this is a great match to highlight this month as we are kicking off our 100 MENtors in 100 Days campaign to increase the # of Big Brothers! We have so many boys on our waiting list, some of them waiting over a year. And Gabe and Hunter really show you how fun and easy it can be…it’s a couple of hours a couple of times a week. It makes more of a difference that you can ever know….
And Hunter is also our speaker at a Fall Evening with BBBS, our biggest fundraiser of the year. We’ll be at the home of Patrick and Nancy Paige on Sunday, Sept. 16th enjoying some good food, drink, and friends….raising money to recruit, enroll, training, make and support our Bigs, Littles and their families.
Derrick’s mother enrolled him as a 7 year old to help him get out of the house and do things in the community. His older sister had been matched in the program for several years and had a good experience, so now it was Derrick’s turn. They have a new baby at home, so giving him those experiences is difficult right now.
Debbie enrolled as a Big after one of her friends, who was a Big encouraged her to apply. Debbie felt like it was the right time in her life to commit to a Little and has a lot of energy and loves getting out and about.
Derrick and Debbie were matched about last October and have been having a ball exploring the community. They go on nature walks, go to the movies and have been learning about different sports together. One cool thing that they did this summer was create a scavenger hunt at Riverside Park for our Night at the Park event. It was something that they really wanted to do and have a blast watching everyone participate.
They have also been one of our star matches in our Where in the World is Bowley contest. Bowley is our Bowl For Kids Sake mascot, and this summer we’re asking matches to take Bowley with them on their adventures…share those photos with us, which we then post on our Facebook page and they get points for the number of likes and shares…and the winner will win a bowling party at Revel & Roll. Derrick and Debbie have taken Bowley to the park, to the Tigers game, the 4H Fair, putt putting and to the Humane Society. They’re really having fun with it and it’s so much fun to see them, and all of our matches, out and about this summer!
Thanks for sharing all your great pics, Debbie. And for being an awesome Big Sister to Derrick!
Ending are so sad….but bring new and exciting beginnings! This is the time of year that we graduate Littles from our program that have either graduated high school or turned 18. As a staff member of BBBS of Washtenaw County since 2002, I’ve watched many of these young people grow up. And it saddens me to see them and their Bigs leave us. But I’m excited for what’s next for them.
KeShon and Yasmine – These ladies were our Match of the Month in June 2018. Jasmine says “some of her most memorable moments have been all the times I’ve been able to celebrate KeShon with her family! From her 8th grade graduation, going to some of her track/cross country meets, watching her perform on the dance team in high school, being at her sweet seventeen birthday party to most recently sending her off to her high school prom! What I love about our match is first how long we have been able to grow our relationship and I’ve been able to see KeShon blossom from a quiet pre-teen to a young adult about to start college! I love that we can always be ourselves with each other, and that KeShon keeps me hip with all the newest lingo and dances. I’ve also loved not only getting to know KeShon, but her whole family and feeling so welcomed”!
Jovani and Aiden – These guys were matched together 7 years ago. It’s been amazing to watch their friendship grow. Jovani moved further away, Aiden kept going to pick him up regularly. Jovani struggled with reading, and they started their own little book club. Jovani wanted to visit college campuses, Aiden took him. They’re family, and always will be. Jovani and Aiden will be traveling to the UK and Spain together this summer to visit the Aiden’s family. After, Jovani will be moving up to Mount Pleasant, MI to attend Central Michigan University.
Thomas and Dominic – Thomas and Dominic have been matched for over 3 years. Dominic has provided support to Thomas as he neared the end of his high school career, talking about college and playing football. As a college student himself, he’s learned to balance school and volunteering at BBBS, and all of the other things, so has great insights to share with Thomas. Thomas is working and figuring out the next step in his journey.
Xavier and Ravi – Ravi has been there for Xavier for the last 5 years. Xavier has moved around a bit over that time, and Ravi’s always been there, willing to drive to see him, even when he’s lived an hour away. Ravi and Xavier have set goals around getting a job and finishing high school, and will continue to work toward those, even though not officially a part of BBBS.
