Rayona can be shy, and her mother, Jimerra, hoped that the presence of a Big Sister in her life would help her to open up and come out of her shell. Growing up, Jimerra saw firsthand the impact a Big Sister had on her best friend, and she hoped that the program would bring the same benefits for her daughter.
Julie also came to Big Brothers Big Sisters hoping for a meaningful experience. Throughout most of her life, Julie has admired her former cheerleading coach, Jenny, who persevered after an accident left her paralyzed and went on to become a teacher who shared her story through humor and encouraged her students to accomplish all they wanted in life. Once Julie spoke to a friend who was a Big Brother, she knew that this was the right opportunity for her to put the lessons Jenny taught her to use. “He spoke so highly of the program,” says Julie, “and as soon as I heard of it I thought, ‘I want to be able to give that way.’ I’m so glad I did!”
Since being matched in July 2017, Julie has helped Rayona improve her communication skills. “My Big Sister has taught me that it is ok to be different,” Rayona says, “and she likes the same things that I like.” Rayona and Julie both say that their outings are full of laughter, and they enjoy talking about school, work and family life. Rayona and Julie are active together with walks, ice skating or trips to get frozen yogurt, and also like reading the same books and talking about them when they are together. Julie truly enjoys being a source of support for Rayona, and offering a non-judgmental point of view when she needs it.
“My Little has so much love inside of her,” says Julie. “I hope she knows that rare gift will take her far in life. This experience is unlike any other. It is always amazing to have a connection with someone where you get to help them, not knowing they might also be helping you in the process as well.”