Category Archives: Big Blog

Big Brothers Big Sisters Spends An Afternoon with Hood Huggers International

Last week, four Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC staff members and esteemed local Big Brother of five years Jeff Paul spent an afternoon with DeWayne Barton of Hood Huggers International as he led us on his “Hood Tour: a journey through an ever-evolving patchwork of sites that all play an important part in weaving the history of Asheville’s African American community.

“I heard about the Hood Tour through a teacher at Francine Delany, and it seemed like a great opportunity to learn about the history of African-American communities in Asheville,” says BBBS WNC Assistant Director Jamye Davis.  

“As local citizens—and in our work with families and mentors at Big Brothers Big Sisters—it’s important for our staff to learn about and appreciate the rich history of African-Americans in Asheville over many decades and the societal, cultural and economic factors that affect African-Americans in Asheville today,” she says. 

On its home page Hood Huggers describes the tour thus: “Hood Tours is an intimate, interactive experience that is guaranteed to leave you looking at this mountain town with new eyes,” and that is exactly what the tour accomplishes. 

Before integration, Stephens-Lee High School [Pictured in top photo] was not just esteemed as local educational institution—but people came from all over the WNC to enroll. “This  school  was called ‘Castle on the Hill’, and it was a very powerful looking place that was producing a high quality product of students, and teachers,” says Barton. 
Beginning at Stephens-Lee Recreation Center on the east side and wrapping up at the Arthur R. Edington Education and Career Center on the south side—the individuals and landmarks featured in the tour change a bit each time explained Barton, but what is consistent is that the individuals and institutions highlighted consistently weave a story that gives participants a deeper understanding of Asheville’s African American community—its history and its heritage. 

Check out the photos for a window into the story the Hood Tour helped to tell: 

“In 2007, those disparities [between the local white and black communities and white and black high school students] have grown. They’ve gotten worse [since the time of integration],” explains DeWayne Barton
When renovating the gymnasium of Stephens-Lee High School to create what is now the Stephens-Lee Recreation Center, the community insisted the gym’s original wall be preserved as is. The wall itself bears thousands of marks from past students and athletes who have scrawled and carved their initials and graduation years into the wooden panels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original wall of the Stephens-Lee high Gym has many stories to tell—scrawled in pencil, pen, knife marks—a plethora of messages with a plethora of mediums: “Tinch Parks Class of ’49”
Painted by local organization Just Folks in 2012, over 270 linear feet of murals in Triangle Park depict real stories of real people and local historical heroes of The Block—the historically black neighborhood in downtown Asheville that houses the park. As we walked from mural to mural, Barton narrated the particular story depicted on each panel: some illustrated The Block’s everyday heroes of days past, other one’s features cultural icons, political activists and other movers and shakers. Now, as The Block faces a future of serious gentrification (evidenced by a new Hilton-owned hotel being erected adjacent to the park)—like many other historically African American neighborhoods—Barton’s hope is that Triangle Park will remain as a permanent installment—”a planted flag”—and a tribute to the neighborhood’s creators and original heroes. 
“The land St. Matthias was built upon was donated by Mr. Patton—and we know that Mr. Patton was the second largest slave owner in Western North Carolina—second only to Mr. Woodfin. He donated the land and his daughter also played a role in helping to establish the church before the other early African American leaders said ‘Ok—we’ve got it from here.’ St. Matthias used to be called ‘Freedom Chapel’ and when you do the reading, a lot of early schools for African Americans were started in the church.” -Dewayne Barton
This mural panel at Triangle Park in The Block neighborhood depicts African American convict railroad workers who were leased by the state of North Carolina to build the railroad leading from Asheville to Murphy. Soon after emancipation, the practice of states leasing convicts for compulsory non-paid labor became common—and “gave birth to the modern prison industrial complex” explains Barton.

 

 

A ‘Great Story’ from Americorps’ Project MARS

Each quarter, Americorps collects “Great Stories” from our 18 members throughout the region about their experiences assisting regional youth in their classrooms.

