Our Matches

Selina & Corrine develop a model relationship.
Selina and her Big Sister Corinne grew up as only children, but when they found each other, they became sisters.
Segina became a single, first-time mother at a later age, and with several physical disabilities, she found herself overwhelmed trying to keep up with Selina. Knowing she needed assistance and looking out for Selina’s best interest, Regina called Big Brothers Big Sisters after seeing a television commercial.
Big Brothers Big Sisters match specialist Amy worked closely with Selina and Regina to find the perfect match. Selina was soon paired with Corinne, a member of the Coast Guard living on Staten Island. In late 2008, the mother and daughter met Corinne at the Big Brothers Big Sisters offices. “I was certainly nervous,” remembers Regina. “It’s tough when you’re meeting someone new, and basically all you know is their name.” Corinne and Selina asked each other questions—what are your interests? What’s your job? What’s your favorite school subject? Two peas in a pod, Corinne and Selina both love to sing and swim, and both are pet-lovers. Thanks to her friendly, straightforward personality, Corinne hit it off quickly with Selina.
“Being in the Coast Guard, Corinne is very tough,” says Regina, “and she wants Selina to succeed in life. She’s definitely there for her.”
Because most of the Serrano family members live out-of-state, Corinne even attended Selina’s junior high graduation, sitting with Regina and cheering on Selina as she accepted her diploma. ”She was very supportive,” remembers Regina. Selina adds, “I wanted to bring someone that would want to come, and I think Corinne was very excited that I asked her.”
Although Selina is only in ninth grade, Regina has high hopes for her daughter. “She maintains an 85 to 90 average in school. I want her to go to college. I did poorly in college, but Selina is very smart.”
Selina and Corinne are creating memories that will last a lifetime. They’ve been to a cooking class hosted by Big Brothers Big Sisters. They’ve visited Great Adventure theme park, where Selina left with an armful of stuffed animals. They’ve taken pottery classes, where they created and painted artwork. Above all, Selina’s favorite part of outings with her Big Sister is getting to spend quality time talking to each other.
Corinne quickly recognized that Selina has a special gift—not only is Selina a fashionista, but she also very beautiful—so Corinne has begun to nurture her Little Sister’s interest in modeling. Recently, a friend of Corinne took some test shots of Selina to get her started. “Corinne is trying to get Selina involved. She wants to help her take it to another level to maybe become a model,” says Regina. “Corinne is pushing Selina—she’s a real motivator.” More recently, the pair was asked to participate in a photo shoot for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Selina says, “It was great because I was able to see what it was like behind the camera. Without Corinne, I wouldn’t be as interested in modeling. She’s really made me feel good about myself and given me confidence.”
Selina continues: “Corinne seems like she knows that inside of me there are great expectations. She sees my potential. I’d like to do something good in the future. My Big Sister encourages me to do good things and push me to do better with the opportunities in my life, and that makes me feel good.”
Because Selina is an only child, for her to have a Big Sister, it’s like her having a real sister. Regina explains. “Corinne has brought a lot of joy to her life. Selina having someone to talk to that is older has made a big difference for her and for me. It’s not so overwhelming being a single parent anymore. She has someone who has come into her life and been a positive role model to stay in her life for the long-run.”

With the help of Dan, Gabe is growing strong.
Male role models were difficult to come by for Gabriel. For his nine years, he has been surrounded by a circle of artistic, nurturing women. Even at school, all but two teachers are women. Angela became concerned that her son would not have a positive male role model to identify with. A little more than a year ago, Gabe was paired with his Big Brother Dan. Angela laughs: “Dan brings out this little boy personality in Gabe. Every time he returns from an outing with Dan, he comes back as this little dude.”
She jokes: “I’m a woman, but I’m not a girly-girl. Nonetheless, Gabe needed to experience the elements of a male personality that he can observe and emulate if he’s to grow up as a positive young man.”
