On Friday mornings at 9:45, at a time when most commuter students are taking a break, senior Lauren Joy heads to William M. Bass Elementary School. After she rings the bell to open the door and signs in as a visitor, Joy set off to find Addison. Sometimes Addison is in Ms. Robinson’s second grade class. Sometimes she is in the library. Today she is in the computer lab.
Almost every week for the past two years, Joy has made the trip to Bass Elementary to spend an hour with Addison, her Little Sister, as part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Virginia volunteer program.
According to the BBBS Web site, the program seeks to make an impact in children’s lives by leading them to be confident, competent and caring individuals through the help of adult mentors.
“To me the purpose of being a Big Sister is to help make a difference in a child’s life and build a trusting relationship with them where they feel safe and cared for,” Joy said.
Sometimes the Big Sister and Little Sister will do homework together, and sometimes they will just talk. Today Joy will do “whatever Addi wants to do.”
“Let’s play outside,” Addison said.
As the two walk to the playground, Joy gives Addison the pack of Life Saver gummies she brought for her, and they discuss King’s spring break next week and her class’s upcoming field trip to Newport News.
After a few minutes on the slide, Joy and Addison switch to the swings, where Addison tries to set a record for swinging the highest. They talk about Addison’s brother in kindergarten, her Easter dress, the party this afternoon with an Easter egg hunt and a movie, and her plans for the weekend.
The conversation never gets too deep, but Addison’s openness with Joy reveals her trust in their relationship.
“Addison’s trust toward me has become more visible over the past two years,” Joy said. “It is so rewarding to watch her gradually open up to me and get excited when I show up to visit with her.”
When Addison gets tired of the swings, the two head inside to play a board game. Sometimes they play Guess Who, but today Addison opts for Sorry.
Addison leads the whole game, but toward the end Joy catches up. Just when Joy is about to win, Addison draws the prefect card, sending Joy’s piece back home and allowing her own piece to round the corner into the safe zone.
“Addi always wins,” Joy said, commenting on Addison’s never-ending good luck.
For the last few minutes, Addison wants to play a math computer racing game. Joy helps Addison answer the multiplication problems to move her car toward the finish life. Although Addison doesn’t win, her math skills are steadily improving.
“Lauren is realistic about her experience and impact,” said Keena Wood, Lauren’s supervisor at BBBS. “(She) understands and appreciates that growth may be small, but still significant.”
When it’s almost time for Addison to go back to class, she is reluctant to leave.
“One more game?” Addison asked.
“Lauren is someone that Addison feels comfortable sharing things with and talking to about things she can’t with other adults,” Wood said. “She helps with her homework and social skills, and most importantly, they have fun.”
Eventually it’s time for Joy to leave, but the two make plans for the week after Addison’s spring break. Because of the field trip, Joy will come on Monday instead of Friday.
“Knowing that I can make a difference in someone’s life by just giving up an hour a week is something that should not be taken for granted,” Joy said. “I believe that our relationship is as good as it is today because of the fact that it has been stable for the past two years, which is something that is important to her.”
Joy and Addison say goodbye for another week, and Addison heads off to lunch to catch up with her class.