This month we are excited to have two very special Matches of the Month: meet brother and sister Lance and Layla and their Bigs Josh and Faaiza! These siblings were matched with their new mentors on the same day last December and have been going strong ever since. Lance and Josh quickly bonded over their shared love of Marvel movies and comic books and love to spend time playing video games, perusing the comics at the Vault of Midnight, and talking about what comic book plots they think will be made into movies next. Layla and Faaiza found their connection immediately through their shared love of exploring area restaurants and have already had several wonderful trips out spent laughing and having deep talks over great meals.
Layla and Faaiza agreed early on in their match that one of the things they wanted to do most was discover more of the community together. They have spent the last several months exploring Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, including museums, parks, restaurants, and have even participated in BBBS events such as Art Night, opening Layla up to all sorts of new experiences. Meanwhile, Lance has bonded with Josh by truly listening to him and supporting his interests, while gently encouraging him to move beyond his comfort zone. Lance is interested in music, but struggles with shyness, so Josh has been finding ways that they can explore music together through festivals, concerts, and drop in lessons. Josh has also encouraged Lance to ask questions of store staff and other people they encounter as a way to engage him in low stakes conversations that build his confidence. Both of these matches have done a great job building trust and exploring new things, which builds a young person up to dream big.
In both of these matches, the Bigs empower the Littles by truly listening to them and giving them opportunities to lead, make decisions, and explore their passions in new and exciting ways. Josh empowers Lance to feel confident in his own curiosities and interests by happily exploring the comics, movies, and shows Lance loves most with him. The pair love to have long weekly conversations about the Marvel Universe and Star Wars franchise, go shopping at their favorite comic book shops, and even spend time just sitting quietly together, reading comics. Faaiza also empowers Layla by giving her a supportive listening ear. They both remember the first deep discussion they had with each other and how candid and open Layla was. Faaiza considers this a very special moment because she was able to see another side of Layla and remind her how strong, smart, and capable she is. Layla shared that this moment was really special to her also because it showed her how supportive and encouraging Faaiza is. “We’re really close,” Layla said. “It’s supportive and amazing!”
When Faaiza and Josh consistently give Layla and Lance the freedom to express their interests and have a say in what choose to do, they are teaching them that their interests matter, and their voice has power. For Layla and Faaiza, this means planning special outings like their favorite day, when they explored in Depot Town together. They grabbed pizza, wandered around the interesting shops, walked through Riverside park, and then sat down for some coffee and chatting. This simple day is special to them because it gave them an opportunity to learn more about each other and enjoy each other’s company in a truly relaxed way. For Lance and Josh, this has meant lots of moments of levity and laughter, like when they choose to see a poorly reviewed movie in theaters. They did not like the movie at all, but when it was over, they looked at each other and broke out laughing, simply because the experience of seeing such a bad movie together was so much fun-and gave them lots to talk about afterwards!
As we prepare to embark on summer adventures we are very excited to highlight one of our school based matches as the June Match of the Month! Meet Royal and Lacy, they were matched through our newly launched Lunch Buddies Program in the beginning of this year and they have been having fun ever since. They love to spend lunchtime trying new foods, playing outside, and making slime. They say they are two peas in a pod and look forward to getting together over the summer, and we think they make an awesome team, congrats to you both on being Match of the Month!
We always love it when a Little teaches a Big something. From the very beginning of this relationship Royal has been a huge advocate for making slime. It was not something that Lacy had ever done before, but with Royal’s guidance and expertise it has become one of this matches favorite activities. Not only was Lacy willing to try what Royal was excited about, but she then validated Royal’s excitement by declaring slime making awesome! It’s truly the little things that ignite the bonds of trust and friendship.
Lacy does a great job of collaborating with Royal when they choose their activities. She also takes time to center Royal in their conversation when they eat lunch together. Lacy asks Royal about herself, family, friends and school, and gives her a safe space to voice whatever’s weighing on her mind that day. Both collaborating with Royal and actively listening to her, tells Royal that what she has to say is important and empowers her to have confidence in her own voice.