Although Gabe and Dan seem an unlikely match, they satisfy a vacancy in each other’s lives. Gabe’s relationship with his father is sporadic and unreliable, so he lacked male companionship; Dan’s children have grown, left the house and now have families of their own, so he missed that fatherly role. “It’s hard to put your finger on it,” Angela says, “but they really seem to enjoy each other.”
Gabe and Dan, a small business owner, are both shy, so when they first met, Angela felt like she was in the middle trying to draw them both out. After a few outings together, they opened up and have been building their relationship ever since. “I was really shy,” Gabe remembers. “I could barely talk to him because I didn’t know him. Eventually I was with him all the time, and got used to it—that’s how I stopped being shy.”
The pair has attended sporting events, played Wii games, undertaken yard work, and, as Gabe happily remembers, played ping pong together. “I’d never played before. First we were on the same team, but then I got better so we played against each other. I think I even won!”
“I thought Gabe would buddy up with a younger man, maybe a college student,” Angela recalls. “But Dan and he have really connected and bonded.”
Perhaps the most memorable activity was when they planted a garden together last spring in Dan’s backyard. Because it was Gabe’s first time digging in the soil, Dan sent Angela pictures of her son covered in dirt, joyfully planting his bean and radish seeds. Dan planted carrots and onions, and the two decided to have a contest to see whose side of the garden would grow the fastest. Every other week, they’d take progress photos of their crops.
“Once, I thought Dan’s carrots were weeds and I pulled them up,” Gabe laughs. “He joked ‘are you trying to make me lose!?’ When it was finally time to pick my vegetables, I brought them home to my mom, and we put them in a salad.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters match support specialist Bernadette checks in regularly with Angela and Gabe, asking for feedback and addressing any concerns. “I feel like Big Brothers Big Sisters is monitoring the situation to be sure that Gabe is safe, happy and watched out for.”
“Enrolling Gabe in this program gave him the opportunity to explore more of his personality,” Angela continues. “Even the best parents that try really hard—there is only so much you can do. Sometimes it takes a village, and we’re happy that Dan and Big Brothers Big Sisters are in our village.

Jack lost his father, but found a role model in Matt.
Eight years after Jack lost his father in the terrorist attacks on New York City on September 11, 2001, he ran in the Tunnel to Towers race with his Big Brother Matt, holding a flag high in honor of his father’s memory.
Their story begins a few years ago, when Jack’s mother, Denise, was worried that her two sons—Michael, who was 3 years old when his father died, and Jack, who was only 6 months old—would not have a strong male role model in their lives. Once the two boys were old enough, the New York City Fire Department, where their father was a 10-year veteran, approached Denise to see if she would be interested in working with Big Brothers Big Sisters to find Big Brothers for the two boys. Since they did not have close family members to fill the void, Denise began to investigate.
When Jack grew old enough in September 2007, Big Brothers Big Sisters match specialist Patty paired him with Matt, a New York City fire fighter. Jack remembers their first meeting: “I was kind of nervous because I didn’t know who I was going to get or what he would be like. But right away I knew Matt was a nice guy. He smiled and started to laugh. We took a bunch of pictures together—funny, regular, and happy—and Patty gave them to us both to take home.”
Nonetheless, Denise was reluctant to leave her son alone with a person she had only just met. Patty continually checked in with the family. When she would talk to Jack, she would ask questions to make sure the match remained positive and rewarding.
Matt also immediately recognized and respected Denise’s reservations and took steps to make her feel more comfortable as Jack and he got to know each other. “If Matt takes Jack to a New York Mets game, he sends me cell phone pictures of Jack with cotton candy all over his face, laughing and enjoying himself,” Denise explains. “And when they are done with their outing, Matt texts me saying they are on their way home.”
Although Jack is in third grade, he plays on a fourth grade soccer team. Matt arrives early at their house, helps Jack with his shin guards and cleats, gets him warmed up, and then they spend quality time together as they drive to the game. Additionally, Matt and Jack always talk on Tuesday nights. Jack rushes home from school on Tuesday afternoons and exclaims “I’m going to get my phone call tonight!” Denise says that Jack is able to talk with Matt about things that he needs to chat about with another male—a brother, a friend—“not stuff you want to share with your mommy,” laughs Denise.
