My name is Zoila Regalado. I am a junior at Bryn Mawr College, majoring in Spanish and minoring in LAILS (Latin American Iberian Latina/o Studies). I am a first-generation college student, and as a first gen, college can be hard, sometimes, without having someone to rely on; everything is a first.
I am one of the students who began working with the Big Sistersprogram in 2017. When I joined, there were only four of us who travelled to Willard Elementary School every Friday. I decided to join because back in high school, I had been involved in some volunteering. Back then, the idea of helping other students seemed somewhat boring to me until my role model, Dr. Rodriguez, encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone to try it. I discovered that I love helping other students who are in the same situation as I was when I arrived in the United States, not knowing any English and having to learn it as a second language. If I had to give some advice, it would be this: “Never tell yourself you can’t, until you try it and find out if you really are not capable of doing it or it’s not to your liking, as these are two different things —just get out of that COMFORT ZONE, don’t be shy”.
Starting the program, the little sisters can come across as distant. When they start to know us well, however, they become very familiar and more energetic. They constantly ask Ms. Bronte, the school’s counselor, when their big sisters are coming back to work with them. The first two semesters, I worked one-on-one with my little sister, Gaby, who graduated from elementary school past June. Gaby was a bit timid, but she was a smart, witty girl. At the time, we only worked on reading skills. Now, I am working with three little sisters: Briseyda, who is also shy but persistent; Nasiah, who is outgoing and ambitious; and Yeilin, who is impulsive but also a bright soul. This year we have incorporated writing to our reading activities. Briseyda, Nasia and Yeilin are like best friends, which sometimes makes it a bit overwhelming because they are making jokes out of thin air, and not always focusing on the task at hand. Yet, we always achieve the goal of the day.
This time of the semester is a bit exciting for all of us because of winter break, but not being able to see my little sisters is a brutal prospect: being an only child, I consider them as my real little sisters. The separation is heartbreaking because of the warm connection we have built over the semester. For me, it will be even more difficult this year, because I am going abroad in the Spring and therefore I will not be able to see them until next academic year.
I am more than eager to continue being part of the Big SistersProgram, because I know I am working for a great cause. I am positive that I am making a change in the lives of these girls and I hope someday they can also change someone else’s life.