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.

Post #3 – Amanda

My name is Amanda Moran, I am a junior at Bryn Mawr College. I am also a
McBride student, which means I did not go the traditional student route. I started part-time at the Community College of Philadelphia at the age of 23
and transferred to Bryn Mawr College last fall. I have a background working in biomedical research and a strong passion for the study of genetics. As a
psychology major, I hope to either pursue a PhD in Developmental Psychology or use my well-rounded understanding of development to work with and help adolescents in another way.

One day, last spring, while sitting in my elementary French class, my professor Julien Suaudeau, who is one of the coordinators alongside Inés Arribas, brought up the Big Sisters Program. He told us once a week a group of Bryn Mawr students went to Willard Elementary School in Kensington and mentored third and fourth-grade female students. I was immediately drawn to the program for two reasons: First, as someone who also came from a slightly rough upbringing as well, I owe most of my success to the adults who showed me not just care but consistency. It’s an honour to be a part of that for someone else, as it was done for me. Secondly, I have always enjoyed working with children and, as someone who is narrowing down a career path, I wanted to see if working hands-on with children and adolescents would be something I am interested in.

The first week we met our little sisters and did some icebreakers. Samiah and Taniyah probably didn’t even need those, they have never been shy, which I enjoy that about them. The last few weeks I have spent one on one time with Samiah. We start off with an icebreaker, and then we read and write for twenty to thirty minutes. Although she gets to pick which book she wants to read, I try and influence her to read about a different subject each week. I do this in an attempt to broaden her interests and knowledge a little more. Last week, we read a book about following rules in class and this week we read a Zoobook (okay, I strongly influenced this one) about turtles. She then writes on a topic given by Teresa, the coordinator of the program at Willard, who is also their guidance counselor. Samiah is an excellent writer and, as evidenced by all the questions she asks, she genuinely cares about her work.

The final and best part of our time together is the free time at the end. Samiah always insists on playing a special form of Jenga, in which each block has a question on it. I can’t say exactly what is discussed, because one of the rules set forth by Teresa is that what is said there stays there. I believe that is important, and I think because of it Samiah lets me into her life a little more each week. This past Friday she told me something personal and followed it with, “I only tell my best friends that, and well you, because I really like you and I trust you.” At the end of each week, we talk about small goals for the next week or anything exciting coming up for her that she will want to tell me about when I see her next. It’s a privilege to work with these girls; they have huge hearts and strong potential. I think as big sisters we not only get the chance to give back, but we also have the opportunity to learn more about ourselves personally and academically.

Post #2 – Sierra

My name is Sierra Norman, I am a senior at Bryn Mawr College. I am majoring in Psychology on the Pre-Med track and minoring in Child & Family Studies. I have always had a passion for helping children and am pursuing a career as a pediatric psychiatrist where I can continue to do so.

When I was a freshman at Bryn Mawr College, I wanted to find a club or program to volunteer with that was focused on helping children. I joined the Belmont Mentoring Club, which partnered with the Belmont Charter School to help the students with homework, attend their extracurricular clubs, and do activities with them. Unfortunately, the program ended during my sophomore year and there wasn’t another to replace it. So when I read about the Big Sister Program last Spring, I was so excited and immediately reached out to get information about how I could be involved! I met with the program organizers, Inés Arribas and Julien Suaudeau, and was on board to start this Fall.

The program started with a group meeting for the members on campus and then another meeting for a tour of Willard Elementary School before working with the Little Sisters. We have had three meetings with our Little Sister’s this semester. The first day we met with the girls, they were so happy to start the program, but also a little shy. I was very excited and was hoping my Little Sisters would like me! We spent some time the first day with icebreakers and getting to know one another.

Our main goal with this program, aside from being a constant for the children to rely on, is to help prepare them for the Pennsylvania System School Assessment (PSSA). We spend most of our time reading and writing with them to prepare for the test. We also spend a little bit of time with icebreakers and fun activities to help establish a bond. Since we are still early on in the program, my Little Sister is a little shy and quiet. But she has shown more silliness this week and also is very willing to get prepared for the PSSA, so I am looking forward to working with her for the rest of the program!

I am really excited to invite our Little Sisters to come to Bryn Mawr College’s campus in the spring and show them around. Other members of the Big Sisters Program will be writing about their experiences over the next few weeks, so stay tuned to read about them!