Matt uses these opportunities to teach Jack manners, academics and life lessons. Firstly, Matt teaches “PATYs” or “Please and Thank You’s,” which has taught Jack to be more respectful to and appreciative of his mother. Denise also remembers that she was having trouble teaching Jack how to use quotation marks. Matt suggested she show Jack newspaper stories quoting his favorite athletes, and Jack quickly picked up the lesson.
“You can’t replace a dad,” Denise says, “but it’s really important to have a guy in your life that is there just for you. That is something that Big Brothers Big Sisters gave back to my family. Matt is not going to be his dad, and Jack knows that. But no matter what, Matt is Jack’s one outlet.”
In honor of the 343 NYC firefighters who lost their lives during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Tunnel to Towers run begins in Brooklyn, passes through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and finishes at Ground Zero in Manhattan. This past year, Jack—now 9 years old—ran by his Big Brother’s side, carrying a flag together. “It was pouring rain, but when Matt held the flag it was really nice because it had my dad’s picture on it,” recalls Jack.
Denise reflects on her family’s relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters: “Jack and Matt are a perfect fit. They like the same things and have as much energy as each other, from the soccer field to the basketball court to the playground. Matt loves it all as much as Jack. They hit if off at every aspect. Jack really looks up to him and helps him realize his potential.”
She continues, “I’d love for my kids to be able to give back one day from the experience they’ve had. If you do feel it in your heart, you should become a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters, as a donor or volunteer. My children and I know how lucky we are to have Big Brothers Big Sisters as part of our lives.”

“Why couldn’t the baker go to the game?” 8-year-old Andrew asks as he leaves a voicemail for his Big Brother. “You’ll have to call me back for the answer.”
“Because he didn’t have enough dough!” he exclaims when Carlos calls him back.
A couple years earlier, Andrew was not laughing. In fact, as his mother Lisa recalls, he would cry every time his sister’s Big Sister would pick her up for an outing because he wanted a Big Brother of his own. “When I told Andrew it was finally his turn, we were all very excited,” Lisa says.
When Lisa was a kid, she remembers her aunt raising two young boys as single mother. “They never had their dad, but they would always come home talking about the great time they had with their Big Brothers,” she remembers. “So when I became a young, single parent, I knew Big Brothers Big Sisters would be a good way to find a positive role model for my son.”
Andrew’s and Carlos’ phone conversations are not always fun and games—and that’s what strikes Lisa as the most special element of their relationship.
“Carlos will take his time to listen to Andrew, so he feels safe talking to his Big Brother,” Lisa says. “He’ll tell Carlos when he’s having trouble controlling his temper. The way I hear him talking, he doesn’t hold anything back. And when Carlos is talking, I can tell that Andrew is really focusing and listening on what Carlos is saying.”
Carlos has not only been a positive sounding board for Andrew, but also an essential resource for Lisa. Because Andrew has emotional issues stemming from the absence of his absent biological father, Carlos talks regularly with Lisa on the phone and often accompanies her when she visits Andrew’s counselor. “It shows that he really cares about my son,” she says. “They have fun together, but they also have heart-to-heart talks—so Carlos has important insight.”
Lisa is thankful that Carlos has invested his time in Andrew, encouraging a positive outlook on life. Carlos has a wife and two daughters but consistently schedules one-on-one outings with his Little Brother. “I like getting man-to-man time with him,” Andrew says. “He’s the nicest person I’ve ever met.” Carlos also includes Andrew in family outings. Most recently, they had a barbeque in a local park and Andrew played baseball with Carlos’ family.
“I’m very appreciative of Carlos’ wife and children as well,” Lisa continues. “Sometimes I feel like they are giving up Carlos for a little while so my son can have time with him. He could focus solely on his family, but Carlos has reached out and brought my son into his family too. They really seem to welcome him with open arms.”