This month’s story comes from Americorps member Charlie Page: 

Fifth grade is a hard year: it’s transitory, they’re no longer the ‘kids’ of fourth grade in their minds— although at the beginning of the year developmentally they’re not that far away. In our case, they’ve also moved from the elementary “South Wing” to the middle school “North Wing,” which has its own connotations of autonomy and power.

Fifth grade can also be a big hormonal change for many of the students. In assisting with the fifth grade, I was usually met with frustrated glares, emotional angst and a lot of uncooperative students.

Each grade has performances based on units of study. There are two performances: he first is presented to other students of the school and the second is an evening performance for parents. Recently, the fifth grade had an informal informative performance,  called an “Informance’ that was about the human body systems they had studied in science class. Students had written songs and even short dance phrases designed to exemplify the actions of each system as it was highlighted. After, they proceeded to segment of reading creative fiction monologues that involved characters who were experiencing individual systems.

Being argumentative and stubborn most, if not all, of the fifth grade students did not want to do their ‘Informance.’ For one thing, it involved performing on stage, which wasn’t necessarily an exciting prospect. To boot, it involved a lot of group work—which wasn’t a skill they had developed, (personal issues between students they can’t get over and on top of that—compromising not being something they’d practiced).

Leading up to the day of the performance, even the teachers were wondering if they were going to be able to pull it off or not. I was supporting the dance instructor during class time to help one day. I was working with the Nervous System group. They were struggling to come up with, and agree on, movements as well as struggling to balance the more efficient personalities with the lackadaisical personalities. They were not incredibly receptive to my suggestions or my help, but managed to come up with some movements they could agree upon with a few minutes to spare—and as a result of this session I became very invested in their group’s success.

During a rehearsal a couple of days before the ‘Informance,’ the Nervous System weren’t singing their song . They’re dance moves…were more or less according to the script.  Without seeing as enough time to polish things before the actual performance, it was decided that this group wouldn’t sing the song they had written— they would just do the movements twice. They were the only group that wasn’t going to sing. Most of them were very embarrassed by this fact. Isaiah, in particular, respectfully fought back and it was decided that if they could suitably sing the song by the performance date they could both sing and dance like the other groups.

After the rehearsal I worked with the group individually. The students that showed up were determined to work on their song and get it right. I talked with them about putting in their best effort and how they were embarrassed that they couldn’t do it. We went over their part several times. Their enthusiasm and their effort was a complete turnaround from before and it was so heartwarming to see. During the dress rehearsal the day of the performance, the Nervous System group did a great job,: they sang clearly and loudly. However, it was during the in-school performance that I was really proud of them.

I was working the tech side of things. The songs were supposed to be displayed on the projector—both for the audience’s benefit and to provide a backup for the students on stage. A recording of the song was also played as their accompaniment. During the Nervous System’s performance, I accidentally played the wrong song. I pictured the students just standing there not knowing what to do and I was so embarrassed because I knew how hard they worked. But instead of choking, they all sang the song anyway – to the wrong tune, which is even more impressive. And they did their movements as well. They knew the words and the melody so well that they sang it anyway and they powered through my mistake.

At the end of the ‘Informance’ I went to the Nervous System group to apologize but also to let them know how incredibly proud I was of them. At the beginning of the rehearsals I didn’t know if they were going to be able to perform at all but they worked hard and they practiced and they sang the song even without the backup of the recording. At the beginning of the year most several of the students in the Nervous System group did not respond well to my overtures of friendship. I had seen them bicker and blame each other for the failings of the group throughout the Human Body Informance process. When I apologized for my mess-up during the show I half expected some of the students to be hostile. Instead I was given “It’s okay” and some thumbs up and a “we forgive you” said good-naturedly. This more than anything showed a growth in these students through this performance process and I’m so excited to witness them grow and mature even more throughout this year.

Kids On Campus Say Farewell

It’s a sunny spring afternoon. Trees are finally in full foliage, the air is crisp and clean from an (ongoing!) onslaught of rain, and in the basement of the chapel at Warren Wilson College, scattered balloons and a table of watermelon and pizza mark the farewell celebration for the 2016/17 Kids On Campus program.

Administered through Warren Wilson’s Center for Community Engagement, Kids on Campus has been connecting local youth to engaging on-campus activities with Warren Wilson college students since 1999.

