Real Life Stories

The Girl’s Got Swagger

With Kate, Cindy’s confidence flourishes

Cindy and her Big Sister see eye-to-eye, but not just because they are both well under 5 feet tall. The pair have so much in common that it’s as if they’ve been friends for their entire lives. However, before Cindy met Kate, she was shy and consumed by self-doubt. Thanks to a night at the opera, her stepfather began noticing a definite “change in Cindy’s swagger.”

Cindy is a smart, beautiful 11-year-old girl, who is highly trained in martial arts, but her stepfather Leroy says that socially she was nervous and unsure. “She’s a bit of a tom-boy,” he says.

As the oldest of five children, Cindy is the big sister, so she lacked that older sister figure to provide her guidance. “Maybe she doesn’t want to tell mom and dad everything,” Leroy explains. “She needed her own time, her own getaway.” Cindy feels connected with Kate because they both have siblings—in fact, they both have younger sisters—so they can easily relate. “If I talk to her and tell her my problems,” Cindy explains, “she knows exactly what I mean. Like, she told me that her sister was a different type of skin color, but they were sisters no matter what.”

Oftentimes, Kate will be on her way to run an errand and call Cindy to see if she’d like to tag along for the ride. One Saturday afternoon, Kate took Cindy shopping to find a birthday present for her little brother, then accompanied Cindy to the 3 year old’s birthday party. Cindy and her younger siblings were ecstatic, and Leroy says, “That’s when we knew she really cared about Cindy and about our family. It showed Cindy that Kate truly is her Big Sister.”

So, in April, the tom-boy from Arizona slipped on a fancy evening gown and accompanied her Big Sister to the opera. Kate and Cindy will forever share memories of giggling at the highest soprano voices, but Leroy knows that his stepdaughter left the theater with something far more valuable. “Kate opens her up to be confident, which is internalizing in everything else she does. It’s given her a boost—her swagger is different.”

Cindy and Kate are “Twi-Hearts”—extreme fans of the Twilight saga. They speak both English and Spanish together. They enjoy basketball and have gone to a Phoenix Mercury game, Arizona’s professional women’s team. They’ve been skating, enjoy backyard BBQs, and last summer, they went swimming together. But more than anything, the pair enjoys their visits to the bookstore. “It’s somewhere I can talk to her more,” Cindy explains.

Sometimes their trips to the bookstore are impromptu. Cindy had a problem in school, Leroy recalls, where she and her friends were making fun of other girls. “That was not ok with her mother and me. Kate decided to transition their planned outing and took Cindy to the bookstore. They looked up articles and talked about them,” he said. “It was a way to bring Cindy back to base and let her know this is not how you treat people. Kate really embodies a true sister—much more than what we ever could have asked for.”

Since Cindy has been spending time with her Big Sister, she reports that her relationship with her mother has significantly improved as well. A short time back, she and her mother dealt with some mistrust issues. When Cindy asked Kate for advice, Kate said that sometimes there might be consequences to her actions, but lying will only compound and escalate the situation. Cindy says, “Kate tells me that she’s close with her mom—that her mom is someone she can always talk to. I think that my mom and I could be closer like that.”

Leroy grew up in the inner city, so he understands the influence that a positive role model can have in a child’s life. “I came from the ‘hood. I’ve seen how other programs work, and none are as effective as Big Brothers Big Sisters. Even if you take a child away from his or her family and put them with a group of other children, there is still level of embarrassment. Maybe I want to cry, maybe I’m scared, but I still have to act cool in front of other kids and not say anything. But with this one-on-one relationship, they can completely be themselves while alone with their Bigs.”

“What are the objectives in parenting?” Leroy continues. “You want your child to grow up and be confident with good self esteem, do well academically and financially, and treat themself and others well. In my opinion, signing up your child for Big Brothers Big Sisters is one of the best things you can do because it will help your child grow up to be rich emotionally, economically and spiritually.”

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