The school year may have come to an end, but this School-Based match has no intention of losing touch over the summer. They are both looking forward to the opportunity to get together outside school walls at our BBBS summer group events. We look forward to seeing you both soon, and can't wait to see what adventures you get up to next fall. Congratulations again on being our Match of the Month!
Meet Ariel & Katie! These two have been matched for 10 year and are our longest running active match in the program. Ariel is preparing to graduate and go to college soon, and Katie is right beside her, helping her prepare for the next chapter of her life. Both Big and Little have shared that they feel like “real sisters” and that is not going to end when Ariel graduates. No matter where life takes these two, we know they will have each other's backs, and that’s what makes them our Match of the Month! Congratulations and best of luck to you both in all your future adventures.
One of Ariel’s favorite memories from early in the match is when Katie took her sledding for the first time ever! She loves that they still go sledding together and that it’s something she only does with Katie. Katie said some of her favorite memories of Ariel are taking her tubing and kayaking. She remembers how Ariel started out afraid of water activities, but she grew to love them and now they are some of their favorite things. Learning to do new things together is a huge part of building a bond of trust that is essential to any successful relationship. 10 years and a lot of life changes later, these two are still going strong.
In any good match, both Big and Little learn from each other, drawing on each other's strengths and experiences. Ariel is passionate about Black History and Social Justice issues. Katie says she has appreciated that Ariel has really opened her eyes to some complex issues and made her feel comfortable discussing the differences in their experiences. Ariel says she feels like her talks with Katie make her wiser. She says Katie has taught her to breath, focus on what she can control, and not fixate on the things she can’t. Again, these two show amazing teamwork in empowering each other to learn and grow.
As Ariel prepares to go to college, she goes with all the skill sets and wisdom her and Katie built over the last 10 years. She has confidence in her own voice, and knows that Big Sister Katie is only a phone call away if she needs her. We want to congratulate you both one more time on the team you have built and the impact you have had on one another. Thank you so much for being part of our village for so many years!
Meet Zaron and Casey! This match has been going strong since 2018 and together they love to stay physically active and encourage each other to go outside their comfort zones. Whether they are out for a run or Casey is cheering Zaron on at one of his football games, they have built a strong supportive relationship. Zaron’s mom, Tye, said they are truly brothers from another mother-and that is what makes this match, or Match of the Month!
Simple moments can ignite big potential, and both Zaron and Casey are fond of the simple things in their match. Zaron says, “I like talking with him and just hanging out like he's a cool person, in my opinion.” One of Casey’s favorite memories is when they took their shoes off and waded in the stream at Gallup Park because it gave him a chance to share a staple of his childhood with Zaron. Spending little moments together makes space to build trust, confidence and memories together.
Casey likes to go to Zaron’s football games and says he really admires the effort and dedication Zaron has put into his game. “He works really hard to be the best he can the sports he plays.” Casey once took a moment to point out to Zaron that after years of playing the game, he had developed an impressive knowledge of how to play well, and would be good at teaching others how to play. That simple act of just showing up to support what matters to him tells Zaron that his goals are important and his effort is worth it. Hearing that his efforts have turned into a valuable skill set builds confidence and empowers Zaron to dream bigger.
For the past 3 year Zaron and Casey have gone to haunted houses together. Casey admits that Haunted Houses are not something that he would choose to do on his own, but this match goes back together year after year because they appreciate how the experience pushes them out of their comfort zones. This little seasonal exercise also builds trust between them, teaches them to be brave, and helps both Big and Little build skill sets that will serve them well outside of their match. It also shows that Zaron and Casey have made a lasting impact on each other-way to be an amazing team, fellas! Congrats to you both on being Match of the Month!
Meet Savannah & Karen, these two have 2 reasons to celebrate this month, it’s their one-year Match-A-Versary and they are our Match of the Month! This match loves to explore new things and spend time together. Savannah says that Karen is sweet, kind, and understanding. And Karen says she volunteered to give back but has found she gets as much from the relationship as she gives. We have loved watching this match learn and grow together and we can’t wait to see what they do next.
