So three cheers to our Bigs in Western North Carolina who have helped their Littles achieve this significant milestone! Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina’s private reception for Littles who are graduating from high school will be 6:30-8 p.m. May 16 at Montford North Star Academy in Asheville. Refreshments begin at 6:30 p.m., comments at 7 p.m. The event is sponsored by The Glass Foundation.
Though the BBBS relationships generally end when Littles turn 18, many stay in touch with their Bigs beyond matriculation.
“This year’s Big Brothers Big Sisters graduates have been matched with their Bigs for many years,” said Kelly Wolf, a BBBS match support coordinator in Buncombe County. “A lot changes in a long-term mentoring relationship. Activities go from baking, playing sports, and doing arts and crafts to discussing interview preparation, driver’s education, college applications, job training, and the complexities of interpersonal relationships.”
Ann Geers of Haywood County has helped Little Sister Megan through those travails. Now, after eight years together, Megan is graduating from high school. This fall she enters UNC Wilmington as a junior (she attended Haywood County Early College and now has an Associate Degree). She plans to study marine biology, something Ann encouraged by recommending Megan read certain books and magazine articles.
During their long relationship, Ann has encouraged Megan to become involved with Haywood Arts Repertory Theatre, Daniel Boone Scouting Camp and Smoky Mountain National Park Service, all of which made her an outstanding candidate for college. Ann taught her how to ride a horse, which increased Megan’s confidence, and also helped her get hearing aids and learn how to use them.
“Adolescence has been a tumultuous time for her,” Ann said. My counsel often encouraged her to set her sights high. I believe I helped her recognize the importance of education and how it can be a key to opening a new future far removed from her childhood limitations.”
Though Megan’s father is “exemplary,” Ann said, “he will readily admit ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ I like to think I helped give a little push to propel her into college and beyond. Megan and I will be friends for the rest of my life, I’m quite confident.”
Little Brother AJ credits his Big Brother with helping him stay focused on graduating from high school. If it hadn’t been for Evan Flanders, an Asheville police officer, “my life would probably be complicated, or I would be in trouble,” AJ said.
Evan “has pushed me to be successful and to be the best I can be,” AJ said. Having a Big Brother “really just opened my eyes to reality and helped me become a better person.”
Evan, whose police work often brings him close to people in their stressful moments, knew that Big Brothers Big Sisters provided an opportunity to make a difference in a young person’s life. He was thrilled to be matched with AJ, who was shy and reserved when they met.
“AJ has grown into a big, strong, young man, and I’m so proud of him,” Evan said. “I can’t take much credit for AJ’s success. He has worked so hard and applied himself so well in everything that he does.
“When he had difficulties in class, he would ask the teacher if he could move to the front so he could pay better attention, or ask for extra credit assignments to increase his grade. AJ’s dedication and hard work are the reason he has succeeded so well and is preparing to graduate from high school.”
AJ, who was a starter on the high school football team, works at Ingles after school to help his mother with the family expenses. “His work ethic and positive attitude amaze me,” Evan said, “and on top of that, he is a tremendously respectful and polite person that treats everyone with fairness and dignity.”
The things Evan and AJ have done together – including fishing, hiking and going to movies – “opened my eyes to society and really helped me grow up,” AJ said. Evan is “a very good listener” who “always gives me good advice when I need it. He pushes me and wants to see me be great.”
The powerful bonds of support and trust forged between Bigs and Littles over the years are obvious to anyone who sees the young and older people together, Kelly said.
“As the Bigs, Littles, and their parents have told me, these relationships will not end at high school graduation. They are sure to last a lifetime,” she said.