Meet Zaza and Crystal. This 9-year match started as part of a school-based program when Zaza was in 3rd grade. Now Zaza is in her senior year of high school, and this match has truly become family. Zaza is very connected to Crystal’s children and Crystal has gotten close to Zaza’s mom. For everything they have come through together, and for the relationship this match has built, they certainly have earned Match of the Month. Big congrats to you both!
When this match first began Crystal would meet Zaza at school for lunch once a week. 9 years later, the first time they sat down to have lunch together is still one of Zaza’s favorite memories. She says it felt good to have someone she could sit and talk to about anything, especially at a young age. While at school Crystal had the opportunity to observe Zaza in action with her peers and teachers. This allowed her to speak more directly to Zaza’s questions and concerns, and help her build stronger relationships with her community. When a youth has a trusted adult’s undivided attention, it helps them open up, and builds their confidence to ask difficult questions.
Eventually, Zaza and Crystal transitioned to a Community Based match. This opened up a lot of new opportunities for them to get out and try new things together. They have been roller skating, road roller coasters, seen plays and baseball games. Through all of it they still made time for their heart-to-heart chats. Their commitment to being open and honest with each other, helped Zaza’s confidence in herself and her abilities grow. In Zaza’s words, Crystal helped her feel “comfortable in her own skin.” It’s hard to think of something more empowering than learning to love yourself. Youth that have that confidence dream bigger because they believe in themselves.
Having a successful 9 year match is not all sunshine and rainbows. Zaza and Crystal have faced many obstacles along the way, including scheduling complications, Zaza’s mom getting sick, Crystal having her son, and the Covid-19 Pandemic. They came through all of it, together. When Zaza graduates this match will officially close, but the bonds they built riding the highs and weathering the lows are so much bigger than the age limits of our program. They know they will still have each other’s back. Sisters, always. Way to be an amazing team ladies, we are so proud of you!
Meet Phoenix and Jacob! This match was first formed in the fall of the Pandemic and began their relationship virtually. Since then their long-term goal has become to just hang out and try new things together. They both appreciate the simple things like, just getting out of the house and going for a drive. Phoenix and Jacob rate their match a 10 out of 10, and so do we, BIG congrats to you two on being the Match of the Month.
Jacob is very fond of how often Phoenix will call or text him just to get out of the house. He is always happy to show up, and be there for his Little. Sometimes they hit up one of their favorite spots, others they try something new. They have made milkshakes, baked cookies, and watched movies. The important thing is, when Phoenix calls, Jacob shows up. That simple act builds the kind of trust that gives a kid the confidence to open up and grow.
From the very beginning of this match had to work on building trust. Phoenix had a previous match that ended abruptly and was very concerned Jacob would do the same. When Jacob went on vacation to Texas, Phoenix called him very worried because he hadn’t heard from him in a week. Jacob took a break from his vacation to call Phoenix back, remind him where he was, apologize for scaring him, and assure him he wasn’t going anywhere. When an adult empathizes with a child’s fear, and takes the time to make them feel safe, it shows the child that they are cared for and important.
Phoenix is excited to make the transition back into the classroom this fall, and see his friends. He has expressed that he knows if he runs into any trouble, or needs help adjusting Jacob will be there. He knows because Jacob is always there, and because Jacob told him he was happy to help with school. When a child knows there is someone reliable in their corner, it gives them the courage to face things that might otherwise seem intimidating or scary, because they know they are not doing it alone. Way to be an amazing team Phoenix and Jacob, you definitely deserve to be our Match of the Month!
We want to tell you Kendrick and Drew's story. This camera shy match, has been together since 2017. Kendrick is 18, and about to graduate, which means their match is about to close, but that's not bringing these two down. As Kendrick put it, “We are brothers till the end.” Drew mentioned that Kendrick is just part of his life now, and he is excited to see what comes next. We love it when matches build bonds that stretch beyond their time in our program, congrats to you both on being our Match of the Month!