For most of this year’s KOC matches, today’s farewell is only for the summer time—they’ll have the opportunity to continue their mentoring relationship in future years. But for graduating senior Emily Fox, today is the final match activity for herself and her Little Sister of two years.

“I just turned in my capstone this morning,” says Emily smiling, adding that she plans on maintaining a relationship with Harmony, at least by phone, in the coming months.

 “Harmony’s funny—but she’s also super responsible,” says Emily, “She always checks in with me and tells me about any homework she has to do, ready to get that out of the way so we can go do fun stuff.”

Since August of 2015, Emily and Harmony have been hanging out for three hours every Tuesday afternoon of the school year. They always start with homework but afterward, they get to explore the vast network of forests and fields of the over 1100 acre campus—which includes a working farm on which lives one of Harmony’s favorite campus attractions: a cow named Pepper. 

“I didn’t expect I was going to have this much fun here,” says Harmony, “I thought it was going to be, like, just doing homework and then having fun for, like, a half hour. But it’s way more fun than I thought it would be.”

Hosting this program on campus doesn’t just make it easy for college kids to get involved in enduring mentor relationships—it also offers a valuable opportunity for kids to be immersed in an environment of higher learning—which connects them with a clearer vision and inspiration for how they too can pursue college. It also helps mentees build a deeper understanding of what higher education has to offer. 

“I want to grow up and I want to come to school here,” says Harmony, adding that if KOC is still in operation at that time, she wants to become a volunteer so that she can help kids to grow in the same way Emily has helped her. 

Like most KOC afternoons, today starts out with each of the six Bigs linking up with their Little to assist them with homework. But once they’re finished—a host of fun games awaits them, including a tug-of-war, a relay race and paint twister to name a few.

Senior Brian Wuertz has participated in the KOC program for the past two years, mentoring his Little Brother, Chris, who’s now in the fifth grade. When he was growing up, Brian explains that he didn’t have many—if any—male role models in his life. No one to talk to about his problems, to received support from, or just to be with.

“I’m just excited to see Christopher every week…It feels like this part of the day, this part of the week is really important—like I’m doing something worthwhile,” he says.

Brian’s been matched with Chris for two full school years, and after he graduates this fall, the two plan on continuing their match in Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Community-Based Program.

“Brian is a really nice guy. He always listens whenever I want to talk to him, “says Chris, explaining that he loves this program because there are no other kids in his neighborhood to hang out with.

“We mostly just go around doing whatever we can think of,” he says, “We went to a science lab here on campus last week. They were making a certain type of bacteria glow—to where you could actually see them!”

Brian chuckles, remembering that afternoon.

“You’re really really clever,” he says to Chris, “You’re always interested in talking ab out how things work, like the other week when the van drove by making a weird sound, you turned to me and asked: ‘What do you think is wrong with the van? How do you think we could fix that?’—and then you came up with all sorts of ideas about it. You’re also really smart,” he says. 

These complementary words from his mentor mean a lot to Chris—you can tell. Even though he bashfully toes at the ground as Brian shares them, the praise brings a smile to Chris’ lips—which may not be a huge show of emotion in the moment, but might just be the encouragement he needs to make it through the next big challenge he faces in life or to expand his future aspirations.

It’s time for the tug-of-war and the six matches are splitting into “Ladies” and “Gentlemen” teams. As it turns out,  the tug-o-war ends badly for the gentlemen. But—to be fair—they were outnumbered, and the one mentor was compromised with a wrist brace.

Still, regardless of who smears whom, every competition over the course of the afternoon poses an opportunity to practice sportsmanship, and with only a few outlying pouts and jeers, the group agrees that the best way to respond to both winning and losing is: graciously.

After the games, there’s plenty of time for free-play. Everyone scatters.

Meric flies off on his scooter toward the main campus and his Big Brother Bobby rushes to start up his moped and zoom after in pursuit. Ethan and Conrad disappear between a row of hedges (a secret passageway, I’m told) to balance along a stone wall, then—once joined by their Bigs—they climb en masse into a beautiful old Dogwood tree and discuss Assassins Creed at length.  Harmony and Emily sit down at a table inside, abundant in craft supplies, to decorate frames that will house photos of them throughout the year which they’ll take home as keepsakes.

