BBBS of Springfield

Match Story - Springfield, Ohio
by Big Sister “Jane”
I've always enjoyed children from babysitting throughout my teens to student teaching in a 4th grade classroom at P.S. 78 in New York City as part of my graduate school degree in museum education so I was eager to get involved with children in Springfield, Ohio as a new community member. Big Brother Big Sister's partnership with Springfield Rotary was just right and I began mentoring “Kiara” in 2012 when she was a 4th grader at Lincoln Elementary.
I remember our first meeting in the Library at Lincoln with about 12 other Rotarians and the 4th graders they were mentoring. There was a lot of nervous energy that comes from meeting someone new, wanting them to like you, and being curious about these adults who came to school once a week just for you. Kiara and I shared some of our favorite things and described our families. She is the younger and quieter twin; her sister also had a mentor but I made a practice of doing activities one-on-one with Kiara except occasionally when the two girls really wanted to be together. The first year we spent many Thursday mornings playing board games. I'd tried to interest Kiara in listening to me read a story but she was much more interested in the social interaction that comes from playing a game.
The stand out memories of our time together when Kiara was in the 5th and 6th grades included elaborate Lego constructions, Playdough creations, and this amazing game Q-bit Extreme where we used math and design skills to recreate increasing complex patterns. Kiara got better and better as the year progressed, and I saw her confidence and determination grow as she played. During Kiara's last year at Lincoln Elementary, she became much more aware of her peers and the social interactions that occurred around her both at school and at home. She was very intent on relaying detailed accounts of routine family activities and mishaps with the occasional school-related story usually involving someone behaving badly. I realized I was making a difference for Kiara when she asked me to continue being her mentor for her first year of middle school.
When I talked with Kiara last spring at the end of 7th grade about her memories of meeting me and the activities we did together back at Lincoln Elementary she had a little trouble remembering but recalled that she was shy. Kiara has grown especially interested in animals during 7th grade and wants to do something with animals when she graduates from high school. She noticed a lot of dogs out in the cold over the winter and that bothered her. She has a dog, Bandit, and likes to take care of him. Her favorite thing is to give him a bath. She thinks it's really funny when he sneezes because of the soap bubbles.
Kiara struggled academically throughout 7th grade, and we spent many Thursday mornings going over homework or talking about what she was doing in her classes. Toward the end of the school year, she really seemed to enjoy reading and was able to talk about the books she read in a ways I'd never heard her express before. It was clear that having someone to talk to about what she was reading was a key ingredient in helping her improve her comprehension.
It's been very rewarding to watch Kiara grow and over the four years I spent as her mentor, she gained self-confidence, increased her ability to view situations from different points of view, and was just beginning to understand her role in shaping her own future.

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