Friendships that form between "Bigs" and "Littles" often last long after their official connection with Big Brothers Big Sisters has ended. While Big Brothers Big Sisters initially asks volunteers to make a one-year commitment, many relationships continue naturally much longer.
When Betsy Woodruff was a freshman at Wake Forest University in 1997, she volunteered to be a Big Sister and was matched with then fifth grader Jakeia. Throughout Betsy's four years at Wake Forest she was Jakeia's Big Sister. The match exceeded Betsy's expectations because she and Jakeia are so much alike and their personalities are such a good fit.
"If I had met her randomly in life, I think we would have become as close as we are now," said Betsy.
During their time spent together each week, Betsy and Jakeia loved to cook. The two made dinner and dessert on a regular basis. Cookies were their specialty!
In 2000, Betsy and Jakeia's match with Big Brothers Big Sisters was officially closed because Betsy graduated and moved to Atlanta. However, Betsy and Jakeia's friendship did not end. Though many changes have taken place in both their lives over the past years, the pair still remains devoted to one another. They have weekly conversations on the phone and see each other about twice a year.
When asked about some of the more significant changes in their relationship over time, Betsy answered, "Jakeia grew up! When we first were matched, I played more of a big sister role and did things for her — gave her advice, asked about important things in her life, etc. Now we both do that for each other. If I mention something that I am going to do or am concerned about, she'll ask about it the next time we talk. I can tell her about a situation, and she'll give me good advice about how to handle it. She also loves to give me unsolicited love advice!" In fact, Betsy says she has to stop Jakeia from going up to men in the mall and telling them they should ask Betsy out.
Little Sister, Growing Up
Jakeia is now a senior in high school. She makes good grades and has been working at a nursing home for more than a year. The senior citizens there love her and say she is their favorite. While Jakeia has always been a really outgoing, good-hearted person, Betsy has enjoyed watching Jakeia mature and develop goals for her future. "I see a lot of me at that age in her — she is determined and knows what she wants," remarked Betsy.
Their favorite activity now is when Jakeia visits Betsy in Atlanta. After being apart for months they spend several days just catching up. Though distance has brought changes, Betsy and Jakeia now appreciate their talks and time together even more.
Betsy and Jakeia plan to be involved in each other's lives, always. They joke about the two of them opening a restaurant named "BJ's" and also about Jakeia taking care of Betsy when Betsy is old and gray. Their immediate plans include taking a trip to visit colleges so Jakeia can decide where she wants to apply.
Through Big Brothers Big Sisters, these women opened themselves up to the possibilities of a new friendship. They have both been enriched by how their relationship has developed and changed over time. Betsy and Jakeia look forward to sharing their lives with one another for many more years to come.