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.
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!”
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:
“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…”
“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.