Big of the Year: Big Sister Amelia and Little Sister Zoe

Date: January 30, 2023

"My relationship with Amelia has been a great thing for me. It’s been good to have someone give me something that I think I really needed for a long time."

Big Sister Amelia applied to be a mentor in order to give back to the community and to provide a young person what she felt she missed growing up: a positive, trust-inspiring female role model.

Amelia and Zoe connected through discussion about their similar lived experiences, and as a result, formed an emotional bond quickly. "Amelia and I are a good match because our backstories are very similar. Sharing those experiences put us in a place where we were able to connect on a deeper emotional level," said Zoe.

In the first year they were matched, Amelia and Zoe also bonded through activities like going to the beach, listening to new music, and trying new foods. They enjoyed hanging out together, attending events, getting drinks at Starbucks, and going to the movies. As their relationship developed and their bond grew stronger, they began to view one another as family.

"I feel like Zoe is a part of my family now, not just someone I mentor in a program. We decided that we would be a family. I tell her all the time that I am just going to make her my granddaughter and call it a day," says Amelia.

And like family, Zoe and Amelia show up for one another in all of life’s moments, big and small. Amelia was there to wish Zoe good luck on the first day of school this year, Zoe spent the Christmas holiday with Amelia and her family, and Amelia celebrated Zoe’s birthday by coming to her party to enjoy cake with her and her friends.

But at the end of the day, their relationship is not just defined by the big moments, holidays, and fun trips. "Sometimes we just hang out at her house, just me, Amelia, and Amelia’s daughter and that is enough for me. I never needed more than to just be with them in that safe place; that was always enough for me," says Zoe.

Since being matched with Amelia, Zoe has become more confident, caring, and social, branching out to form many strong friendships. She has begun opening up to others, expressing herself more, and is doing well in school. "I believe being in this program and our relationship has made Zoe feel that it is a good time to be who she is and to feel free to be herself and not something other than what Zoe thinks is great," says Amelia.

Discussing their relationship, Zoe said, "We have grown with each other. If it wasn’t for Amelia, I would not be as far as I am. She has been there for me as moral support and she has been really good to me over this past year."

Amelia and Zoe also inspire one another and actively work on their goals together. Zoe has not yet decided what plans she would like to pursue after high school, but she is grateful to have a role model like Amelia who supports her aspirations.

Amelia and Zoe’s relationship also inspires others around them. Amelia is a Quality Systems Specialist at Boeing and has helped BBBSL tremendously in recruiting other Boeing employees to become Bigs by setting an amazing example through her mentorship of Zoe.

"I think it is important for young women to have mentors so that they can reach their own potential while having someone to show them the way, someone to give them some inside tips on how to become the person that they want to be. I think it’s good to have someone that you can talk to, depend on, and trust. Those are the things you can find in a mentorship," said Amelia.

Amelia hopes that in the future, Zoe will continue growing into an amazing woman. She knows that Zoe will be successful in her life and hopes that when she has accomplished her goals, she will become a mentor as well.

"I think having a mentor in my life is a very positive thing. It gives me something beyond just a parent or a guardian. I can share with Amelia things I can’t or don’t feel comfortable sharing with others. I think having that external person would be good for any young person to have," said Zoe.



Big of the Year: Big Brother John and Little Brother Khalil

Date: January 30, 2023

Big Brother John and Little Brother Khalil first matched in January 2019, when Khalil was 12 years old and his mother, Octavia, felt that he needed a positive male influence. A single mom, Octavia knew that Khalil wanted a man in his life to teach him the lessons she couldn’t. He needed a Big Brother.

BBBSL found the perfect match for Khalil in Big Brother John Peters. John works as a facility security officer at Gov Solutions Group and has a genuine, giving spirit. "When you help other people, you aren’t just helping them," John said. "You’re helping yourself."

Since being matched with John, Khalil’s confidence has soared. The first time he met John, Khalil was extremely shy and could only greet John with a shy smile and a weak handshake. Four years later, Khalil is a self-assured, confident young man. And John is happy to report, "his handshake is much stronger now."

For their first outing, the pair went bowling. Khalil, thinking he was a skilled bowler, bet John he would win. Unfortunately for Khalil, his new Big won. "We got along well," John said. "It was the start of a relationship, a friendship."

From there, they discovered that they both enjoy going to the beach, to museums, on bike rides, and most of all, fishing and crabbing. They also like going to the mall, where one time, they took pictures in a photo booth and accidentally chose the "Mommy Loves Me" border. Each with their own copy of the photo strip, they sat in a pair of massage chairs and laughed.

While their relationship is light-hearted and fun, John always finds ways to turn their experiences into teachable moments. And Khalil is more than happy to learn. John gives Khalil driving tips when they’re on the road together and lets him practice on his riding lawn mower. Whatever the activity, Khalil is grateful to John for giving him the chance to try something new.

John has truly become a part of Khalil’s family over the years and he actively works with Khahil’s mother to make Khalil feel as supported as possible. "John is an official member of the family. I can count on him to step in and be there. He even comes over and fixes things like door knobs and shows us how to fix them. He’s a great Big Brother," says Octavia.

John stays in communication with Octavia and they work as a team to support Khalil. John is even on Khalil’s emergency contact list and picks him up from school when he is sick and his mother cannot take off work.

Octavia loves John’s approach to mentoring her son. "Mr. John is very hands-on with him," Octavia said. "He taught him how to mow the lawn, not once, but twice. He taught him how to change oil. He makes sure he’s on top of his education."

John comes from a rural farming family and values hard work and showing initiative. He had an opportunity to teach and inspire this work ethic in Khalil when he showed interest in making his own money and John worked with him to create his first paying job, doing yard work.

John has also taught Khalil lessons in being kind to others. John and Khalil often get haircuts together and John would always pay and tip the barbers while stressing the importance of tipping. After a few haircuts, John felt proud when Khalil took it upon himself to tip the barber with the small amount of money he had.

From the importance of paying it forward to basic car maintenance, John usually acts as the teacher and Khalil the student. However, these roles are easily reversed. In the short amount of time they have been matched, John has grown and changed in a way he could have never expected. From a candy bar to a fun outing, Khalil takes nothing for granted. "He appreciates those little things that I have forgotten," John said. "I’ve learned to step back and see that again."

John and Khalil consistently inspire one another while their relationship inspires those around them. Through his mentorship of Khalil, John has become more involved with BBBSL. He enthusiastically participates in all new program training and initiatives, became a member of BBBSL’s BIG Raise fundraising committee, and encourages other adults in the community to become Bigs.

John and Khalil have come a long way from that first nervous handshake. These days they don’t shake hands, they have their own secret handshake, which involves a hand slide and a fist bump, among other more complicated moves. John consistently shows up in his Little Brother’s life from fun outings to helping out around the house to making sure he was in the crowd to see Khalil receive his certificate for completing JROTC orientation. Even four years into their relationship, John and Khalil still look forward to growing together in the future and remaining matched in the program until Khalil graduates high school.  "We’re still learning things about each other, even today," John said.