Savannah loves anime, and because of that she is curious about many aspects of a variety of Asian cultures, particularly their cuisine. Karen dove right into Savannah’s interest, taking her to try sushi on their very first outing. It has become a go-to activity for this match, finding new dishes and flavors to explore. Having a consistent partner to try new things with builds a young person's confidence to push past other boundaries, and see things from another point of view.
Karen likes to let Savannah take the lead. She listens to what Savannah is curious about or interested in, and let's that inform their chosen activities. This seemingly simple practice shows Savannah that her interests matter and have merit. When we asked Karen about future goals, she said she wanted to challenge Savannah to grow in some new directions, while still making space for Savannah to set the pace. This mindset both empowers Savannah to grow, and to feel like she has some control in the relationship. This gives her a safe space to both find and learn to trust her own voice.
As these two look towards starting their second year together they have a lot of growth goals, including spending some time working on school work together. As fun as trying new foods and shopping can be, they both recognize the need for balanced growth and building the skill sets that set Savannah up for success as she moves toward adulthood. Young people have big dreams, and it is our mission to equip them to achieve those goals. Congrats again to you both, on being Match of the Month! You make an awesome team and we are so proud of you.
Meet Ethan and Thomas, they have been matched for 6 months and are off to a great start. They have already learned so much from one another, from how to be brave when trying new things, to how small actions of gratitude (like helping with the dishes) can make a big difference. These two have BIG plans to keep learning and growing together, and that’s what makes them our Match of the Month! Congratulations to you both, we can’t wait to see what you do next.
Ethan and Thomas have a shared favorite memory of their time together, baking cookies! It was the first time Ethan had ever baked cookies. Thomas noted that Ethan was very open to learning about the baking process, and that he did not get frustrated when he needed to be corrected. Ethan loved the learning process too, but not as much as he enjoyed eating the results. He enthusiastically declared they were, “The BEST cookies he had ever had in his entire life!” Exploring new things together both builds trust in a relationship, and builds confidence in a young person to continue exploring other new ideas, and interests.
We firmly believe that Bigs and Littles have a lot to teach each other. Ethan and Thomas’ match is an excellent example of this. Ethan’s family took time to teach Thomas about the Chinese Moon Festival. And when Ethan and Thomas went for a swing at the park it was Ethan who walked Thomas through the process of jumping off a swing, and built up his confidence so he was brave enough to take the leap. Thomas empowered Ethan to teach him something new, when you show that kind of faith in a young person it teaches them to believe in themselves.
When Ethan and Thomas got together to build model planes, it turned into a science experiment. They reconfigured the planes several times to see what would happen if you turned the wings upside down, or backward. And carefully observed how each variation affected the plan’s flight. This simple moment of fun and exploration teaches Ethan that not only is it ok to ask questions and experiment, but also how to learn from the results of his actions. This translates into important life skills that are sure to help Ethan in the future. Congrats again to you both on being our Feb Match of the Month, we hope you keep playing and learning together!
You met Hannah and MaKayla as our Match of the Month in October. They have been matched for just over a year, but what an impact a year makes. From starting their relationship during the height of the pandemic to MaKayla working through some really tough challenges these two faced a lot of hurdles in their first year. Rather than pulling them apart, each fresh challenge made them stronger. Now, here they stand one year later, and in Hannah’s own words, “We’re a fantastic team and I wouldn’t change a thing.” This team definitely demonstrates what it means to be “Bigger Together,” and that’s why we are very pleased to announce that Hannah is one of our Bigs of the Year!
When you start a relationship virtually it can be challenging to build a strong connection. Despite these challenges, Mom hoped the relationship would thrive and help boost MaKayla’s self-confidence. Hannah dove right in, and soon found MaKayla and her were similar in many ways. Mom credits the great success of this match to that similarity, and Hannah’s willingness to have some sensitive conversations with MaKayla. Having someone in her corner that both understood her, and could be trusted to show up no matter what, has built MaKayla’s confidence. She knows now no matter how low she feels, Hannah will be there to lift her up, because she matters. When a child learns to work through the hard times in a healthy and supported way, it prepares them to be strong and resilient adults. One thing is clear, Hannah and MaKayla have already learned lifelong lessons together, lessons that will have a lasting impact.