The pair always has fun on their outings—sporting events, visits to the park, going out for pizza, watching movies. “We have found a gold mine in Carlos. He has really taken Andrew under his wing.”
When Andrew and Lisa first signed up with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Andrew waited more than a year to be paired with Carlos. “It was very discouraging for him,” Lisa explains. “My daughter only had to wait about three months. I encourage more men to volunteer—the life of a young boy will never be the same. It’s sad when a biological relative doesn’t understand the difference they can make, but it’s great that someone with no connection to the child can make this kind of commitment. That, to me, is priceless.

Cindy and her Big Sister see eye-to-eye, but not just because they are both well under 5 feet tall. The pair have so much in common that it’s as if they’ve been friends for their entire lives. However, before Cindy met Kate, she was shy and consumed by self-doubt. Thanks to a night at the opera, her stepfather began noticing a definite “change in Cindy’s swagger.”
Cindy is a smart, beautiful 11-year-old girl, who is highly trained in martial arts, but her stepfather Leroy says that socially she was nervous and unsure. “She’s a bit of a tom-boy,” he says.
As the oldest of five children, Cindy is the big sister, so she lacked that older sister figure to provide her guidance. “Maybe she doesn’t want to tell mom and dad everything,” Leroy explains. “She needed her own time, her own getaway.” Cindy feels connected with Kate because they both have siblings—in fact, they both have younger sisters—so they can easily relate. “If I talk to her and tell her my problems,” Cindy explains, “she knows exactly what I mean. Like, she told me that her sister was a different type of skin color, but they were sisters no matter what.”
Oftentimes, Kate will be on her way to run an errand and call Cindy to see if she’d like to tag along for the ride. One Saturday afternoon, Kate took Cindy shopping to find a birthday present for her little brother, then accompanied Cindy to the 3 year old’s birthday party. Cindy and her younger siblings were ecstatic, and Leroy says, “That’s when we knew she really cared about Cindy and about our family. It showed Cindy that Kate truly is her Big Sister.”
So, in April, the tom-boy from Arizona slipped on a fancy evening gown and accompanied her Big Sister to the opera. Kate and Cindy will forever share memories of giggling at the highest soprano voices, but Leroy knows that his stepdaughter left the theater with something far more valuable. “Kate opens her up to be confident, which is internalizing in everything else she does. It’s given her a boost—her swagger is different.”
Cindy and Kate are “Twi-Hearts”—extreme fans of the Twilight saga. They speak both English and Spanish together. They enjoy basketball and have gone to a Phoenix Mercury game, Arizona’s professional women’s team. They’ve been skating, enjoy backyard BBQs, and last summer, they went swimming together. But more than anything, the pair enjoys their visits to the bookstore. “It’s somewhere I can talk to her more,” Cindy explains.
Sometimes their trips to the bookstore are impromptu. Cindy had a problem in school, Leroy recalls, where she and her friends were making fun of other girls. “That was not ok with her mother and me. Kate decided to transition their planned outing and took Cindy to the bookstore. They looked up articles and talked about them,” he said. “It was a way to bring Cindy back to base and let her know this is not how you treat people. Kate really embodies a true sister—much more than what we ever could have asked for.”
Since Cindy has been spending time with her Big Sister, she reports that her relationship with her mother has significantly improved as well. A short time back, she and her mother dealt with some mistrust issues. When Cindy asked Kate for advice, Kate said that sometimes there might be consequences to her actions, but lying will only compound and escalate the situation. Cindy says, “Kate tells me that she’s close with her mom—that her mom is someone she can always talk to. I think that my mom and I could be closer like that.”
Leroy grew up in the inner city, so he understands the influence that a positive role model can have in a child’s life. “I came from the ‘hood. I’ve seen how other programs work, and none are as effective as Big Brothers Big Sisters. Even if you take a child away from his or her family and put them with a group of other children, there is still level of embarrassment. Maybe I want to cry, maybe I’m scared, but I still have to act cool in front of other kids and not say anything. But with this one-on-one relationship, they can completely be themselves while alone with their Bigs.”
