Kindred Spirits

Audri finds a fellow dog-lover and friend.

Outside of school, Audriana and her brother Cheyenne spent a good majority of their time at home. Their closest friends were their cousins. Harlietta, raising two children as a single mother, wanted her teenage son Cheyenne to have a positive male influence in his life and wanted her shy daughter Audri to come out of her shell.

Harlietta worked closely with a Big Brothers Big Sisters match support specialist in hopes of finding the perfect matches for both of her children. “Exposing them to new people was one of my biggest motivators. I wanted them to see how people interact outside of the family,” Harlietta explains.

What she found was a Big Brother and a Big Sister who were going to teach her children that volunteering and hard work are the best course to self-worth and confidence.

Cheyenne and Audri are both musicians, playing cello and violin, respectively, in their school orchestra. Cheyenne plays basketball and is a martial artist approaching the blackbelt level. Twelve-year-old Audri is an artist whose passion is to draw and paint. They couldn’t be more different, but somehow they were in search of the same thing—someone that would be there for only them.

Audri’s shyness has curbed her inclination to meet new people and make new friends at school. She was paired with Bobbi, a fellow dog-lover and employee of Big Brothers Big Sister. On one of their first outings, Audri brought her Border Collie to Bobbi’s house to meet her Great Dane puppy. Together, they visited a local pet store to have their dogs washed and groomed. “We even made custom dog collars—mine was purple,” Audri remembers.

Both love taking care of their dogs, visiting craft stores, and going to the park, the movies and out to dinner. But it’s a deeper connection for which Harlietta is most appreciative. Bobbi and Audri are both of the Navaho tribe, a relation that Harlietta was looking for in a Big Sister for her daughter. “We were definitely hoping for someone who was Native American,” she remembers. “They are of the same tribe, so they have the same family values. That’s an important bond for Audri.”

Bobbi actively recruits new Bigs for Big Brothers Big Sisters at special events and has recently involved Audri in the effort. The two stand in front of a crowd and answer questions about the program. Audri remembers that they recruited several people at their most recent pow-wow at a University. “This is a big step for Audri,” Harlietta says, “to put herself out there and answer questions from strangers.” Audri recently accompanied Bobbi and a group of her friends on a community cleanup day. Thanks to these volunteer experiences, Audri is noticeably doing better in school, socializing more comfortably with her peers, and making friends.

“I’m less shy, and I’ve made more friends,” Audri reports. “Bobbi and I talk all the time, so I feel more comfortable to talk to other people like the way I talk to my own family. And, my relationship with my family has gotten better. I’ve been nicer to my brother than I’ve ever been!”

Spending time with their Bigs has given both her children a sense of self-worth, Harlietta notices. “They see what their Big Brother and Big Sister do, and they want to emulate that, like doing well academically and volunteering to help others in their community.”

Harlietta is close contact with her Big Brothers Big Sister match support specialist. She notifies Harlietta of upcoming events and frequently checks in with her children to be sure their relationships are positive and healthy.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters is a special mentoring program that gives each child one-on-one attention,” says Harlietta. “They learn to build lifelong friendships to carry throughout their school years and beyond.”

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