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Big Sister Testimonials

Yari

“I have always been blessed with strong female role models—my mother, aunts, and sorority sisters just to name a few. They have supported me, pushed me, and loved me unconditionally. Due to them, I am more confident, more successful, and happier. Experiencing such positive impacts from those relationships, I wanted another girl to benefit the same way I have. I want her to gain confidence and respect for herself, trust her abilities, and continue to grow into her own. I want to be a role model to show her that anything is possible if you work hard and stay positive. I want her to know it’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to have insecurities. From the instant I read Yari’s bio, I knew she was the little sister for me. We have similar personalities and I knew that I could guide her through some of her insecurities because I have worked through them myself. I love that she has big dreams and I want to help her realize those dreams can become a reality and show her how to get there.

To me, being a mentor is being there for Yari with whatever she needs. I want her to thrive. Her successes are my successes and her struggles are mine as well. We are a team, built on common goals, trust, and most importantly, friendship.”

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The Bond of Mentoring

“Being a mentor isn’t a job. It’s a role in someone’s life. It’s the opportunity to guide someone, to show them the path to reach the stars. The chance to make an impact, to change how someone views life, it’s the best reward. However,they also have something to teach me. They open my eyes to a whole other perspective. They show that there is more than just my way to do things. They teach me just as much as I teach them. To me, being a mentor is the most rewarding opportunity life can offer. It brings two different people to create a special, unbreakable bond.”

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Being a Mentor

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” (Maya Angelou). I love this quote because it speaks volumes with how we should treat others. Being a mentor is more than volunteering. Being a mentor means to leave a positive foot print in a young person’s life, that they could potentially pass on to the next generation. “

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Amelia

“I think [Amelia] did so well with her goal. She’s not only learned about making friends and keeping them she’s really learned and shown through her actions that she wants good friends who are going to treat her with kindness and respect. Positive friends who share her same values. And when there have been instances in her friendships that have made her upset or uncomfortable, she’s been able to work through them and decide yes I want to continue being friends with this person and I need to do things differently or this person is not a good person in my life and I’m okay with letting them go. I could not be more proud [of Amelia] for her choices about friends.”

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Grace & Mayra

When I first met my little Sister, Mayra, I thought she didn’t like me. She didn’t initiate any conversations unless asked a direct question, and more often than not, she answered in a monosyllable. She didn’t appear to look forward to future activities with me, seeing more resigned than enthusiastic about the prospect. If I’m honest, my ego was a little bruised as I had always fancied myself a brilliant communicator and a fun person to be with. And now this 16 year-old girl was making me feel like she’d rather get a root canal than spend time with me.

So I called [the staff at Girls Rising], and danced around the idea, but never saying the words, that maybe Mayra should be paired up with someone else, maybe I’m not Big Sister material, maybe the programs works for other people, just not me. [The staff] listened to everything O had to say and when I was done, she said, “Please don’t give up on Mayra. Maybe everyone in her life has done that but you could be the one person who doesn’t”.

It has been well over 2 years since that conversation. Mayra and I love hanging out. I have had the opportunity to introduce her to things she’s never seen or done before and, through her eyes, they became fresh experiences for me too. What are our conversations like today? They are goofy and serious, whimsical and sad, silly and academic. And sometimes we are just quiet, neither of us rushing to fill the silence. With no other person in my life an I am able to appreciate the layers of communication evoked in simple silence; the student teaching the teacher. Am I glad that I did not “give up” on Mayra? More to the point, I am so glad she did not give up on me.

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A Big Sister’s Story

When I met my young mentee, my friend, her world was contained within a two-block radius of her home. Her Elementary school was at the end of her block and her daily pattern was; school, home to a house without another person for a few hours until 5PM when her mom returned from work, and then a noisy house until midnight or later. The rest of the family came home in the evening hours, all 6 of them. They all shared a home with about 800 sq. ft., Most, sleeping on couches and the floor.

My friend had a room of her own that barely fit her twin bed. The sheets were covered with dirty clothing. The floor was knee-deep in clothing and many pairs of shoes littered the floor as well. Clothing spilled out of drawers and onto the floor. It was difficult to maintain a calm, non-judgmental attitude about the mess. I’m a pretty organized person. We made cleaning and organizing her room our first priority. When we were done picking up and sorting her clothing into piles needing cleaning, piles that stayed and piles that would be given away, we started a load of laundry. We found a small desk on Craigslist that worked well in her room to give her a place to study and keep her books and papers organized. We also found some organizers at Target for her books/pens/pencils, etc.

My friend made a list of all the things she wanted to do in San Diego. She told me she had never been to the beach! The only time she left the neighborhood was when the Boys and Girls Club took her on outings a few times a year or when her family went camping.

One of the best things we did together was to go sailing. That was my favorite day. By the time we were finished, she was sailing the boat by herself and tacked into the dock perfectly, like a pro! We also went to museums, movies, amusement parks, Disneyland, the beach, parks, biking, go-carting, ice-skating, to fairs, and other fun places.

One day, my friend told me that she wished, more than anything, that her teeth could be fixed. She had a serious issue with her smile . . . she never did! Her two front eye-teeth were misplaced and sat at the top of her gums. Her teeth were crooked and crowded. After a long search, we went to see an orthodontist who said he might be able to help her with Medicaid. Almost miraculously, because her mother had tried before with Medicaid, the Ortho doc made it happen. First she had to get a few teeth pulled by her regular dentist, then she got braces on her upper teeth and was very happy. She gave me her first real smile that day. Unlike other kids who might be embarrassed about braces, she was proud and happy to have them. Within six months, her top teeth were perfectly straight and she was ready for the next part of her treatment.

She eventually entered San Diego High as we continued our outings, once up to Los Angeles to meet my family and to see the Los Angeles Art Museum. We continued our appointments with the Ortho doctor twice monthly as well.

Over time, I think the regularity of our meetings had great impact on my young friend. I watched her gain confidence and trust in our relationship and I know she enjoyed seeing more of the world.

This program impacted me greatly. I had worked with Voices For Children previously and found it difficult to say goodbye to every kid I was placed with after only a short time. But VFC doesn’t allow contact after the court cases are over. The Girls Rising program allowed me to continue a longer relationship with my mentee and for that I’m grateful. Watching the change in my mentee’s behavior, attitude and personality made me feel like my involvement was worthwhile and impactful. I’m looking forward to a new match someday. Thanks, Girls Rising!

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