“What are the objectives in parenting?” Leroy continues. “You want your child to grow up and be confident with good self esteem, do well academically and financially, and treat themself and others well. In my opinion, signing up your child for Big Brothers Big Sisters is one of the best things you can do because it will help your child grow up to be rich emotionally, economically and spiritually.”

Nicolette’s future sounds great, thanks to Ines.
Nicolette wants to be an R&B singer one day, but for now she will settle for singing the praises of her Big Sister, Ines. For the last two and a half years, Nicolette has had a friend to rely on, confide in, and have fun with.
Thirteen-year-old Nicolette lives with her older brother Marcus. He knows how a positive female relationship will be a good influence on his sister. “Nicolette’s relationship with Ines contributes to her understanding of what a responsible, healthy role model should be.” Ines has been through school and is a working woman, so she sets a positive example for Nicolette.
Nicolette was nervous the first time she met Ines, but they got to know each other quickly. “She was fun and easy to talk to,” recalls Nicolette. The Big Sister and Little Sister are both of Latin decent, and Marcus says this similarity has offered them a connection. In fact, Marcus hopes that Ines will teach Nicolette to speak Spanish and that they share their different cultural upbringings.
Nicolette is in eighth grade and enjoys dancing and singing. She sings in her high school choir and finds inspiration from Beyonce Knowles and Mariah Carey. Ines has been a positive sounding board and source of advice for Nicolette. They talk about school, boys and friends. Marcus explains, “I’m a guy and her guardian, so she’s not as comfortable talking to me about boys and things like that.”
Nicolette says she looks to Ines like an actual big sister. “Ines has had positive impact and makes me a happier person.” Her fondest memory is going to pottery class with Ines. She knows that her Big Sister likes to drink coffee, so she made Ines a coffee mug in her favorite colors, wrote her name and topped it off with her own signature. She has also made Nicolette a jewelry box with a ballerina on top. “It was nice to do art and talk at the same time,” remembers Nicolette. “And we were able to use the things we made.”
Nicolette and Ines also go to the movies, spend time outdoors in the park, window shop, and eat lunch or dinner in their favorite restaurants. They even went to a pop music concert.
Ines helps Nicolette with her schoolwork as well. One afternoon, she was working on a story for English class about a young boy and young girl. “I knew how I wanted to start the story and the story line, but I just got stuck. So Ines helped me write the ending, and I think it came out really well.” Nicolette also loves to read—to expand her mind and vocabulary, and with focus she will succeed in school.
“Knowing Ines is a privilege,” Marcus explains. “At the end of the day, we are all looking for human connection to one another. Big Brothers Big Sisters is an organization that gives kids healthy role models as they find their way in the process of growing up. This really is helping a young woman come of age.”
“I’m really glad to have Ines in my life,” Nicolette says. “She’s been a good friend and a good Big Sister. I’m thankful for all the times that she’s been there for me.”

Dante needed direction. Rob was there to give it.
Dante’s mother, Donna, was afraid that he would grow up a loner. His father works nights, and sleeps during the day so they are not often able to spend quality father-son time together. Donna knew she needed to find someone to break through to her son.
However, Dante was the one who had the breakthrough. A friend and classmate was already part of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Dante came home from school one day and asked his mother if he could sign up for a Big Brother. Donna had never heard of the organization, but reached out to the school secretary for an informational packet.
“I would try to take Dante to the park myself and play basketball with him, but there were no other women there, and he would get embarrassed,” Donna laughs. “I knew he needed the influence of an additional positive male role model.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters match specialist Sabrina searched for the perfect match for the 13-year-old Dante. When she found Rob, who had common interests—basketball, music and cards—Donna hoped they would click. Dante had fun at their introductory meeting and told his mother he wanted to spend more time with Rob.
