Three generations of matches in Ponoka Big Brothers Big Sisters is a testament to how many benefits the program offers to both mentees and mentors.
Grade 12 student Melissa Wilson has been a “little sister” for four years after being matched with Haley Brochu, who had already worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters for two years as a “big sister”.
One year ago, Wilson became a big sister herself for Tye Ancion.
“Haley was such a good mentor to me, I thought I could be a good mentor to somebody else,” said Wilson.
While in school, she learned more about teen mentoring and decided that working with a “little brother” would also help her prepare for a career in teaching.
“It’s probably impacted my life a lot. I have somebody outside of my family that somebody really loves me,” said Wilson.
This idea was another driving factor in Wilson’s decision to step out of her mentee role and become a big sister.
Before becoming a big sister six years ago, Brochu worked for Central Alberta Youth Unlimited. “That program connects us very much with the (Ponoka) youth centre. It was just a natural fit.”
All the while changing the lives of those she is matched with, Brochu says becoming a mentor has positively impacted her own life. “I think it’s a really great opportunity to give back.”
“It’s really cool to see how we’ve become friends with it,” she added, referring to Wilson.
Before she met Brochu, Wilson says her life was quite different. “I think I’ve probably matured a lot. I’ve definitely gained a lot more self confidence.”
Four years ago, Wilson says she spent a lot of her time alone with few friends. But that all changed as the way she perceived herself became more positive.
“I think she’s really come out of her shell and owned herself,” said Brochu.
It is this self-assurance that Wilson hopes to instill in Ancion. “She’s taught me to really be a leader . . . I’m hoping to teach Tye to be more of a leader and to be more involved in his community.”
“I’ve definitely seen a lot of changes in Tye. I’ve seen him grow up a lot,” she added.
For Ancion, he is happy to have the extra support of a big sister. It gives him another avenue to talk about his family, school and hobbies.
“It’s fun, we can have lunch and play,” said Ancion.
Brochu believes the benefits of Big Brothers Big Sisters on the youths the program serves go back to the old adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’
“I think in our world, we’re not very good at being a village,” said Brochu. She feels Big Brothers Big Sisters presents opportunities allowing mentors to fill the gaps in youths lives that may otherwise be left empty.
‘There’s no such thing as too many positive influences,” said Brochu.