By Nicole Marsh
Staff Writer, ad-visor&chronicle
It is important to Audrey Lewis to take time each week to go and see her Little Brother, Maurice, from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. It is also important to Maurice that she is able to see him.
“I had heard about it before, heard about the announcement and I wanted to check it out,” said Lewis. “After I got paired up with Maurice and I would go every week, I really enjoyed watching how our relationship started and how it progressed.”
The particular Big Brothers Big Sisters program that Lewis and Maurice are in brings high school students together with elementary school students for some guidance as well as building a relationship.This pair is a part of many that are a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. These pairings benefit from this program in many ways, and it is why they have events such as the Bowl for Kids Sake at Marshall Lanes on Friday, March 16. All funds raised will go to the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program which benefits pairs like Lewis and Maurice so they may be able to continue growing and bonding with one another.
Maurice was in first grade when he met Lewis during her senior year at Marshall High School last school year. After graduating from MHS in 2017, Lewis asked to continue going to Maurice’s school, and be a part of the program.
“I was originally not going to continue after I was done with my senior year because I was planning on going to Michigan State,” said Lewis. “It would not have worked out, and I would have to end it.”
She decided not to go to MSU, as her mom had convinced her to look toward smaller colleges, such as Albion College. During a visit to Albion’s campus, she had a feeling of belonging, and made the decision to attend there. Though Lewis has not picked a major that she plans to study, she enjoys both science and spanish and she hopes to find a potential career that might involve either if not both of those.
“When I decided to go to Albion, I thought I could still to go to see him, so I talked to Jessie about it,” said Lewis, referring to Jessie Reyes , who is a service delivery specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters. Reyes had paired Lewis with Maurice for the program last year, and continues to stay in contact with Lewis. It is part of the program expectations that they stay in communication with people like Reyes to update them on anything.
“Audrey always had really thorough match support,” said Reyes of their monthly meetings with the pair separately.
Lewis finds that the program is rather independent outside of the match support, and likes that she can make it work for her schedule.
Luckily for Lewis, she was able to stay with the program and continues to see Maurice as she has been attending college.
“She has really blown me out of the water and exceeded the expectations of a mentor,” said Reyes, who was initially concerned about how much Lewis might be taking on by continuing with the program into college.
Reyes is glad that Lewis is able to stay and be a part of the program, and it was clear that Lewis was happy she asked.
“It’s this sweet friendship that I had made with this young person that I did not just want to let go just because I was going to school,” said Lewis. “I just wanted to help our friendship, and the relationship that we have so that he has someone to talk to.”
Lewis signed up for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program her junior year in high school where she was matched with a different student at one of the Marshall elementary schools. Unfortunately, this student moved to a different school, and Lewis was unable to continue her relationship with that student at her new school.
“It would have been unfair of me to abandon the whole program and just not continue, so I wanted to try again and see all of the benefits and give it another shot,” said Lewis, who found that it was upsetting that she was unable to continue her relationship with her Little Sister.
After not being able to continue the program her junior year, she wanted to give it another try during her senior year.
Generally speaking, Big Brothers Big Sisters does not allow seniors to begin the program because of graduation.
There are other guidelines the program has such as only seeing each other at school, and not making plans outside of that time. Lewis is allowed to take Maurice out of any of his classes to spend time with him, but she does ensure that they do some sort of educational game or activity together.
“I was a little apprehensive at first when they said I was paired up with a little boy,” said Lewis, who remembers meeting Maurice and how shy he was.
Since then, she has gotten to know him and notices that he is also quiet around a lot of other adults, but he seems to have opened up more with her. She feels like he has become more outgoing with her, and seems to have gotten more comfortable with doing his reading for other people.
“It has been really nice with Maurice because we get to do some of the things that he is interested in, like little boy stuff,” said Lewis. “It has just been really nice to do things I would not usually choose to do.”
She finds that Maurice enjoys being able to teach her sports and Legos, which are things he really likes to do with his friends.
She says she hopes that she has influenced him by being a positive role model.
“Maurice always seems pretty excited to see her and he always talks about how much he loves Audrey,” said Reyes.
Lewis talked about how she enjoys bringing Maurice cookies on occasion, and a few weeks ago when he was on his last cookie, he broke it down and gave half to her.
“I thought that was really sweet, because he is noticing when we are sharing things together and he sees how I am feeling rather than focusing on himself,” she said.
It is not just Maurice that has grown since their relationship has began, according to Lewis, who says their friendship has helped her a lot as well.
“He’s made me slow down and think about things,” said Lewis. “He helps slow me down, take a minute and just focus on something small and appreciate how things are.”
Although Lewis thought originally that she would be able to connect better with a little girl in the program, she is glad that she has met Maurice and created a friendship. She wants to make sure that she is there for Maurice as a friend, especially if he needs someone to talk to.
This pair has been able to teach each other different things and create a bond that helps them to succeed in other areas of their lives. Lewis likes to know that she might make even just a small impact on Maurice as he gets more comfortable with her. Maurice seems to enjoy the time that he spends with Lewis, as they read, practice Spanish, play sports and of course, eat cookies together.
“I think that he is helping me to value friendships more,” said Lewis. “Not that I didn’t before, but it’s just another way to value a friendship.”