Back in the mid-2000s, Brittney, a 14-year-old girl was just about to enter high school. Her mom was working a night shift at that time, “so even though she wished dearly to spend more time with me, at that particular point she couldn’t,” says Brittney, now 24. “I was struggling through a bit of a culture shock at my new high school; I wasn’t used to the people or the level of academics expected. High school was a bit too much for me to handle at that time. In addition, I had very low self-esteem including body image issues, that only added to the long list of problems that I was experiencing.” Brittney needed someone who could give her a confidence boost.
The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto (BBBST) agency matched Little Sister Brittney with a woman named Lynn. “I remember my first meeting with Lynn. It actually makes me laugh now that I think about it. I remember going to the office with my mom. I was so nervous and scared just because at that time I felt that I was too “old” for a Big Sister. Nevertheless, I was sitting beside my mom and we were waiting for Lynn and in she popped with a big smile on her face! She sat down and the BBBST coordinator began the process where we introduced ourselves.”
BBBST coordinators work diligently to assess the needs and interests of a child or youth applying for a mentor, as well as evaluate the strengths that a volunteer possesses. Many times, if a child is lacking confidence, they will be paired with an outgoing, confident mentor who can help them improve their self-esteem. Or the mentee may have a particular interest which the mentor can relate to, such as a career path they aspire to achieve.
This was the case with Lynn and Brittney. Lynn told Britney that she was a lawyer currently practicing, and Brittney took an interest immediately. Growing up she always wanted to be a lawyer, “...and for Lynn to be practicing the profession that I wanted to do made me eager to learn more about her.”
“Apart from my mom, Lynn was another strong female that I truly looked up to. She was a positive force in my life because she always told me to go after my dreams. Since she was a lawyer, she would educate me first hand on what it took, and what she dealt with on a regular basis. She was always teaching me things school related and about etiquette. I really appreciated the time and interest she took in my life. It made me feel important—even when I felt like I wasn’t at that time. Whatever goal I wanted to achieve, she would come up with a game plan on what I had to do to get it and the effort on my part that I had to bring forth. There are so many situations where Lynn went above and beyond her role as a Big Sister and that truly meant a lot to my family and me.”
Brittney recalls the time when she told Lynn that she got into university. “Lynn was in the UK and she called me all the way from London crying because she was so happy after all the hard work and struggle throughout high school; it’s those little memories that count, and are why I’m happy that I joined the program.”
Brittney considers Lynn to be part of her family. “I wanted to reach out to BBBST because I was at work thinking of all the things Lynn has done for me and the list is enormous. She has played such a big role in my life and I may not tell her often how much she has truly inspired me—so I wanted to reach out and tell my story so she’ll always know that I’m truly blessed and happy by having met her. I hope she knows the big impact on my life that she, as well as her husband, have had and I am truly grateful. It is people like Lynn that make mentoring programs so successful.”