We’re showing some love for our Big Sister alumnae! Over the next while we’ll be sharing a series of interviews that feature our alumnae and their involvement with Big Sisters. Kicking us off is our interview with a Big Sister of 7 years, Alex Gens! Read on to find out why mentoring matters to Alex, and her advice on how best to get involved.
MEET: MELISSA JANG, FORMER BIG SISTER
Next up in our alumnae interview series is Melissa Jang! Read on to learn about why she became a Study Buddy, where her Little Sister is off to now, and the plan she helped her build to realize her dreams.
Why were you interested in becoming a Big Sister?
I wanted the opportunity to influence a young girl’s life in my own community. I signed up for the Study Buddy program because I felt it was less pressure than the Big Sisters program. It – homework – gave us something to talk about each week, and over the years our relationship evolved. Now homework is only one of the things to talk about.
How long have you been involved with Big Sisters?
Four and a half years since 2016.
What have you found most valuable about your experience with Big Sisters?
Watching my Little Sister grow from a timid 13-year-old just trying to pass math class, to a young woman off to university this year. Getting to see her confidence build and the rallying community – including Big Sisters – around her cheer her on. She’s going to make a difference in this world and I’m so honoured to be part of her journey.
What is the most memorable experience that you had with your Little Sister?
When she called me to tell me that she got into her “first choice” university! She worked really hard and I’m so proud of her.
What is your favourite activity to do with your Little Sister?
Other than homework, of course, I really enjoy chatting with her about her future aspirations and many passions.
How did your Little Sister grow during the match?
She gained confidence in herself to know that she could accomplish anything she set her mind to. She told me that when we first met, she felt university was out of reach for her. Over the years we would talk about her future and she decided university was what she wanted. We built a plan which sometimes included tough decisions like forgoing a passion subject for a required subject at school.
What has been the biggest challenge of being a Study Buddy?
I felt my biggest challenge was convincing her that her school counselor’s goal (to graduate) and my goal (to help her realize her goal of getting into university) weren’t the same. She would get recommendations and suggestions that wouldn’t allow her to accomplish her goals. For example, she was told that a certain academic course wasn’t necessary when in fact it was a requirement to get into the school she wanted.
What has been the biggest reward of being a Study Buddy?
Being able to see someone else accomplish their goals especially when she felt those goals were previously out of reach.
“Prioritizing my Little Sister has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made.”
What would you like the community to know about Big Sisters?
Big Sisters is a big national charity, but when you’re in the program it feels more like a small family focused on the same goals. You get a social worker with a heart of gold to help guide you and your match when you need them. They check in to make sure things are going well, and to provide suggestions on activities to do together (which is often free tickets to experiences so that no one gets left out due to finances).
What would you say to someone who is interested in becoming a Big Sister?
Do it. Helping someone accomplish their dreams and showing them that despite what others tell them they are worth it! Everyone deserves a champion in life that reminds them of what they are capable of.
What else would you like to share?
Being a Study Buddy took up one evening per week for the past 5 years which meant trade-offs and missed outings with family and friends. Over the years, prioritizing my Little Sister has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made.
Stay tuned as we continue to highlight the inspiring alumnae of Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland. If you have been involved in Big Sisters and want to be included in more of the alumnae community, please reach out through our contact page or social media handles- @bigsistersbclm