Mentoring comes full circle

Before she became a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley’s staff as a Program Specialist, Darby Keller was connected to the mission in a different way: She was a Little.

Matched in 2004 when she was seven years old, Darby met her Big, Dawn, and the connection was instant. The pair experienced different activities together and some of Darby’s favorite early memories with Dawn come from the BBBS holiday parties. “Dawn loves to remind me about the first holiday party that we went to in December 2004, and it is one that I’ll never forget,” Darby said. “We were the last people there, since we both wanted to help with clean up, and one of the staff members told me that there were extra presents and said that I could take one if I’d like. Instead, I remember asking to take home three, one for each of my siblings, and Dawn still — to this day — won’t stop reminding me of this moment!”

As Darby grew, their relationship continued into high school, and Dawn supported Darby by coming to her different sporting and choir events. Like many children, Darby experienced changes as she grew, and Dawn was prepared to help her. “As I got older and went through middle school and high school, I started dating, and Dawn was able to talk to me about my relationships,” Darby said. “While I didn’t always want to hear her advice, it was helpful in the long run.”

When the time came to look at colleges, Dawn became an advocate for Darby to search for majors that would be interesting to her and took her on trips to see different schools.

Even when Darby and Dawn did not always agree on everything, having a Big helped Darby grown emotionally and become more independent. “She showed me the love that a Big Sister should show – care, respect, understanding, and someone to listen to that will also provide advice on how to handle situations and my emotions,” Darby said.

No matter what, Dawn stayed by Darby’s side and mentored her. “Dawn stuck by me. She never doubted me, never ignored me and she pushed me even when I didn’t want to be (but needed to be).”

In the Spring semester of her senior year in college, Darby began interning at BBBSLV. During this time, she received an insider view of the mission that BBBS carries while learning about an organization she wanted to work with. After completing her internship in May, Darby was hired as a Program Specialist.

By being a Little and staff member, Darby has a unique insight into mentoring and programs. “For me, the mission stays the same, but I know that it is genuine. The organization genuinely wants to help children, not save us. They want us to have experienced going places, being ourselves and being with someone who can mentor us through difficult times as someone other than a parent”