ASCI Employee on Her Experiences Being a Youth Mentor
As a child, I wanted to be a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring Program. Having a cool big sister was always something I wanted. Growing up, I was told that it was for at-risk youth and because I wasn’t at-risk, I couldn’t become a “little sister.” However, this program has always pulled at my heart. Now as an adult, I wanted to give a little girl something I didn’t have the opportunity to get by being a youth mentor.
Before COVID-19, I became a big sister! For the sake of privacy, I will call my little sister Imani. When I met 6 year-old Imani, she was extremely quiet and shy. We played with puzzles and we colored. Boy, did she fool me! Once Imani got used to being around me, she acted just like a little sister would! We sing songs at the top of our lungs. We do Tik Tok dances. We even go on a ton of outings. But COVID-19’s stay-at-home order put a dent in our relationship. We didn’t see each other for months. I felt so bad, because there was no way to hang out with her without putting her in danger. She even forgot my name because we didn’t see each other in so long.
But, once the stay-at-home ban was lifted, we were finally able to see each another again! We tie-dyed shirts together and went to the park. I remembered there being two parks around her neighborhood, but I didn’t know where I was when we were able to go again. But Imani gave me directions while we drove the very short distance. I kindly asked her why we didn’t walk and Imani responded, “I didn’t want anyone to steal your car.” It was in that moment that I realized I needed Imani just as much as she needed me. I thought I was supposed to teach and mold her to not be a victim of her own surroundings, but she’s actually teaching and molding me! I couldn’t have asked for a better little sister.
It’s a little difficult to mentor her because she’s so young. It’s not that she hasn’t experienced anything in her young life; it’s that when things happen, she asks questions and we have real conversations, but I have to figure out how to appropriately explain it to a 6-year-old so she understands.
I wouldn’t trade Imani for the world! Because she’s so young, I can have a hand in her growth. At this age, she’s teachable. As she grows, I’ll be able to help and mentor her even more. We’ll build the strongest bond and be sisters even after she ages out of the program. I don’t always get it right with her, but as much as I help her, she helps me, too.
For me, being a youth mentor is much more than just telling a child what to do or how to act. I’m partly responsible for the growth and development of this sweet young girl. The way she looks at me when she sees me makes my heart smile. She’s missing a few teeth, so her smile is the the most precious thing I’ve seen. I thank God for allowing Imani in my life.