At KOC, Chris, Harmony, Ethan, Conrad, Meric and Jaycee are full of laughter and smiles. Here, they feel seen and valued for their uniqueness. But it isn’t only they who benefit from these relationships—the mentors grow tremendously and learn from the mentees as well.

College is a great time to get involved in something like this..[A]s people grow up, and become more ‘adult’, they get disconnected from just how to have fun…Becoming a mentor allows you to stay connected inter-generationally.
“One way that I’ve really grown as a result of this relationship is in the ability to talk about my own feelings—and that’s something that we don’t really value as a society: men talking about their feelings,” says Brian.

“Just having a relationship like this makes that happen—and there are a lot of people who don’t have that. And so…it’s something that we can do…” he says, turning to Chris, “to be brothers.”

2017 Spring ‘Humans Of Asheville’ Series

This week, local blog Humans of Asheville will be rolling out a series of portraits and stories profiling Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC staffers, mentors, mentees and board members. 

We’re so glad to have the opportunity to share our stories of why we are committed to transforming children’s lives through mentoring and how mentoring truly can change our communities and the world. 

Dorian Palmer: Mentee, Board & Advisory Council Member
“But when I think back on it it was me diversifying, trying to understand another way of life. It was really broadening my scope of life, living.”

If it weren’t for Nathan I don’t know where I’d be. I wouldn’t be here, that’s for sure. Not here in the sense of the word, present, but not here in this organization. I wouldn’t be here mentally. I wouldn’t be involved in Non-Profits. I wouldn’t be involved with half of the other stuff I do. I serve on the Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as the United Way in Burke County. I’m also certified by the United Methodist Church to preach in any church internationally. I wouldn’t be half the man I am today if it weren’t for Nathan.

Robin Myer: Executive Director 
We all have a responsibility to children.

I know it works. I’ve seen it work. It works not only for the kids but for the volunteers. We hear from them. They get as much out of it as the kids. This is a way for children and adults to come to commonality. We work with poverty level kids. We work with middle and upper class volunteers. It’s the chance for both of them to see the other side and figure out how to work with the other side. We work with a lot of interracial matches. It’s one kid at a time. You start with your children and then branch out. You help others with their kids. It makes a difference for people and that’s why I’ve done it for so long.”

Jamye Davis: Assistant Director
The most rewarding things about my job are the stories.

I think not everybody is cut out for mentoring but I do wish more adults, even if they have school aged kids, find some way to get involved in the life of other kids in some supportive way. There are so many ways in our community to help. I think a lot of people don’t realize what families are going through. What’s more common in our program is that kids only see what’s in their small circle, they don’t have a lot of resources to do a lot of things. Their world view tends to be really small, their neighborhood, their school. There was one Little Sister that wanted to work at Sonic when she grew up because that’s what people in her family do. But then her Big Sister says, let’s see what other things that you might want as options. She ended up going to AB Tech and completed the Nursing Program. She’s a nurse now. Those are the kinds of things that we see on a regular basis, kids having their horizons expanded.

Jill Hartman: Enrollment Matching Specialist
Just to get out on the Blue Ridge Parkway, go have a picnic, see a waterfall. Most have never done that unless they’ve been with a volunteer.

When a family would like to use our services they are usually put on a waiting list. Our waiting list for girls is usually a couple of months. For boys it’s anywhere between 8 months to a year. Men don’t volunteer nearly as often as women do. Pretty much for every 10 women I get one guy. So boys linger and linger and wait. Sometimes they never get a Big Brother. We’ve tried everything over the years to get more men to sign up. We continue to try. It’s heartbreaking when a mom calls in and wants hep and I have to tell them we are at a 10 month wait. That’s just to get them an application not even a Big Brother. I have a drawer full of applications for boys that are still waiting for more male volunteers. I have between 60-80 boys currently waiting. There are a lot of people who don’t know that we are even here much less that we need more volunteers.

 

Elizabeth Gillette and Kayada: Big Sister and Little Sister

We haven’t been together that long (almost 3 months) but I already feel so close to them. It’s really and amazing connection. I feel really honored to have been matched with them.

