A small commitment with a big ripple effect
When Amauri, 11, looks back on her elementary school career, chances are she will think of Dara.
Amauri and Dara t’Sas spend lunchtime together every Friday at McCarver Elementary School in Tacoma as part of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a mentoring program that matches adults with kids in their community who might be in need of a little extra support.
The match matters. Intentionally pairing the right adult with the right child can help set the course for many kids facing adversity, says Louis Garcia, the president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound.
“Imagine an object floating in space,” Garcia says. “It’s going in a direction but something can nudge it and send it in another direction and change the trajectory. Our mentors are that nudge that can change the direction for our youth.”
The goal is to make matches that last. Big Brothers Big Sisters has been around long enough to see the benefits that come from long-term relationships between mentors and youth.
Amauri and t’Sas are in their third year of spending Friday lunches together. It’s not unusual for a fifth grader to look forward to Fridays – because of the weekend – but Amauri looks forward to Fridays because Fridays mean time with her friend.
“After I met Dara, Fridays became one of my favorite days of the week because I look forward to hanging out and laughing and talking with her,” Amauri says. “She’s like a real sister to me because she’s always helping me with things and helping me feel better.”
In 2017, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound supported 1,166 mentoring pairs, including Amauri and t’Sas, in King, Pierce and Kitsap Counties.
As the program grows, so does demand. Currently more than 800 kids are on the waitlist.
Garcia believes supporting children in our community supports community health.
“What we are doing through mentorship is helping young people live healthier lives,” Garcia says. “That’s emotional health, physical health and all of that contributes to their ability to be successful.”
t’Sas clears her schedule to meet with Amauri every Friday because she is invested in Amauri’s success. It’s a small commitment with a big ripple effect.
“I believe in the impact it has on the community,” t’Sas says. “As a resident of Tacoma and as a parent I see the value. It’s been gratifying to see Amauri grow and see all the exciting thing coming up for her and the potential she has. I’m proud of her. Getting to be a part of that is rewarding.”
Over the years, Garcia has watched support from mentors like t’Sas help young people like Amauri though struggles and risky behavior.
“The mentors are not just doing it for the Instagram moment,” Garcia says.
Experiencing the highs and lows alongside a young person can be challenging. It’s an investment that extends beyond a school library or lunchroom.
You can hear the power of that impact when Amauri talks about t’Sas.
“She’s funny and fun to hang out with,” Amauri says. “She’s beautiful, kind and caring. She always gives me a hand when I need help with something. She encourages me and she’s amazing her own Dara way.”
t’Sas smiles as she listens to Amauri.
“Thank you, Amauri. I feel the same way about you.”
Story by Jen Rittenhouse
Photos by Ingrid Barrentine
This story was produced in support of MultiCare’s mission, “partnering for healing and a healthy future.” We support community organizations working on initiatives, programs and projects that improve our community. Some of the non-profits profiled are recipients of MultiCare’s Community Partnership Fund.