Post #6 – Rania

My name is Rania Dali. I am a freshman at Bryn Mawr College and this is my first semester taking part in the Big Sisters Program. I became acquainted with the program through one of my friends, Jacquelyn Arroyo, who is also a member and as soon as I knew the purpose it served I wanted to join.

Every Friday afternoon, six of us Big Sisters with our wonderful program coordinators, Inés Arribas and Julien Suaudeau, drive to Willard Elementary to spend time with our Little sisters. We start our time together with an icebreaker, then move on to reading and writing, before wrapping up with a game chosen by the Little sisters. I remember the first time I went to Willard and met my Little sister, Aaliyah. She was a shy young girl and looked afraid to voice her opinions. But, as soon as we were given the ice-breaker topic, she opened up to me about her family members and school. I was taken aback by the fact that she was willing to trust me but I also instantly knew she is brilliant and has a lovely sense of humor.

Aaliyah loves reading and every time we read she explores a new genre of books. She takes risks and challenges herself without me having to push her. She always picks books that are at a reading level higher than the one she is accustomed to – books with words she hasn’t learned yet. At first, I was unaware of the words she didn’t understand, but as our relationship developed she started asking me for definitions and I also became able to pick up signs of when she is struggling. We developed our own little activity each time we came across a word she didn’t understand: we search up the definition and relate it to the illustrations in the book rather than the sentence it belongs to and see in what other instances the word fits in the book.

During ice-breakers, the Little sisters often write a list or a couple of sentences and then share them with the rest of the group if they choose to. Often, the Little sisters are intimidated by the setting and ask their Big sister to share on their behalf. During our recent session, however, I asked Aaliyah if she wanted to share her production and she accepted. When it was her turn, I looked at her and she nodded and faced everyone around the table to share her favorite memory from Thanksgiving break. Seeing Aaliyah come out of her comfort zone and gain confidence filled my heart with joy. It’s these moments that make Big Sisters a wonderful program and prove that anyone can grow and reach their goals if there is someone believing in them.

Post #5 – Zoila

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.

Post #4 – Rebeca

My name is Rebeca Zamora.

I am a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College, double majoring in International Studies and Spanish. I am also a first-generation college student and a first-generation immigrant, which is why I decided to be part of the Big Sisters program and become a role model to other girls who may be in a position that was once mine. I know that there were people in my life who motivated me to pursue higher education despite all the difficulties involved – especially the language barrier when I first arrived in the United States – and I wanted to be this person to my little sisters.

I first learned about the program through a blog entry posted on the Bryn Mawr College’s main webpage last spring in 2018. I did not think twice about joining and immediately decided to talk to professor Arribas about it. A few months later, I feel that I have embarked on a rewarding journey that I regard as an opportunity to give back the support I once received from people who wanted to see me succeed and achieve my dreams.

My two sisters, Joliana and Glerielis, are very strong and motivated despite being at a disadvantage with other girls in the group. Although Glerielis is a little behind in reading, this has never stopped her from participating enthusiastically in the program and helping out Joliana, who also struggles with reading and speaking English. Although Glerielis has missed a couple of days, she always comes back with the same energy and the desire to learn more and improve her reading and writing skills. She does not want to give up, and this is something that I admire about her.

Jolianas’s situation is a little bit different: just like me, she is a first-generation immigrant who came from Puerto Rico about two years ago. However, just like Glerielis, Joliana does not let her lack of English proficiency discourage her from participating in our academic activities (reading and writing) even if that means asking her big sister how to spell or pronounce words she is not familiar with. This is what I admire most about my little sisters: neither of them is afraid to ask as many questions as they need, which clearly says that they’re both fighters and that they will go above and beyond to achieve what they want.

I see a lot of potential in them, and I am glad I was chosen to be their big sister. By being there for them once a week, I believe I am making a change in their lives and encouraging them to think big about their futures.