Everybody always asks me if I like having a Big Sister. I do. It’s fun. I like to play UNO and we play tag. We like to go eat ice cream. I like rainbow ice cream because it has every color in it.

-Kayada

I love to see that competitive side of her come out. Just to think about what she’s going to be like when she gets older and I have the opportunity to be with her on that journey. I would love to be with here for a very long time. That feels important to me.

-Elizabeth Gillette

Laura Maynard and Quan Morris: Former Big Sister and Little Sister

It’s incredible, the feeling of having my daughter in the same program that helped me. -Quann

I was 9 when I met Laura. She was more than just my Big Sister. She was the big sister I always dreamed of.  She was another mother. I can’t express it enough. Without this woman I don’t know where I would be. When I came into the program with my mom battling drug addiction, my dad incarcerated. Laura was my angel that came to me.

-Quann Morris

We’ve done all kinds of things and we would have special events that would happen when she would reach a goal or something but it was the day to day just spending time/ordinary moments that come to mind when I think of special times spent together.

-Laura Maynard

Sara Basile: BBBS Outreach and After-School Program Coordinator

With this job a good description of what we do is that we build bridges and fit puzzle pieces together.

The way things are going in our society now I feel like making matches like that—people from different cultures that have some key commonalities—is very important for these children going forward.

“He’s made me a better person”: Big Brothers and Little Brothers expand each other’s horizons.

“The first time I met him, I asked him if he could do a backflip,” says Devon with a sly smile looking up at his Big Brother Dan. We’re standing on the side of a dirt road on a farm in Leicester, flanked by a hogwire fence that’s encapsulating at least two dozen newly-sheered alpacas—several of which are milling about on the other side expecting dinner soon.

“And he said ‘No,’ and then I said ‘Oh’, Devon continues.

It’s a Thursday evening—but it’s also spring break—so Devon has come over to join Dan for dinner on the alpaca farm where he and his partner live.

“And then I asked him if he liked to play games and he said ‘I’m not really into shooting games’” Devon continues, “I said ‘Oh’, and I tried to give him the controller to play Saints Row, and that’s when he said ‘I don’t know how to play it—” Devon stops short in the middle of his story as he become distracted by an altercation on taking place on the opposite hill: the rooster and one of the hens are “fighting.”

“I really do look at him as family” -Dan Scherer-Edmunds

Before they sit down to eat, Dan and Devon have a host of chores that they’re carrying out together: feeding the alpacas, feeding the two red clay-stained Great Pyrenees dogs who are slumped next to the alpacas and nearly drowning out our interview with their deafening panting. The final chore will be luring the flock of chickens back to the safety of the coop.

Dan and Devon have been matched for almost a year, yet they both explain that it feels like they’ve known each other much longer than that. Together, they share a comfortable bond in which they both feel they can authentically share with each other whatever is ‘up’ for them.

As we meander about the farm, carrying out tasks before night falls, they exchange glances, grins and laughter that alludes to some kind of ongoing inside joke or special understanding that only they share.

“He’s the most fun-loving person I know,” says Dan, “He’s always eager and excited—up for anything, up for trying new things. He’s fearless: he’ll talk to anybody and he’ll try any task—and he’s also a super friendly guy. Whenever we’re out, he’s always making a friend.”

Meeting Dan has opened up Devon’s life to a number of experiences that he had never had before—helping out on an alpaca farm being just one example. Other memorable activities include: attending a Harlem Globetrotters game, regular dodgeball face-offs at Launch Trampoline Park, a tour in search of Asheville’s best BBQ (Buxton Hall won, by the way).

“I learned how to swim with Dan,” Devon adds, “at the Y.”

“And now he’s an awesome swimmer. We go swimming all the time,” says Dan.

Devon and I hop in the back of the pickup truck as Dan drives us over the hay barn to get a couple of bales for the alpacas. White dogwoods are in bloom out along the windrows that intersect among the Leicester hills and the sun pierces moving clouds that threaten rain. Devon eagerly jumps out when we get to the barn, and as Dan throws down a couple of bales from the loft, he struggles to drag the hulking masses toward the back of the truck—after all, the hay rivals his size.

