Big Sister Portsha grew up with a very busy single mother. Her mom didn’t really have time to craft or read, or to be silly with Portsha and try to touch the tip of her nose with her tongue, as Portsha liked doing. She was devoted to working and providing for Portsha and didn’t have a lot of spare time. Because of this, Portsha felt she was missing a mentor in her life, so she made mentors for herself out of pop culture icons. “My mentors and role models were the powerful and brave girls and women I would read about in books, like Scout in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ or see in movies, like Disney’s ‘Mulan,’” Portsha says. “And of course, Oprah. Everybody loves Oprah.” By the time she was an adult herself, she knew she wanted to be a real-life mentor for someone, and signing up to be a Big Sister gave her the perfect opportunity.
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.
When Little Brother Marcus was just 3 years old, his aunt took full custody of him because neither of his parents were in a place to raise him. One of his parents was struggling with opioid addiction and the other was not a consistent presence. Marcus has lived with his aunt and four female cousins since then, and he has struggled with dealing with his anger. Marcus often found himself called down to the school office for an outburst in the classroom or on the playground. When he was in first grade, his family received a letter in the mail about a program called “Big Brothers Big Sisters,” and Marcus’s life changed forever.
From a young age, Little Sister Sky felt her life spinning out of control. She grew up in a house with drug use and physical abuse, witnessed her house raided by police, and at one point was physically abused herself. It was then she knew that she couldn’t live there anymore. She moved in with a friend before finding a stable guardian in a different part of town. She found even more stability when she was matched with her Big Sister Jess.
At the age of 2, Little Brother Baylee lost his eyesight. As he grew up, his mother wanted a mentor for him because his dad wasn’t involved in his life, but she wasn’t sure if there would be a Big Brother who would be willing to be matched with a Little who is blind. Big Brother Al didn’t balk at being matched with a blind Little Brother, and they have been now been matched for nearly eight years.
Little Sister Starr was matched with Big Sister Marilyn when she was 5 years old. At the time, she was being raised by her mother and her grandmother, and her mom was struggling with health and addiction issues. It would have been easy for Starr to grow up with a limited view of what was possible for her, but spending time with Marilyn helped her avoid that. “I have looked at Marilyn’s house and thought ‘I can have a house like this,’” Starr says. “I can have a bedroom like this. I don’t have to live in public housing anymore.” With Marilyn by her side, Starr knows her potential is unlimited.
When Hurricane Harvey was about to hit Houston, Big Brother Andrew called his Little Brother Javier’s mom to make sure they had the supplies they needed. A single mom working constantly to make ends meet, she hadn’t yet had a chance to go to the store to buy things like extra bottles water and packs of batteries. “I still remember when I got home from work and looked at the food and the necessary things that Andrew had brought us,” Javier’s mom says. “I wanted to cry because only a good-hearted person does that for other people and that person is Andrew.” The action was just another on the long list of times Andrew has been there for his Little Brother Javier and his family.
Just as her match with her Little Sister Amari was approaching the one-year mark, Big Sister Lindsay got some big news – she would be starting a new job. The one catch was that she’d have to move two hours away. The last thing she wanted to do was end her relationship with Amari, who had already experienced so much loss and change in her life. Faced with the decision of closing her match with Amari or seeing her less often, Lindsay talked through the options with their Match Support Specialist and then Amari’s grandmother before deciding to keep the match going and making the most of their less-frequent visits.
Little Brother Jolen’s mom says she knew early on how important it would be for Jolen to have someone to look up to, so she enrolled him as a Little when he was just 6. “His father had been incarcerated since he was a baby, and I wanted him to have a network of positive men doing positive things,” Jolen mom says. When Jolen was 9, he finally got his Big Brother. He was matched with the Murray, who he calls “Mr. Miller.” Last June, after five years of being the role model that Jolen needed and his mom wanted, Murray was named the National Big Brother of the Year.
When Little Sister Saleen was 6 years old, she lost her father. At school, her teacher knew she wasn’t coping well with the loss, so they referred her to Big Brothers Big Sisters. She was matched with Myra, who became her Big Sister and began visiting her at school once a week. The two connected instantly, but their match hasn’t been without obstacles. Early on, Myra noticed patches of Saleen’s thick brown hair were missing, and discovered she was pulling out her hair to cope with the loss of her father. With the guidance of her Match Support Specialist, Myra decided to bring supplies to Saleen’s school and help her make a memory book about her father, so they could talk about the happy, positive memories she had of her dad. In June, when Myra was recognized as the National Big Sister of the Year, Saleen stood confidently next to her as she accepted the award and received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Jacquelyn knew the toll that having an incarcerated parent could take on a child, as her father had been incarnated most of her life. When she heard about Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Amachi program, which matches mentors with children who have incarcerated parents, she signed up to be a Big Sister to help a child in a familiar situation.