Sharon, a shy student whose greatest struggle in school was English and maintaining strong grades, needed a solution to her academic struggles. With the help of her mother, they found an even greater resolution, not only helping with school but with overall self confidence. In 2008, Sharon was introduced to the Big Sisters’ Study Buddy program. Sharon and her mother did not know much about the program, but with encouragement and high recommendations from friends, decided to give it a try.
Sharon was paired with a volunteer mentor named Meera Bawa. For two years, Sharon and Meera met every Wednesday night, at the library, cultivating in an ongoing trusting and encouraging relationship. Not only did Sharon’s grades improved, she also developed a newfound level of confidence in herself and her abilities. Meera encouraged Sharon to say “I am smart” even when it was difficult, and Sharon drew inspiration from Meera’s intelligence and involvement in the community.
“I made her say ‘I am smart’ and it was so painful for her but she did it. It was just so emotional for me to see myself in a lot of her and have compassion for when I was smaller and learning new things.” – Mentor Meera
The two continued their relationship well beyond the 6-month minimum requirement and have now been friends for 13 years and counting. They share a love of trying new experiences together, including
“It’s just an amazing learning opportunity. Every time we meet I’m learning something new and it just never stops… every little girl just wants to learn and to try new things and get more experiences. I’m really grateful that Big Sisters and Meera have given me all these opportunities.” – Mentee Sharon
Meera found her experience with Sharon and volunteering in the Study Buddy Program to be more fulfilling than any previous tutoring experiences. She initially joined the program to volunteer at the grassroots level as she has a passion for literacy and helping others. Meera was pleasantly surprised to find that the mentorship aspect of the program was just as rewarding as the tutoring. She says, “I didn’t expect to get as much out of it as I did.” Meera’s relationship with Sharon evolved from a tutoring relationship to a close friendship.
Meera believes that the Big Sisters Study Buddy program is an amazing investment in empowerment and creates connections between people who wouldn’t otherwise connect. She never expected to get as much out of the program as she did and considers herself lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Sharon and to be a part of her life.
“It’s just such a unique program that I think really lifts up community because it creates a connection between people that wouldn’t otherwise connect. And then there’s just such a benefit of empowering young women. For me the experience extended beyond mentorship to a broader understanding of community and opened my eyes to other people’s experiences… I think the program is an amazing investment in girl’s empowerment and women.” – Mentor Meera