Meet our October Match of the Month, Danasia and Jenna! This month is also their Match-A-Versary, with them celebrating one whole wonderful year as BBBS team! Over the last twelve months, Danasia and Jenna have connected over their shared love of staying active playing tennis and visiting trampoline parks, doing arts and crafts together, attending BBBS events such as Art Night and the Big Little Fair, and just hanging out together talking. Jenna says that Danasia is positive and fun and helps keep her in that mood also and Danasia says she has had lots of fun this last year. Congratulations on being our Match of the Month and we can’t wait to see what you two accomplish together in the future!
Igniting potential in a Little includes expanding their horizons and teaching them new skills. One of Jenna’s favorite activities is playing tennis and when she introduced Danasia to the game, she really took to it and showed great natural ability. Jenna was so excited to teach Danasia a new activity and Danasia has been having a great time exploring the game. Jenna has also loved not just having the opportunity to encourage Danasia’s natural curiosity and passion for learning, but also being inspired by her to expand her own curiosity. Together, they are having a great time igniting the potential in each other, making them an excellent match!
The best matches empower each other to explore and to grow as people, and that’s definitely been the case with these two! Jenna is a naturally talkative and outgoing person and when they first met, Danasia was quite shy and reserved. Initially, Jenna wasn’t sure how to bridge that communication gap, but by letting Danasia take the lead, she quickly learned how to be more patient. This helped Danasia feel more comfortable with Jenna, and now she is super chatty and loves just hanging out with her Big, talking about anything and everything!
As much fun as Danasia and Jenna have had together playing, shopping, and chatting, great matches also work towards defending the full potential of the Little. As the new school year gets into gear, Danasia has expressed to Jenna that while she’s excited to see all of her friends again, she’s not so excited about the actual school work. Jenna quickly stepped up and volunteered to help Danasia with her homework any time she needed and having another trusted adult there to help her achieve her educational goals goes a long way in defending Danasia’s potential. Congratulations again to this fantastic match. We are so proud of you and wish you more fun and more growth in your second year together!
Meet Jordan and Brandy! This school-based Lunch Buddies match was first brought together at the beginning of 2022 and hit it off immediately. Both have big, outgoing personalities, and share a love of sports, games, going outside and staying active. Having a Big excited to share these loves with him has really made a positive impact on this Little. According to Jordan’s mom, there has already been a great difference in him since being matched with Brandy and he now comes home after school in an improved mood and less angst. Jordan himself says he gives his Big a 10 out of 10, and that’s what makes them our Match of the Month!
Jordan and Brandy bonded quickly over their mutual love and dedication to staying physically active and fit. Over the last six months, they have spent their weekly, 45 minute lunch sessions going outside and playing hands-on games such as tag and duck duck goose, climbing the rock wall at Jordan's school, and just running around being silly. They also attended two outdoor Big Brothers Big Sisters events this summer, enjoying time at a local water park and playing outdoor games with other matches. Sharing these active moments together helps them build trust and communication, and helps them create some amazing memories!
One of the ways Bigs empower their Littles is by making them feel safe and comfortable in sharing their thoughts and feelings. The first several times that they met, Brandy asked Jordan lots of questions, trying to get to know him better. He was always happy to answer, but rarely offered up information about himself and how school was going without being asked. As the match has progressed, Brandy has seen a definite change in how Jordan communicates with her. He is far more open with her now, offering up anecdotes about his inner and outer life without being asked. He also lights up and gives her a great big hug every time he sees her, showing just how much she empowers him to express himself openly.
Brandy loves how Jordan is always himself, no matter what, and is right there ready to encourage and support him in any way she can. When she learned that Jordan was having difficulties with another student in his school, she talked him through it, encouraging him to open up to her about what was going on. Brandy also reached out to other adults in Jordan’s life to find out how best she could help him and her efforts went a long way in helping him work through a potentially tough situation. Knowing that their Big is always on their team and ready to help them work through the challenges of growing up helps the Little increase their confidence and achieve their full potential. Congrats to you both for being such a great team and for being our Match of the Month!
Meet Amaree and Michelle! First connected in 2019, this match has weathered the challenges of the pandemic years with laughter, joy, and great communication. Although Amaree recently graduated from high school, both Big and Little agree that their bond is strong and that their relationship will continue throughout her college years and beyond. This genuine connection and commitment to each other no matter what life throws at them is why they are our August Match of the Month! Congratulations to you both! We wish you nothing but the best in all of your future endeavors!
Despite spending almost a year of their match struggling to find ways to connect within the limits of Covid restrictions, Amaree and Michelle have still been able to make some wonderful memories together. They both have loved trying new cuisines together, sampling foods from around the world, including Cuban, Indian, Thai, and Nigerian, which ended up being a favorite. They’ve also loved riding the Q in Detroit and exploring the shops along Woodward avenue together and even took a few Salsa dancing lessons, both through a BBBS event and at a dance studio in Ann Arbor.
In the best matches, the Big teaches the Little new things and empowers them to expand their horizons and the Little does the same for the Big. That has definitely been the case with Amaree and Michelle! After Michelle introduced Amaree to kayaking, Amaree returned the favor by teaching Michelle how to play chess and playing together online became one of their favorite ways to connect when they couldn’t see each other face to face. This also helped both of them overcome their natural introverted tendencies and reach out to each other. As Michelle put it, “As an individual, I had to overcome taking the lead on communication in a way that I really hadn't before. But I also think it made the moments of easy connection and deep connection sweeter in a way.”
Since the beginning, Michelle has been impressed with Amaree’s intelligence, bravery, sense of adventure, and potential, and has been there to nurture and defend these traits for the last three and a half years. Throughout their match, Michelle has been one of Amaree’s biggest supporters. Now, with Amaree in the process of getting ready to attend EMU and study social work, she knows that she is taking a strengthened sense of personal empowerment and esteem with her and will always have her friend Michelle there to encourage her.
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!
Changing Lives-- One Story at a Time.