Throughout the course of their mentoring relationships, Bigs often discover personal rewards that stem from spending time with their Little. After being matched with her Little Sister Ema for the past seven years, Big Sister Sydney reflects on how they have grown both as individuals as well as friends.
After moving back to the Lehigh Valley from Maryland, Sydney was looking for different volunteer opportunities as a way to get involved in her community and stumbled upon Big Brothers Big Sisters. After watching a few of the agency’s match story videos, Sydney took the leap and at 22, became a Big Sister. Sydney was matched with Ema, an eight-year-old at the time.
“We’ve gone from sitting at diners after school using sugar packets and coffee creamers to create math problems while we waited for our food to sitting at pizza parlors discussing who’s taking who to homecoming,” says Sydney. “What hasn’t always been easy has been worth it, and it is nice to know that as Ema has gotten older, she still values our relationship and understands the impact of the program she is affiliated with.”
Throughout their match, Sydney and Ema have experienced an array of activities and bonding moments. They enjoy going to sporting events together and trying new foods.
“I was a picky eater at her age too, and I remember my cousin making me try foods that I still love today, so I hope she looks back when she is older and thanks me,” jokes Sydney. “I also love the afternoons where we grab Starbucks and go for a walk.”
Ema’s growth is most evident through her maturity as a Girls on the Run coach, a local program that they have been involved in together for the last seven years. With Sydney’s support, Ema has grown from a participant in the program into a leader and role model for young girls.
“Last year, she led a team of 21 girls through a community service impact project. She helped them create rubber band friendship bracelets. The girls each kept one and they gave one to someone who was undergoing chemotherapy at St. Luke’s alongside a handmade card and photo of them wearing their bracelets.”
Ema has provided Sydney with support throughout their match as well.
“This match has given me a support system full of the most genuine people and the skills to be confident with any decision I choose,” says Sydney. “We have both done a lot of growing up over the years. I think it goes without saying that your twenties are incredibly defining. She was such a stable part of my life as I navigated who I was both personally and professionally.”
Sydney’s advice for anyone who is considering becoming a Big is to think of the mentors in their lives and reflect on the ways they’ve changed because of them.
“The most influential people in our lives are usually not the ones we see every day. But they are the ones who continue to show up. They are the ones who offer so much by just offering to be there. And I think my advice is that simple, just be there, continue to show up – everything else falls into place.”
“In two words, my experience is and has been life-changing. This program is much more than a mentor/mentee relationship and I think it is important to highlight that our name embodies what we have become – a family.”