When Little Sister Esmeralda learned she was failing the third grade, she turned to her Big Sister for help. When they first started reading together, she could barely read the menu. When she pulled the fortune from a fortune cookie and began to read it aloud to Chelsea, she stopped in the middle because she got to a word she didn’t know, too embarrassed to keep trying. Together, they began working on Esmeralda’s reading and building her confidence. After a year of reading books each time they met, Esmeralda passed third grade.
Each match between a Big and a Little is special. Each has its first match meeting, its own obstacles to overcome, and ultimately its own outcomes in the lives changed. Each match has its own story, some of which you will read here. Our match stories are called “Big Impacts” because they celebrate not just the impact of the Big on the Little, but also the impact of the match on the families, the impact of the Little on the Big, and the impact of the Big Brothers Big Sisters agency that supported everyone along the way.
At their first match meeting, Big Brother Harrison and Little Brother Michael’s match support specialist and Michael’s mom left them alone to get to know one another. “We played basketball and talked for what must have been two hours,” Harrison says. “It got to the point that [Michael’s mom] said she would go home and I could drop him off when we got done, since we were having so much fun.” The fun and connection haven’t stopped for almost four years.
Ajaea was 5 when her mother died suddenly. With her father incarcerated, she and her sister went to live with their grandmother. Losing her mom left Ajaea feeling lost and scared. She would barely leave her grandmother’s side. She was matched with Big Sister Shari, and she began to share her feelings and cope with her grief. “She told me I could always talk to her about anything,” Ajaea says, “and I started to do just that.”
Elijah’s grandmother prayed that a mentor would come into her grandson’s life. With both his mom and dad out of the picture, he didn’t know how to deal with the extraordinary loss in his life. Instead, he acted out in school. He was even expelled from kindergarten. His grandmother was at a loss as to what to do next, and then he was matched with Big Brother Jamie.
When Big Sister Ann first volunteered to become a Big, she envisioned being matched with a Little Sister. But the waiting list for Big Brothers is often much longer than the waiting list for Big Sisters, so she was matched through BBBS of Middle Tennessee with Little Brother Darius, a confident and positive 11-year-old who plans to go to Vanderbilt University.
In the middle of last season, Little Brother Aden’s basketball coach quit the team. Without a coach, they wouldn’t be able to play the rest of the season, so Big Brother Kevin stepped up and became the new coach. In the process, he showed his Little Brother what true commitment means.
Little Sister Breyonne’ is a 12-year-old activist and philanthropist. In fifth grade, she saw that her route home from school was dangerous, so she tried to secure a crossing guard. “All my friends walk home from school, and I did not think it was safe,” she says. “Some have to walk over a mile home and cross busy streets.” She didn’t just talk to the principal. With her Big Sister, she took her fight to the City Council.
In third grade, Kaleb was sent out of class almost every day because of his disruptive behavior. He often got suspended from school entirely. Having a supportive mom and great teachers trying to guide him wasn’t enough – Kaleb needed a Big Brother.
Little Sister Samantha beamed confidently from the pageant stage. Watching from the crowd, her Big Sister thought about the shy little girl her Little used to be. On stage, Samantha was almost a different person. “She exuded a confidence that I would have never known existed when I first met her,” Big Sister Megan says.
Smoking, drinking, and skipping school are thought of as teenage problems. But when your childhood has been a rollercoaster of loss and abuse, everything is accelerated. At age 10, Little Brother Nick already found himself ditching class and abusing alcohol. He finally turned things around with the help of his Big Brother.