“I don’t usually leave my son with people other than my mother, not even cousins and aunts,” Donna says, “so I was originally very nervous about meeting Dante’s new Big Brother. But, I definitely felt comfortable with Rob right way.”
Donna worried that because the family income was already stretched thin, Dante would miss out on fun childhood activities. However, thanks to the generosity of donors, Sabrina keeps them updated on events and programs, and the pair has taken trips to New York Yankees games at the new stadium, explored local science museums, spent the afternoon taking pictures in Central Park, and visited York College.
The most marked change in Dante is in his schoolwork. Rob was able to provide him with academic guidance, explaining that he not only needs goals, but needs a plan and focus to attain those goals. “I want to be an engineer, so Rob tells me to do well in school and don’t be a fool,” says Dante. “He has helped me realize that if I don’t do well in school, that I won’t get anywhere. He says I can do anything I want if I pay attention in class and don’t be a clown.”
Donna adds, “Rob has definitely had an influence on Dante. In fact, Dante even apologized to a teacher for his past academic performance after talking to Rob.”
Rob has also helped Dante develop his social skills and self-esteem. Donna believes that because Rob follows a set schedule—showing up on time for their outings, calling every Tuesday and spending time together every other weekend—the consistency has had a positive impact on Dante. “Rob doesn’t just go places with me—he asks me how I’m doing,” explains Dante. “He calls on the phone. I talk to him about stuff that I can’t talk to my mom about. Like, he doesn’t want me messing around with girls, and he says that I have to respect women. He also helps me get along better with my mom.”
Donna says Rob has left a big impression on her son because of his commitment to Dante to always be there for him. “As a 14-year-old boy, Dante doesn’t want to tell me anything, but now he has someone to talk to,” explains Donna. “I’m not sure if it was a teenager thing or a boy thing, but he’s no longer disrespectful. His Big Brother gives him advice, and he takes it. If I am having problems with Dante, I’ll call Rob, and he’ll address it directly with Dante.”
Dante recalls one particular afternoon he spent with Rob at a museum as one of their most memorable outings. The trip included a visit to the planetarium, a show on how the earth was created, and exhibits on dinosaurs and different animals across the globe. But the most lasting impact for Dante cannot be packaged in one day, or one memory.
“Rob makes me feel good about myself, and I look at him as my actual big brother,” Dante says. “Big Brothers Big Sisters can help change your life in different ways—they gave me something different than what teachers and parents can. They really help you solve your problems—without Big Brothers Big Sisters and Rob, I would be doing worse in school and would be very shy like I was.”

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.”

Iman gets an education in life from Omar.
“Iman knows all the parts of the brain, and I haven’t even taught that lesson yet,” his science teacher told Iman’s mother. Salima replied “Really? But he’s only in sixth grade, how would he know that?” Then Salima remembered that Iman’s Big Brother Omar is a doctor, and a smile spread across her face.
Iman was not always a top student, and had very few places to turn. Because Salima grew up Kansas, they do not have relatives close to home in New York. She is a single mother and works days, evenings and weekends as a schoolteacher, interfaith minister and voice coach, so her free time is limited. “I’m a bit older, and because of my work schedule, I’m always so wiped out that I don’t have the energy to spend playing with Iman.”
Iman remembers, “I wanted to be with someone because I was really lonely. I just wanted a guy to talk and play with.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters match specialist Francy found a young then medical student, who arrived at the introductory meeting wearing a crisp white shirt and tie. He was soft spoken, patient and intelligent. “We bonded on the first day,” Iman says. “We hit it right off!”
Omar is a doctor, and Iman plays the violin, enjoys classical music, and is excited about learning. The pair also shares a love of soccer. Iman and Omar share common interests,” explains Salima. “These commonalities allowed them to relate from the start.”
Some unexpected similarities gave everyone a good laugh. Salima happily remembers the first Halloween that Omar took Iman trick-or-treating. She’d bought Iman a skeleton costume, but he refused to wear it. “But then Omar came to the front door wearing the same skeleton costume—it was a complete coincidence!” That night, Iman collected the most candy he’d ever gotten on any other Halloween.