“He can beat me in any sports video game—but in real football: Nah. Nah.” -Devon, Little Brother

Like many, this mentoring relationship hasn’t just opened up experiences for Devon—but it’s vastly expanded Dan’s experience and relationships as well. In a town that often finds itself divided and estranged along racial and socio-economic lines, Dan explains that being Devon’s Big Brother has connected him with a whole side of Asheville that he likely would not have had any relationship with otherwise.

“Devon and his family have shown me a side of Asheville that I never would have seen,” says Dan, “And it just gives me a more complex picture of the town that I live in.”

Though mentorship for boys is so direly needed, for every female volunteer application received, Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC receives only a fraction from males. When boys first apply for a Big, they are told to expect at least 10-12 months on the waiting list before a match is completed. Devon was fortunate—his wait was only nine months. In March Big Brothers Big Sisters of Buncombe County had 56 boys waiting for a match.

For Dan, mentoring young males is extremely important, “Especially for young men that may not have any male figures in their life,” he says. “Just having that guy to look up to makes a huge difference—and I don’t think people realize that sometimes. They might think—‘Who am I do mentor somebody?’ But everybody has things that they can teach young people.”

For his part, spending time with Devon puts the onus of accountability on Dan for being the kind of man that he wants to be in the world—because someone’s watching, someone that he cares about.

“He’s made me a better person in that way,” says Dan.

After the alpacas and the dogs are fed, the sun’s gone down and we head over toward the chicken coop. The dozen or so hens are scattered about at the edges of the forest still scratching for one last bug score. Equipped with a bag of dried mealworms, Devon approaches the hens and leaves a path of the desiccated little crisps leading through the grass and to the coop entrance. The hens oblige and Devon steps back chuckling to himself.

A ‘Great Story’ from Americorps’ Project MARS

Each quarter, Americorps collects “Great Stories” from our 18 members throughout the region about their experiences assisting regional youth in their classrooms.

This month’s Great Story comes from Donna Brice: 

Her name was Jaden.  We met at the after-school program. She was just about the shyest little kindergartner that I’d ever met. Turns out she was new to our school, having just moved here from some place far away. When asked about it, she didn’t know where she came from or when or even where she lived now.

Jaden didn’t understand why her Mom made her stay at school after the other kids went home or when her Mom would be back for her. Those first few days she cried, stopped, then cried some more. She was totally attached to me.

Jaden started out working only with me. When it was time for me to go home each day, there were more tears, and I always promised to check in on her the next day in class. At first she knew only a few letters and really no letter sounds. She would have books with simple words and we would sound out each one. As time went on, she picked up on most of the letter sounds and started remembering some of the easier words. After a few months, she knew most of the words in her simple book. What a great boost of confidence I saw, when she started to be able to read.

With support, things changed for Jaden socially as well. She became more comfortable with the other kids in the after school group. She even made friends and started having a great time. Her giggle and her laugh were infectious. As the year progressed, I could usually tell right where Jaden was in the room because she wasn’t quiet anymore.

Working with kids can be so rewarding— but it can be frustrating as well.

One day, Jaden was gone. At first I thought maybe she was sick, maybe she was traveling for the holidays. But then another day passed without her. As time went on, her absence continued and  I checked in with her teacher. She said Jaden’s family had moved several states away, without even letting the school know that she was leaving.

It’s frustrating to realize that a child who was making great strides in her education and social skills will likely fall back a few steps when she has to start it all over again. But it’s also rewarding to think of the progress Jaden was able to make in those few months and the confidence she gained.

Most rewarding of all is knowing that I played a part in making her a stronger little girl who is more ready for the world around her. Hopefully, as she moves on to yet another new place in her life, it will be a little bit easier because of the time we spent together—that’s the reason I enjoy working with kids everyday: They give so much more to me than I could ever give to them.

Donna Brice

BBBS Buncombe County Announces Big Of The Month!