Beth and Helen – Beth and Helen's match was a great one that consisted of dancing to music playing over the speakers of Target, trying on funny clothes, and doing arts & crafts. Although Helen has moved away for medical school, the match plans on keeping in communication to see how things are going. Best of luck in the future!!
Japeth and Bryan – In Bryan’s words….Next month Japeth turns 18 and therefore ages out of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. We will, no doubt, remain brothers and keep hanging out. We were matched as brothers when he was almost 12 years old in 2012. Today we attended our last annual BBBS picnic together and went out for ice cream with two other matches. (Today is, after all, National Ice Cream Day.)
Here are a couple photos to show how much he has grown, but he has grown in so many ways that you can’t see in the pictures. He is wiser, more grounded, more independent, more focused, and more driven. And he has retained all of his wonderful qualities - charming, personable, outgoing, insightful, artistic, athletic, musical, and absolutely hilarious. He has inspired me in many ways and I’m so proud of how he handles himself and expresses himself. I’m so grateful to know Japeth and be a part of his life.
Matthew and Kevin – It is a joy to see how much Kevin and Matt’s relationship has grown since those early days. Over the years, Kevin has worked with Matt to prepare for several important milestones: teaching him to drive, helping him to apply for jobs, and helping him think about his career goals. Because Matt hopes to be a mechanic one day, Kevin often plans activities for them involving cars. Kevin took Matt to the Henry Ford Museum, a car show at Washtenaw Community College, and a trip to talk to a mechanic about his work. They guys are forever friends!
KeShon and Yasmine have been matched for 6 years. KeShon’s mother enrolled her when she was 12 because she wanted her to have more diverse experiences. She wanted a Big who could support her with being active, having a healthy lifestyle, education, and career choices. They have been able to focus on all those things, plus more, in their years of being matched.
Yasmine signed up to be a Big Sisters after moving here to work on her PhD. Her older sister, her role model, had recently become a Big, and Yasmine was inspired by her commitment. She wanted to do something to give back to the community, but also thought it would be a great way to learn about the community.
When KeShon and Yasmine were first matched, some of their favorite activities would be to do different arts and crafts. They would come up with ideas together or find them on Pinterest. They also enjoyed baking cookies and other sweets to share with each other, get frozen yogurt, volunteer, walk outside, play volleyball, or walk around the mall together. As KeShon has gotten older, getting frozen yogurt is always a go-to favorite activity and just chatting and spending time together, maybe over a movie at Yasmine’s house, or both catching up on work and homework while in Yasmine’s lab.
KeShon was a little quieter and shy when they were first matched, but that has definitely changed! As their relationship has grown, so has KeShon’s confidence. These days as KeShon works and Yasmine is finishing up graduate school, scheduling can be difficult, but they try to keep in touch via text in between visits.
Yasmine says some of her most memorable moments have been "all the times I’ve been able to celebrate KeShon with her family! From her 8th grade graduation, going to some of her track/cross country meets, watching her perform on the dance team in high school, being at her sweet seventeen birthday party to most recently sending her off to her high school prom!
What I love about our match is first how long we have been able to grow our relationship and I’ve been able to see KeShon blossom from a quiet pre-teen to a young adult about to start college! I love that we can always be ourselves with each other, and that KeShon keeps me hip with all the newest lingo and dances. I’ve also loved not only getting to know KeShon, but her whole family and feeling so welcomed!"
We want to congratulate KeShon on her recent high school graduation. Unfortunately, their match will close through BBBS, but we know that they will always be connected to one another and I’m sure their relationship will continue to grow and flourish!
Jaiden is a kind and intelligent 9-year-old boy, who lives with his mom, grandma, and three sisters. In between his occasional visits with his father, he lacked a strong male role model that he could relate to, and Carl stepped in to provide that male perspective he needed. Carl had just moved to Washtenaw County to attend dentistry school, and he was eager to give back to the community. He signed up to become a Big Brother after seeing an ad for our local agency and talking to his sister, who had also recently signed up to be a Big.