Kendrick describes Drew as someone who listens and is trustworthy. Drew shared that it was important to him that Kendrick saw him as someone he could always talk to. Whether Drew is attending Kendrick’s Games, or just picking up the phone when he calls, Kendrick knows Drew has always got his back and is willing to listen. Having a relationship like that builds confidence and resilience in youth, because they know no matter what life throws at them there will be someone standing by their side.
Kendrick plays football and basketball, and Drew attends his games when he can. Drew makes a point of trying to connect with Kendrick after the game to check in. Even if the game didn’t go his way, Kendrick knows Drew will be there to talk it out. Having someone there to listen when life challenges them, gives youth a safe space to grow and learn from their mistakes.
Drew is always there for Kendrick, in good times and bad. When Kendrick’s mother passed away, he called Drew. Drew went to the hospital to support Kendrick. Even on one of his darkest days, Drew still showed up. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to be there for Kendrick. Kendrick can graduate and move into adulthood with his chin up, and ready to take on the world, because he knows no matter what comes next he is never standing alone. Congratulations again, and thank you for being part of our BBBS story, best of luck to you both!
Meet Aniya and Lisa, these two have been matched since 2012 and are still going strong! Lisa says she knew her and Aniya were the perfect match right away, because their personalities clicked so well. Aniya says that while they have done a lot of amazing things together, it’s the little things she holds on to, like making pizza together. We are so proud of you both, you totally deserve to be our Match of The Month!
These two have had a lot of memorable adventures over the years, from standing on the field with the Lions, to seeing the Harlem Globe Trotters. But both Aniya and Lisa recall Cirque du Soleil as one of their most memorable outings. Aniya recalls seeing the show as a young child as “magical.” When youth are given the opportunity for new experiences it Ignites their Potential, opening their minds up to new possibilities, and fueling bigger dreams.
Lisa described her relationship with Aniya as something that, “has impacted her beyond words.” She says she loves that they push each other outside of their comfort zones. As they experience new things together both Big and Little Sister have seen their confidence grow. Aniya says Lisa has taught her to venture out and meet new people, make the best of situations, and most importantly make memories with the people you love. In the 9 years they have been together these two have Empowered each other to learn and grow as a team.
Aniya reflected on how things have changed during the pandemic, and admitted to sometimes feeling a bit hopeless in the face of its challenges. She said, “I have to look back and think about all the wonderful memories I made with people who truly love me and have my best interest at heart. And when I reminisce of all the spectacular adventures me and Lisa have been on and all the funny moments. It helps me get through the days in hopes that things will be normal again and we'll be able to continue our adventures.” Building the life skills it takes to show resilience when times are tough is a huge part of teaching children to become Defenders of their own Potential. Job well done Aniya and Lisa, congratulations again on being the Match of The Month!
Meet Daliylah and Emmy. This match was introduced last Fall and have begun to build their mentoring relationship in so many ways – getting together in-person when it was safe to go to bookstores and the park….and over the Winter staying connected virtually through Facetime, doing arts and crafts projects together and talking about their day, and school, and what they wanted to do when it gets warmer. They’re excited for Spring, as it means that they can resume meetings and going to park – always something good for the soul, sunshine and fresh air.
Daliylah’s mom got her and her older sister involved in the program because she had a Big Sister when she was younger and really enjoyed the program. She wanted Daliylah to have diverse opportunities, experiences and people in her life. On one of their first outings, they went to Olive Garden where Daliylah really wanted to try calamari, so the pair decided to take the plunge together. Giving young people the opportunity to try new things, and have those experiences with them, can be so powerful. Showing them that you can try, and learn new things, as an adult can be so powerful.
Emmy has also supported Daliylah with her reading skills. Not only have they visited local bookstores, but Daliylah has been able to pick out books she likes, to help instill that love of reading. When we give kids voice and choice, it goes much further in helping them develop skills and improve.
They’ve been able to make fun and lasting memories together, as well. For Daliylah, that was seeing a movie together that she’d really wanted to see – and afterwards she could not stop talking about how much fun she had with Emmy on that outing. And for Emmy, it was a visit they’d made to her house when Daliylah met her cat and roommate for the first time. She had such a good time and gave hugs all around before leaving. Creating additional social circles and building the social capital of young people gives them a stronger web of support to learn and grow as they develop.