Any Big of the Year must advocate for our program as a whole as well as show dedication to their Little. Hannah has supported our program both by participating along with MaKayla in our 5k last fall, and in our, Give BIG fundraiser in November. In fact, Hannah raised more money than any other participating Big and beat her overall fundraising goal. Hannah is dedicated, consistent, and reliable. She shows up for Makayla and for BBBS - every time - and that is what makes her one of our Bigs of the Year! Congrats Hannah, we are so proud to have you as part of our village!
Meet Sunny and Aidan, these two have been matched for nearly 5 years. Aidan’s mom said, Aidan has found a friend, resource, and someone he can share his life experiences with. She said that Sunny has been such a great support, especially during Aidan’s teenage years even for her. Aidan’s father passed away in 2012 from leukemia which was very hard on the family so having a positive man in his life has been so beneficial. His mom went on to say that he has been able to instill positivity in Aidan’s life and they are so blessed to have him in their lives. Sunny has been a reliable male role model, there to guide Aidan as he grew into a man. While Aidan will soon graduate from high school and age out of our program, the impact Sunny has had on him will certainly be lifelong. And that is what makes Sunny one of our Bigs of the Year!
Aidan is in his senior year of high school, and as a team, this match has been really focused on what’s next for Aidan when it comes to higher education and his future. Sunny has been very instrumental in helping Aidan decide what he is interested in career wise and even gave him his first job this past summer. Aidan worked for Sunny’s business, ‘Back Office Studio’ (BOS) located in Ypsilanti. Aidan’s role was to help with community gatherings and local businesses that partnered with BOS. Sunny and his partner have also had talks with Aidan about college readiness; college applications, deciding on schools, etc. We believe that all young people are full of limitless potential and with Sunny’s support and guidance, Aidan has built the confidence and the skill sets he needs to achieve that potential after he graduates.
Beyond being a staunch advocate for Aidan, Sunny also makes time to advocate and support our program as a whole. He has opened up BOS for BBBS events, and shared information about our mission and need for Bigs with his staff and EMU community. He has also accepted a board position in the new year. Sunny’s dedication to both Aidan and our program as a whole makes him the ideal pick for Big of the Year. Congratulations Sunny, thank you for being a part of our village!
Meet Jazlynn and Beth, these two fun loving ladies were matched in April of this year, and they have filled the last 6 months with excitement and laughter. Jazlynn and Beth bonded very quickly, if they had a catch phrase it would be, “same.” Beth says they say that to each other all the time, because they think alike on so many things. We think all the silliness and laughs these two have packed into a short amount of time makes them the perfect Match of The Month. Congrats to you both, and keep those giggles rollin’.
Jazlynn and Beth like to keep things fun. Sometimes that means epic haunted houses or fast go karts, but other times it’s simple things like doing the puzzles on the kids menus or acting silly at Meijers. Having that consistent partner to laugh and seek adventure with has made a huge impact on both Jazlynn and Beth. Jazlynn’s mom, Angel, told Beth that the time her and Jazlynn spend together has been a blessing. And Beth reapplied, “same.” To her Jazlynn is, “pure joy,” she gets her out of the house and keeps her laughing.
Beth likes to be a cheerleader for Jazlynn whenever she gets the chance. She likes to attend Jazlynn’s sporting events, she sits and bonds with her family as they to root Jazlynn on together. Beth says Jazlynn is a pretty confident young lady, but it is still important to her to give Jazlynn lots of positive affirmations to build her up even more. Beth recognizes Jazlynn’s amazing potential and can’t wait to see how far she goes in life.