Omar has taught Iman about persistence—to excel in academics and to reach his potential. He continually encourages Iman to try his hardest, no matter the outcome. “Usually when I’d do something, I would just give up if it wasn’t going my way,” Iman says. “Omar says you should never give up. Like, if I’m playing soccer and I’m losing, I should still play my hardest because I’ll make myself better in the end.”
One afternoon, Omar and Iman began casually reviewing the parts of the human brain. The next time they got together, Omar brought a picture and diagram of the brain. “For a few months, Iman even wanted to be a brain surgeon!” exclaims Salima. “Omar is such an inspiration for him.” Omar has also patiently taught Iman math—multiplying and adding fractions, and turning fractions into decimals. After earning a 92 percent average in school, Iman’s self-confidence has blossomed.
Iman has very high aspirations, but Omar has also taught him to focus. “He sort of explained how hard it may be to have too many aspirations and that I should do what I do best,” Iman says. So he decided to focus on his drawing. “I usually draw a couple lines and see what it turns into.” Of Bolivian descent, Omar has begun to teach Iman Spanish, and the artist-in-training is looking forward to drawing Spanish objects and words. He’s also looking forward to learning how to use paints, and hopes that soon he can teach Omar origami. Recently, he approached his art teacher about starting a special art class, so now every Thursday morning he meets with other kids who have the same curiosity for art.
Salima believes that it’s extremely important for children to develop relationships apart from family members. Iman has something to look forward to, someone to share his thoughts with, and someone who provides him a different perspective. “Omar is such a sensitive and compassionate caring young man, and so patient,” Salima says. “Iman is also a very sensitive guy so Omar is a great buffer for me because he understands Iman. He’ll say to me ‘Iman’s going to be fine.’”
“It’s a phenomenal privilege to be a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters. On my part, it’s so comforting to know my child will be somewhere for four hours having a great time with someone who is making such a positive impact in his life. That’s worth its weight in gold.”
She continues: “They really screen each Big Brother and Big Sister. As a parent, I can feel safe and secure that their relationship is supported by this incredible organization.”
“Since I met Omar,” says Iman, “I have gone places and seen things that I didn’t even know existed. I see Omar as my real big brother—I count him as family.”
Friendship and trust—it’s not brain surgery.

Cheyenne conquers his fear and learns about himself
Outside of school, Cheyenne and his sister Audriana 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.
The mild-mannered 13 year old enjoys basketball, playing video games, reading Japanese comic books, watching Anime and listening to music. “I saw how much fun Audri and her Big Sister had every time they were together—I wanted that too,” Cheyenne remembers. “Once I was paired with Scott, I started to enjoy the same things.”
Cheyenne says he is getting better grades in school, and in general, getting out more. Scott has encouraged him to better himself at the cello, urging him to practice often, and the results are audible. Cheyenne will be taking his blackbelt test, and his Big Brother is motivating him stay focused. Scott also helps Cheyenne with his science homework, especially the problems that he doesn’t understand about the solar system. “Scott works at a solar plant, and we’re both really interested in technology and computers. He tells me everything that he knows.” Harlietta said that Scott also encourages her son to read more and suggests new books that they can read together and discuss.
Scott is a happy guy who likes to smile a lot, Cheyenne says. “He always says to get out and start the day off as a good one, not a bad one.” Together they play basketball and laser tag, visit the batting cages, and go to the movies. Perhaps their most memorable outing was an afternoon of rock climbing. “I was very nervous because I’m not good with heights,” Cheyenne explains. “Scott had done it before, so I wanted to try it out. Audri and I used to be indoors all the time, but now I’m getting outside, and I like that.”
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.”
Cheyenne had a message for other children who might be nervous to get a Big for the first time: “Having a Big Brother is fun, and it’s great to spend time with someone else rather than by yourself. Scott gives me one-on-one experiences instead of a whole bunch of people who don’t have time to get to know me.