This match is just one of many who have figured out how to build their relationship in-person and virtually over the last year. No small feat. Congratulations on being our Match of the Month.
Meet Saif & Laurin, this match has been together for almost 3 years. Their connection has remained strong through the pandemic. They have stayed connected through Words With Friends, virtual yoga and cooking classes, as well as Zoom movie nights. They are an inspiring example of how to stay connected and stay safe. Way to go you two, and congrats on being our Match of The Month!
When Saif & Laurin were fist matched, Saif said he was looking for someone to open him up to new things, and have new adventures with. Laurin came along and sparked his interest in the environment and community service through recycled art projects and cleaning up Gallup Park. Learning to see how little actions can have a big impact, can teach a Little to see that they have the potential to change the world around them.
Saif & Laruin both love to cook, pre-pandemic they attended a cooking class and made pizza together, it is still one of their favorite outings. Laurin has continued to support Saif’s passion through cookbooks and virtually cooking sessions via Zoom. By supporting Saif in this way, Laurin is empowering him to explore and grow through something that matters to him. This kind of support also builds the confidence for a child to grow beyond what they previously thought was possible.
As Saif’s and Laurin’s relationship has grown over the years, Laurin has had the opportunity to help Saif through some of the more challenging parts of growing up. They have had conversations around how to set healthy boundaries, and navigate emotional hardships. When Littles learn these complex skill sets it gives them the ability to defend their own potential, even when an adult isn’t present. Saif and his mother have expressed a deep gratitude for Laurin's empathy, kindness and openness. Laurin said it has been a gift to get to know Saif and his family. Stories like this are why we do what we do, you two make a great team, and congrats again on being the Match of The Month.
Meet Shareese and Lauren, this match has only been together since this summer, but they have managed to pack the last few months with loads of learning and growth. They met the challenges of COVID-19 restrictions by getting outside and connecting over Zoom. They have set two goals for themselves, try new things, and help Shareese with school work. Sounds like a great plan to us, congrats to you both on being the Match of the Month!
When this match was first formed Lauren loved to be outside, but Shareese did not have a lot of interest in outdoor endeavors. As they bonded, and maintained COVID safety protocols, Lauren had many opportunities to share her love of the outdoors with Shareese. Now Shareese looks forward to heading outdoors to spend some one-on-one time with Lauren. When a Little learns to love something that was formally outside of their comfort zone, it builds their confidence and curiosity, making them more open to other new experiences.
Nothing is more empowering to a Little than to feel like their opinion is heard and matters. Lauren makes a point of sharing power with Shareese, by making sure she has a say in their planned activities. When the weather turned cold, this match decided to pick a Netflix show that they could watch together over Zoom. After some discussion they landed on the show, Reign, and have very much been enjoying their virtual watch sessions.
As the bonds of trust grew between Shareese and Lauren, Shareese began to open up about some of her struggles in school, and with mental health. Lauren did a fantastic job of both listening to Shareese, and asking follow up questions to make sure she really understood what Shareese was trying to share with her. Together they came up with an action plan to help with both areas. Shareese’s school performance has improved since the match began. When a Big sets a Little up with an action plan to navigate tough situations, it gives them a road map to follow when they need to make important decisions on their own. Way to be an amazing team ladies, you definitely deserve to be Match of the Month.
We told you Ben and Dewon’s story when they were our Match of the Month back in February of last year. When we last checked in with them it was right before everything shut down in March. Since then they have gone through the continuing health crisis as a team. Ben has gone out of his way to stay connected to Dewon, even inviting Dewon and his mom into his backyard for a safe outdoor BBQ. His commitment to his Little and his consistent support of the BBBS program, are what set Ben apart as our Big Brother of the Year. Big congratulations to you Ben, you have earned this!
