Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC is proud to announce our 2018 nominee for Big Sister of the Year: Dana Schiffman of BBBS Buncombe County! Congrats Dana!
Each year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America affiliates nominate local mentors to be considered for the Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year award for their state. A host of criteria are considered in the selection process, including how effective the relationship has been in assisting the child to achieve positive outcomes in the face of obstacles. Each chairperson for each state additionally looks at each “Little” brother or sister’s improvement in social emotional wellness such as self confidence and relationships with peers and family as well as how invested and active the nominated “Big” volunteer has been in engaging their community in the mission and work of BBBS.
Dana Schiffman’s nomination will now go on to be reviewed by the state board that is also reviewing all nominees for North Carolina BBBS affiliates, and they will send their finalists on to be reviewed nationally next month!
Dana was first matched with her Little Sister, Jasmine, 3 and a half years ago in BBBS’ Community-Based Program, and their relationship has grown profoundly during that time—largely because of the diversity of experiences they have had together and the level of support and non-judgement that Dana has brought to Jasmine through thick and thin.
One of the activities they enjoy doing together is crafting. Jasmine received a sewing machine for Christmas a couple of years ago and Dana was the one who taught her how to use it—since then, they have made several projects, including a stuffed dog. They also enjoy cooking together, so much so that when given the choice for her birthday of going to the trampoline park, going out for dinner and a movie, or having a spa day, Jasmine didn’t want to do any of these—instead, she wanted to go to Dana’s house and bake brownies.
Dana has always empowered Jasmine to believe in herself and follow her interests and passions. Recently, it was during one of their cooking escapades that Jasmine declared a change in her career ambition: she wants to become a chef!
“Dana has taught me so many things while I’ve been with her, like never give up on the things that you love to do and to always do what you love not what other people want you to do,” wrote Jasmine in her essay nominating Dana for Big of the Year.
“Because of Dana, when I graduate high school I am going to pursue my dreams and go to culinary school since I really enjoy baking. There was a time when me and Dana were baking and decorating different types of cookies like chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, and gingerbread, and we learned different ways to bake and prepare them which was really interesting and fun. That same day was the day that I truly knew that I really loved baking and decided that I wanted to continue to do what I love and bake and cook for others and myself,” Jasmine writes.
But like any deep bond, the road has not been completely straight or easy. A couple of years ago, Jasmine made a very bad choice and got into some fairly serious trouble. But Dana was there and able to talk to her about the situation in a non-punitive way, helping Jasmine understand the gravity of the situation, and with Dana’s support and guidance, Jasmine was able to make amends, rectify the situation, and get back on track. She has had no further problems of this sort since then.
Reflecting on her experience, Dana writes: “At some point in our first year we went to an event where we had dinner with people who made and donated bikes the kids of BBBS. As an introvert, I was nervous about conversing with a table of people I didn’t know. That thought didn’t even phase Jasmine. She launched into her “Question Game” where she would ask 5 questions about a particular person, and someone else would have to guess the answer. By the end of the dinner, the entire table was raucous with laughter and people from other tables were walking over to see what the excitement was. She has a magnetic personality.”
Dana says that her experience as a Big has helped her to broaden her own horizons: transcending her introvert tendencies and going out with her Little Sister and doing more of the things that she loves, “With Jasmine, I go out more often and allow myself to do things I have always liked, but never had anyone to do them with,” she says”
“Dana was able and willing to expose Jasmine to life experiences that I am not able to show her or maybe just not right now while I am continuously growing myself,” says Jasmie’s mother, Samantha, who is currently a full time RN student. “It might feel odd to some to think that your child is having these intimate moments without you, but I would choose to have it no other way.”
In addition to all of the enriching ways Dana is impacting her Little’s life: academically, emotionally and in building life-skills—she has been a tremendous advocate and support for the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization: helping facilitating sponsorships for our Bowl For Kids’ Sake annual fundraiser, serving as secretary on our board of directors, and tirelessly being present and speaking at our outreach events.
Many thanks for all you do, Dana!