These two may have packed a lot of joy into their first 6 months as a match, but they are just getting started and have big plans for the future. Plans like meeting Jazlynn’s new baby brother when he is born in March. They made up their own nick-name for him till he arrives, JaMerryChristmas. They also have distant future dreams of an epic road trip down south in Beth’s travel trailer. One thing is for sure, this match is bursting with potential, and we can not wait to see where they go together. Congrats again ladies, thanks for sharing your joy with us this month.
Mike and Tyler hit the ground running in January, and have managed to pack the last 11 months with some BIG adventure. From racing go-karts, to troubleshooting science experiments these two have one motto, “Go BIG or go home!” That go big attitude and consistent hunt for the next challenge, is what makes this dynamic duo our November Match of The Month! Congrats to you both, we can’t wait to see what you do next.
These two love trying new things and exploring the world around them. They recently conducted a science experiment, creating non-newtonian fluid and then playing speakers underneath it to make it move in patterns. While doing the project, Mike figured out the best way to get the goop safely onto the speakers so they could watch the way it interacted with sound. Tyler shared that they wouldn’t have been able to do the experiment without Mike figuring that out. Experiments and problem solving like this Ignite Potential, by encouraging curiosity and building confidence.
Mike has a competitive spirit and Tyler tries to foster that as much as possible. One day while they were playing ping pong together, they decided that a new game was in order, so they made one themselves. They came up with new ways to use the paddles, set up cups as goals, and worked together to create a new way to compete. Using creative thinking to challenge growth Empowers Potential by not only teaching a child to think outside the box, but giving them the confidence to totally reinvent institutional norms.
This match agrees that their motto, “Go BIG or go home,” does more than sum up who they are as a match, but also applies to the way they both want to live life. One of the goals of our program is to help youth develop the life skills and confidence they need to understand their Limitless Potential, and the strength and resiliency they need to stand and Defend it. With a Big like Tyler in his corner, to challenge and encourage him, Mike is well on his way to doing just that. Congrats again on being the Match of The Month, gentleman. Whatever your next adventure might be, we know you will go BIG!
Meet MaKayla and Hannah, this match has two reasons to celebrate this month, it’s their one-year Matchaversary, and they are our Match of the Month! From starting their relationship during the height of the pandemic to MaKayla working through some really tough challenges these two faced a lot of hurdles in their first year. Rather than pulling them apart, each fresh challenge made them stronger. Now, here they stand one year later, and in Hannah’s own words, “We’re a fantastic team and I wouldn’t change a thing.” This team definitely demonstrates what it means to be “Bigger Together,” and we couldn’t be more proud!
When you start a relationship virtually it can be challenging to build a strong connection. Despite these challenges, Mom hoped the relationship would thrive and help boost MaKayla’s self-confidence. Hannah dove right in, and soon found MaKayla and her were similar in many ways. Mom credits the great success of this match to that similarity, and Hannah’s willingness to have some sensitive conversations with MaKayla. Having someone in her corner that both understood her, and could be trusted to show up no matter what, has built MaKayla’s confidence. She knows now no matter how low she feels, Hannah will be there to lift her up, because she matters.
Both MaKayla and Hannah love to do the simple things together. Whether that’s floating down a river with all the drinks and snacks they could want, or finding the best tire swing and seeing who can push the fastest, these two just love being outside together. In one of their recent adventures, they completed the BBBS 5k. Hannah said, “MaKayla never fails to remind me to slow down and enjoy the present moment that we’re in. I adore her kind, vivacious personality, a kid who’s always ready to find animals and explore the world around us.” Having a partner to slow down and explore with can open whole new worlds to both Bigs and Littles.
Things have not always been easy breezy, but Hannah has always been there. No matter what's going on in MaKayla's world she consistently shows up to help however she can, even bringing the whole family dinner. Most importantly, she is there for MaKayla when she needed someone to listen. When a child learns to work through the hard times in a healthy and supported way, it prepares them to be strong and resilient adults. One thing is clear, MaKayla and Hannah have already learned lifelong lessons together, lessons that will have a lasting impact. Something tells us this Match is just getting started, way to be a fantastic team ladies, and congrats again on being our Match of the Month!
Changing Lives-- One Story at a Time.