Ben and Dewon celebrated two years of being matched in June, in that time they have made a point of exploring many new things. Reflecting on their journey together, Ben shared that he was most excited to watch Dewon continue to grow and become more confident in himself. He also shared that they overcame some fears together and it’s exciting to watch. A consistent and reliable mentor like Ben, who is not afraid to challenge growth, can be the key that helps unlock a Littles confidence, helping them find the courage to do things they didn’t think they could.
Ben and Dewon have worked together on the importance of healthy habits and hard work. From cooking healthy meals and enjoying smoothies, to working out as a team, Ben has both set an example for Dewon and encouraged him to stay motivated. Ben also makes sure that progress made, and goals achieved are always celebrated. When a Little’s efforts are both supported and rewarded, it encourages further progress and bigger goals.
When the pandemic hit and Washtenaw County shut down, Ben rolled up his sleeves and got involved. He volunteered to help us deliver food to our families who did not have transportation, or had at risk family members in the home. When asked about his experience delivering groceries he talked about how rewarding it was to give back to the community during such a difficult time. It’s Ben’s desire to give BIG that made him our Big Brother of the Year. Congrats again to both Ben and Dewon, matches like yours are an inspiration to us all!
You met Big Sister Zakiya and her Little Sister Autumn when they were the Match of the Month in July last year. Since then you have seen them together in our Empower Resilience campaign. This match will not be separated by the current health crisis or the cold weather. In addition to staying connected to her Little, Zakiya has helped Autumn grow, and advocated for our program in the community. She is everything we look for in a Big and we wholeheartedly congratulate her on being the Big Sister of the Year!
Autumn said that her favorite thing about having Zakiya as a Big is that she is kind. She also said she loves going on outings with Zakiya and, “just getting to know her.” Having a mentor that you can trust to show up, and have your back makes a huge impact on Littles like Autumn. It builds their confidence, both in themselves and their ability to do new things. Knowing that, that bond is reliable even in the most uncertain times, can be a guide when life gets hard.
Zakiya goes out of her way to celebrate Autumn’s accomplishments. Autumn is an excellent student, she is always on top of her school work, and adjusted quickly to learning from home. Zakiya lets Autumn know how awesome her academic achievement is by regularly bragging about how smart her Little Sister is. She made an extra effort to celebrate Autumn when she earned the Student of the Month award. When Little’s feel celebrated in this way it emphasizes the value of their hard work and motivates them to keep it up.
Zakiya not only goes out of her to be an amazing Big to Autumn, but she also goes above and beyond by giving additional time and financial support to our program. She helped with our Adopt-A-Family program this year. On #GiveBigDay, when we asked our volunteers to help us fundraise, Zakiya was there for that too. She is willing to go the extra mile, even when that mile is a difficult climb, and that is what set her apart as our Big Sister of the Year. Congrats to both Zakiya and Autumn, you are an amazing match and we can’t wait to see what you do in 2021.
Meet Mike and Dior. From their very first outing to Washtenaw Community College to view art exhibits these two have been expanding each other’s horizons. Between sporting events and restaurants, to finding ways to stay connected through the current health crisis these two have inspired each other to dream big and give more. Congrats to you both on being our December, Match of the Month!
One of Dior and Mike’s favorite outings was going to see U of M play. It was Dior’s first trip to The Big House, and he was able to meet Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Super Star Charles Woodson. Dior also met other influential men that talked with him about his interests and things that he would like to pursue as a profession. The memorable experience made a big impact on Dior.
Dior and Mike often use their travel time to check-in and chat about how Dior is doing in school and at home. When Dior feels that he is struggling, Mike is always there to listen and offer advice and resources to help Dior feel confident in himself and his abilities. By both demonstrating faith in his Little, and challenging his growth, Mike is empowering Dior to make his own healthy choices.
Mike has said that Dior’s attitude, ability, and grace give him energy and inspire him to give back more to his community. He also said that he has seen others be inspired by Dior’s integrity and devotion to his family and friends. When an adult looks at a youth with such esteem and regard, it builds their sense of self-worth. This gives them the confidence to stand and defend their own inherent potential.
Changing Lives-- One Story at a Time.