Jaiden and Carl have been matched for over a year, and it is amazing to see how far their relationship has come. Because they are both very active, they have been on countless adventures together such as canoeing, paddle boating, going to the Hands On Museum, and going to Detroit Pistons games -- all of which were new experiences for Jaiden! We love seeing Jaiden and Carl interact at group events because they are clearly so comfortable together! At our kickball day, they had so much energy from playing kickball that they took a long walk afterwards around the park, just talking and enjoying each other’s company. The two have lot in common: they both love chicken, laser tag, and dancing. However, Carl says that his favorite thing to do with Jaiden is just to hang out with him and chat about his life. He loves listening to Jaiden share his interests and ambitions.
Spending time with Carl has given Jaiden the opportunity to hone his strengths and develop his own sense of self -- something that Carl says he really wishes for Jaiden to have. Jaiden is talented at math, and he loves showing this off to his proud Big Brother. He says that he aspires to become a teacher one day. Carl also takes time to have important conversations with Jaiden while they’re on outings. He talks to Jaiden about the importance of online safety, manners while going out to eat, and, recently, the important contributions that MLK, Jr. had on our world.
At BBBS, we use the acronym REACH (Recreation, Education and career, Arts and culture, Community service, and Health and wellness) to guide our matches to be well-rounded in how they spend their outings. Jaiden and Carl are the epitome of the REACH mindset. They are looking forward to another fun year of learning, growing, and giving back together.
Jaliah is an active, talented 16-year-old, who we have had the pleasure of knowing since she first enrolled in our program with a different mentor at 8 years old. As the youngest of 7 kids, Jaliah loves having a mentor all to herself. Being able to go on an outing without her siblings is a rare opportunity and one that BBBS can provide. We matched Jaliah and Julia about a year ago just after Julia moved to Ann Arbor to complete a postdoc at the University of Michigan. As Julia was applying to become a Big, she told us that it was something she always wanted to do but that she needed to wait until the right time. Because our program requires a one year commitment, she could not sign up until she knew she would be living in one place for over a year. Therefore, when Jaliah and Julia were matched, there was clear excitement on both ends. As it turned out, each was just the right match that the other had been waiting for!
Watching Jaliah and Julia interact now, it is clear that they really trust each other, but it took some time for this level of comfort to build. Julia, like many of our volunteers, is an introvert, and Julia explained that their first few outings felt “awkward” at times. However, as we tell all our volunteers, this awkwardness is completely normal and to be expected. Like all relationships, it takes time and consistency to make the match work. Almost a year later, Jaliah and Julia’s relationship is thriving. Jaliah has been able to open up to Julia about her thoughts and concerns about racial tensions in our community. Because these topics are also sensitive and personal, Jaliah’s willingness to raise them demonstrates her trust in Julia, who is always ready to listen and learn about what her Little is going through.
When they are together, Jaliah and Julia enjoy eating sushi, being active outside, or watching movies. Furthermore, Julia is a rock climber and introduced Jaliah to the sport. Rock climbing has been an amazing way for the match to bond. When they are climbing, Jaliah and Julia take turns belaying and encouraging one another to accomplish their individual goals. While climbing can be scary and certainly physically demanding, Jaliah responds to the challenge with a sense of confidence and adventure. And because they are used to talking about their goals while climbing, Jaliah is also able to talk to Julia about her other goals for her education and career.
Jaliah has also shared her interests with Julia: namely, her love of writing poetry. Jaliah is a talented emerging writer. Recently, she won a poetry contest and was accepted to present her work in Washington, DC! Congratulations to Jaliah from all of us at Big Brothers Big Sisters, and congratulations to both Julia and Jaliah on being named this month’s match of the month!
Changing Lives-- One Story at a Time.