We caught this sweet photo of Big Sister Jamie and her Little Sister Genazia at this year’s Bowl For Kids Sake—they were having a blast bowling on Eaton Corporation’s team. Jamie has not only been an extremely involved mentor, but she has also participated in BBBS WNC’s ongoing fundraisers and events such as Run for Kids’ Sake 2015 and summer events at the WNC Nature Center and The Hop Ice Cream Cafe. Jamie has been an amazing support for our organization!

Jamie and Genazia were matched at a local elementary school in December of 2014 in our school-based program.  Thank you Jamie for being such a dedicated Big Sister! Enjoy your $10 gift certificate to Green Sage!! 

A day in the life—after-school style

Each Thursday afternoon, four students from local liberal arts college Warren Wilson pull into a West Asheville rec center for an afternoon of homework, play, connection and conversation with their Little Brothers and Little Sisters. 

Little Sister, Lola, reads a new book aloud to student leader, Emily.

For five years,  Warren Wilson students have managed a mentorship collaboration with Big Brothers Big Sisters of WNC, and during the spring 2017 four student Bigs are mentoring through the After-School program. 

” When I was a teenager I had mentors that really helped me get to the place I am today—guiding me through challenges with my family and personal life and helping me to go to college,” says senior Big Sister Emily, Warren Wilson’s current student leader for the program. “I wanted to give that back to other kids,” she says. 

When they first arrive, the college students usually connect with their Littles in one of the recreation center’s classrooms to assist with reading, math and other homework. Once they’ve made  enough progress on the academic front—it’s time to have fun. 

“We like to make art and we like to bake,” says Little Sister Lola, “We’ve only ever baked cupcakes!”

Minnows—surveying carefully for a path to get them safely through a field laden with Sharks. 

Other pairs that aren’t so much into the arts and crafts or baking activities and can be found running wildly in an adjacent field—playing football, soccer, frisbee and a slew of other games.

“She reminds me  of my sister, and my sister is my best friend,” says freshman Big Sister Annie, as her Little sister Zion dashes off to secure a spot on the monkey bars.

“I think that both of us come from really rough backgrounds and so having someone to relate to on that level is really cool and I’ve seen a lot of changes in her with regards to attitude and…actually talking to people and getting along with others,” she says as Zion shouts from the monkey bars:

“Watch me!”

“I’m watching,” Annie assures her, keeping her eyes on her Little as she swings from bar to bar. 

Between a game of one-on-one two hand touch football and a more involved game of Freeze Tag,  Benjamin—currently the only Big Brother on site— shared a bit about how he got involved as a Big. 

“I heard from our student leader, Emily, that they were looking for more Bigs,” he says, “But more particularly, Big Brothers because there tends to be a shortage there—and I wanted to help out…”

“SURPRISED!” exclaimed Christian, when asked how he felt when he learned he would have a Big Brother to hang out with.

“And he LOVES kids!” interjects Little Brother Christian with a huge smile.

“Yeah, I do like hanging out with kids,” agrees Benjamin, as Christian leads him back out onto the field to get the game started.

From the playground up on the hill Big Sisters Annie and Temple and Little Sister, Zion approach to get involved. Once it’s clear that a game is about to go down, a few other after-schoolers take notice and trickle onto the field to take part. As the first person “it” is declared, everyone scrambles to evade getting tagged and frozen. Hoots and laughter fill the air.  

For these couple of hours each week,  the grown-ups get another chance at the kind of exhilaration  that only comes with youthful play. And the kids? They’re lit up, because on Thursday afternoons, with an adult who cares about them—they’re seen and appreciated. 

 

Congratulations to March’s Big Of The Month!

Thanks, Jamie, for all that you do!

We caught this sweet photo of Big Sister Jamie and her Little Sister Genazia at this year’s Bowl For Kids Sake—they were having a blast bowling on Eaton Corporation’s team. Jamie has not only been an extremely involved mentor, but she has also participated in BBBS WNC’s ongoing fundraisers and events such as Run for Kids’ Sake 2015 and summer events at the WNC Nature Center and The Hop Ice Cream Cafe. Jamie has been an amazing support for our organization!

Jamie and Genazia were matched at a local elementary school in December of 2014 in our school-based program.  Thank you Jamie for being such a dedicated Big Sister! Enjoy your $10 gift certificate to Green Sage!!