The way Emily met Sallie is almost like a Christmas story. It certainly turned into a wish come true.
Nearly a decade ago, Emily Barnes of Murphy lost her brother and wrote a letter to Santa, asking for someone to listen to her, that appeared in the newspaper. Sallie Sompayrac read it, and the two met through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cherokee County.
And now, Sompayrac and Big Brothers Big Sisters is celebrating Emily as a recent graduate of Tri-County Early College in Murphy. Thanks to her Big Sister and to the program, Emily is headed for big things, Emily said.
“This program really has helped me to become the person that I am today and inspired me to do more in my community and for our rapidly changing world,” she said.
Sompayrac and Emily were introduced soon after Big Brothers Big Sisters started in Murphy in 2010. “She was a cute little one,” Sompayrac said. “I promised her I’d be around when she graduated high school.”
The two started out in Big Brothers Big Sisters as a school-based match. Once they became a community-based match, they enjoyed various adventures like exploring different towns, swimming in the lake, and going out to eat.
Here’s how it all started, in Emily’s words.
“When I was in the second grade my brother died. I became very depressed,” she said. “I didn’t do much of anything anymore, but my mother took it the hardest. So, when Christmas came around, I wrote a letter to Santa. I wanted to give my mom a break.
“She needed time to process, but I needed to pass school and make her proud. I wanted someone to talk to and someone who could help me with my studies. In my second-grader mindset I was thinking of a robot, but obviously that wouldn’t happen.
“My letter was posted in the local newspaper, and the following year I was set up with Sallie. Santa had made my wish come true. She was exactly what I had asked for. I didn’t make it easy for her. I was sassy, sarcastic and mean, but that didn’t turn her away. She stuck through it and eventually broke down my walls. She became one of my best friends and my greatest confidant, and later she became my family.”
Emily was struggling in school when she met Sompayrac, her Big Sister said. But she could sing. “This child has the voice of an angel, and it would send chills down my spine and put tears in my eyes, each time I heard her sing,” Sompayrac said.
“Sallie completely and utterly changed me,” said Emily, now a Big Sister herself. “I went from being a quiet, depressed girl who was scared of the world to now being able to stand up for myself! I have learned to be my own person and follow my own dreams.”
“I love Emily like she was my own,” Sompayrac said. “I cannot wait to see where she goes from here. I wish her much success and love. I am quite proud of her. It has meant the world to me to watch her grow and become the incredible young woman she now is.”
Having graduated out of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, Sompayrac is no longer Emily’s Big Sister.
Now, “she’s more than that,” Emily said. “She’s my family and one of my biggest supporters. She makes me proud every day and makes me so thankful that my Christmas wish had come true.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cherokee County recently awarded Emily with a $500 scholarship.
To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cherokee County, contact Program Coordinator Gloria Dockery at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-361-0989.