At Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto, Success in School is a key Thriving Indicator that measures the impact a mentoring relationship has on a Little. Last year, 96% of BBBST Littles stated they wanted to do well in school as a result of our programming. Ninety-eight percent of Littles said they look forward to learning new things. Furthermore, 64% of Littles said they like reading for fun. One of the Littles who discovered her joy of reading through her mentoring relationship is Little Sister Maya.

We met with Maya and her Big Marianne to discuss the journey of their match, and how they bonded and empowered each other, allowing them both to grow in this relationship.

“Marianne has been the best Big Sister I could have ever wanted.” – Maya

“I’ll be really sad when Maya turns 16 because it has been such a good match. But even after our match graduates, I know that I’ll still continue to see her. It’s been so good to see her growth – it’s honestly been great!” – Marianne

What was your first impression of each other when you met for the first time?

Maya: My first impression of Marianne was that she was really kind and fun to be around. She always made me feel special and important, even when we were not together on an outing.

Marianne: When I first met Maya, I remember her being super quiet and very shy. I loved that she was so innocent and not tainted by the outside world. During one of our earliest outings, I remember that somehow the question of languages came up and Maya asked me how many languages I know. I told her I know Chinese. “How come?!?”, Maya asked, and I said it’s because I AM Chinese. I remember Maya looking at me with her big eyes – she just couldn’t believe it. I just love that for however many months we were together at that time, she never saw me as different. To her, I was just like her.

What are some of your favourite things to do together?

Maya: My favourite thing to do with Marianne is to go to events with her and do activities in the community.  Anytime I am with Marianne, I have fun!

Marianne: We enjoy our bubble teas together, we enjoy going for treats, we go to the movies – we really like to do a variety of things. I feel like it helps Maya grow as a person to be exposed to as many things as possible, so I try to change it up as much as possible.

When did you realize that Maya was experiencing challenges when it came to her reading?

Marianne: When I talked to Maya’s mother, we had discussed her reading and I knew that she was behind. I think for Maya, reading had become this thing she was almost scared of. So to help take that fear away and make her feel more comfortable, I slowly started incorporating it during our outings: reading the menu, street signs, and street names – simple things to help her slowly tackle it. Another thing we did was write a letter together to a family member of hers, talking about an event we went to or something she had experienced.

What do you do with Marianne to help you with your reading?

Maya: When I was younger, Marianne and I would read together. I can remember going to libraries and reading books together. I always liked this. Marianne has always been very helpful to me with my school work. In the last few years, Marianne has helped me finish projects and get assignments done.

Is there a favourite book or genre you like to read when you’re together?

Marianne: Funnily enough, I got her into graphic novels. I found that Maya seemed intimidated when she saw a thick book with lots of words. So to make it seem more accessible, I once gifted her a graphic novel. It still might be a thick book but to break up the text, you also have pictures, which she really enjoyed.

What is your favourite thing about being matched with Marianne?  

Maya: My favourite part is that she gives me really good advice. For example, when I am talking to her about my homework, she will give me good ideas and help me to get my thoughts out more easily. I have learned so much from Marianne since we started our match together. She has helped shape me into the person I am today. Moving forward, I would love to learn Mandarin from her, as well. That would be very cool. Marianne has been the best Big Sister I could have ever wanted. She has helped me see another perspective on life and experience things I wasn’t able to before meeting her. Thanks, Marianne!

What inspired you to join Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto as a mentor?   

Marianne: I wanted to volunteer in a role that would allow me to be more involved and on the ground. Joining BBBST seemed like the right path for me.

I think for me, my biggest motivation for joining BBBST, my biggest purpose has always been to inspire young people to become leaders in our community. The only way we’re going to make this world a better place is if we empower our youth to become better people with better values and skills. I figured that if there’s even the smallest chance that I can influence a young person positively, I had to try my best.