Monday, October 3, 2011

Bigs and Littles

For those of you who don't know, I'm a Big Sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters.  I know, it's so "do-gooder" of me, and I have come to enjoy it even though it's been a bumpy road at times.  I participate in a school-based program for students who are enrolled in the Doorways Scholarship program in the State of Florida, which requires the kids to have BBBS mentors and keep high GPAs through all of middle school and high school.  Their families must meet income requirements to show that they're in need of this assistance to send their kids to college, so there are several variables that have to fall into place for the kids to be eligible for the scholarship. 

This is now my third school year as a BBBS mentor at a middle school in St. Petersburg.  For the previous two years, I mentored a young girl named Ahmeda.  She seemed very sweet, but it was really tough because she never wanted to open up to me and talk to me, depsite my best efforts to learn about her, engage her in conversation about topics she cares about, etc.  I literally tried everything I could think of, attended mentoring classes to find new ways to reach her, and worked with my BBBS Match Manager on ways we could get her to talk to me more.  One week we made progress, then the next time we met it was back to square one.  I was so frustrated at times and felt like neither one of us was getting anything out of our time together, so I thought about giving up on it.  At the end of the day, though, I knew it wasn't the right thing to do, to give up when things got hard and leave a girl without a mentor that she's required to have.  At the end of the last school year, Ahmeda finished middle school and went to high school, and I was given the choice to continue on with her to high school, get a new mentee at the middle school or quit altogether.  I decided to make another go at it and get a new mentee.  I knew it couldn't get any worse than what I'd been through with Ahmeda.

So, this year I got a new Little Sister, JaLeah.  I'd post a picture of her on here, but there are legal reasons why I'm not allowed to photograph the students, and that's fine.  So I'll describe her and you can envision her in your mind.  JaLeah is 12 years old and lives with both of her parents and little brother.  She said that her dad is Indian and her mom is African American, and she loves that she has such a unique combination of ethnicities.  She is sort of a tomboy, but wants to be more girly as she grows up.  I can totally help her with that.  She LOVES to play softball and loves eating at McDonald's, and she admits that she doesn't have one single best friend.  She says she has several friends that she can talk to openly, though, so that's good.  Every kid needs that.  Like all of the kids in middle school these days, she wears very colorful clothing, skinny jeans and either Nike sneakers or Converse.  I think this is their new school uniform because every single kid is dressed exactly the same way, just with variation on the color of the articles of clothing.  Totally typical of that age, where everyone's trying to fit in.  Meeting with JaLeah on Friday made me realize why I wanted to be a mentor in the first place.  We had a long, easy conversation, and she got more talkative the longer we chatted and as I asked her more questions.  She loves that I have a dog and come from a small family like hers, and I really think we're going to hit it off.

I know that the middle school years are tough ages for kids.  Hell, those were the hardest years of growing up for me, so I KNOW what these kids are going through and why they may not trust strange adults with unknown motivations.  I'm just glad that I had such a good experience meeting my new Little on Friday, and I can't wait to see what the upcoming school year has in store for us.

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Tampa, Florida, United States
I'm a wife, daughter and amazing twin sister. I'm a mom to my adorable dog, Bella. Loves: Shopping, cooking, baking, good grammar and Dave Matthews Band. I'm also a Bath and Body Works addict, a Michigan State Spartans fanatic, and an iPhone aficionado. I see beauty in simple things and little things make me ever-so-happy. Welcome to my world!

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