It often happens that when one girl in a family gets matched with a Big Sister, her sisters and cousins want one too. You may have already read about Big Sister Dina Pradel and Little Sister Shanice, who have been happily matched for more than three and half years. When 10 year old Aunjalee from Milton, Shanice’s cousin, saw how much fun Shanice was having with her Big Sister, she begged to have one of her own. Charlotte, the girls’ great-grandmother had seen the positive impact Shanice’s Big Sister had on her and was more than happy to sign up Aunjalee for a Big Sister too. “It’s so good for the girls to learn about the world from different people,” said Charlotte. “Their Big Sisters give them a new perspective on life.”
In July 2007, Aunjalee was matched with Big Sister Phyllis Thomas. As the oldest of four brothers and two sisters, Phyllis knew what it meant to be a role model. “I’m used to people depending on me,” said Phyllis. Perhaps that is why she recognizes the importance of playing a consistent role in Aunjalee’s life as her mentor and friend; though she admits that the training she received as part of the process of becoming a Big Sister also greatly prepared her.
When Phyllis and Aunjalee were first matched, Phyllis could see that her Little Sister lacked confidence in herself. Aunjalee would often get upset if she didn’t perform well in school or feel defeated when she didn’t understand her math homework. Phyllis encouraged Aunjalee to talk with her about the problems she was having at school and helped put her worries in perspective. She made sure her Little Sister knew that even when she faced set-backs, the most important thing was to never, ever give up. Soon, Phyllis began to notice that Aunjalee’s confidence in her schoolwork was increasing. “I’m not nervous to start a new grade in school now,” said Aunjalee of Phyllis’ influence on her. In fact, Aunjalee has gained so much confidence in her academic abilities that she has her sights set on Harvard (class of 2020!).
As their friendship grows and thrives, Phyllis continues to build Aunjalee’s confidence by encouraging her Little Sister to try new things-whether it is simply eating broccoli at dinner one night or going for walks and bike rides together to encourage Aunjalee to lead a more active lifestyle. Most importantly, Phyllis is always there to lend an ear and her undivided attention to her Little Sister. “She understands me,” said Aunjalee.
Aunjalee’s friendship with Phyllis has already shaped her world in so many ways and will continue to broaden her horizons. As for what the future holds, according to the matter-of-fact Aunjalee, “I’ll grow up to have a nice life because of being with my Big Sister Phyllis.”