Big Sister of the Year 2019 – Emily Moran
ALLSTON, Mass. – Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has named Emily Moran, 30, of Allston, the Massachusetts Big Sister of the Year. She is one of 480 volunteers for the national nonprofit to be recognized in each of the 50 U.S. states for their outstanding commitment to developing caring and life-altering one-to-one mentoring relationships with children.
Moran is a Big Sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts, the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate in New England. Three years ago, she was introduced to the nonprofit through her employer and immediately signed up to become a mentor for the organization’s signature community-based program in which adult mentors are paired with children, ages 7 to 12, and meet for a few hours a couple times a month at a location of their choice. She was matched with Jenika McMillan.
“I had always wanted a sister,” says Moran.
When Moran first met McMillan, then 13, she had recently moved to the United States to join her adopted family after experiencing immense challenges and loss in her home country of Haiti. She was struggling with challenges associated with being adopted from a foreign country, educational and developmental delays and meeting new friends, while battling sickle cell anemia and multiple food allergies. She was in need of a positive role model in her life that would provide her with a consistent and long-lasting friendship that would allow her to open up about her past experiences and pursue new opportunities.
“When we first began our friendship, Jenika would give up easily if something was hard, but we’ve worked through things together – such as ice skating for the first time,” says Moran. “Now, she is always so excited to share with me the positive happenings in her life, but we have also developed a strong bond where she feels comfortable sharing with me her feelings about her adoption process, her family that she once had in Haiti or when she experiences a pain crisis. And, she isn’t afraid to try new things.”
Early into their match, Moran prioritized giving McMillan a space to express and explore her Haitain culture. She found a class where she and McMillan learned a traditional Haitain dance with a live percussionist ensemble and had a lot of fun together. Later on, McMillan shared her culture through food, teaching her Big Sister how to cook one of her favorite dishes: chicken, rice and plantains. While Moran continues to introduce her Little Sister to new things, such as the New England Aquarium, pottery painting and the Boston subway, cooking in Moran’s apartment remains one of their favorite go-to outings together.
At the end of 2019, Moran visited McMillan at Boston Children’s hospital when she was admitted for a Sickle Cell flare up. The duo painted canvas and chatted about their recent days, giving McMillan a sense of normalcy and comfort despite the circumstance. Moran says McMilan’s personality continues to shine through her art, something she greatly admires in her Little Sister.
“I also struggle with chronic medical issues that are not curable, along with food allergies, so we have bonded over this and keep each other in check to eat food that is nourishing to our bodies,” says Moran, who was paired with McMillan by the agency based on shared interests, geography and personality. “Being in middle school is tough and I also struggled during this time period – with bullying, acne and social anxiety to be exact. I share stories about these days with Jenika and how I’ve overcome some challenging moments. I never want her to feel alone and I always tell her how proud I am of her.”
While McMillan continues to navigate chronic health challenges, Moran has seen a progression in her Little Sister’s academic and social skills. Now more outgoing and confident, McMillan is an avid dancer, cast member for her school play and consistently earns good grades to make her school’s honor roll.
“Nominating Emily as the Big Sister of the Year representative from our agency was a no brainer,” says Mark O’Donnell, President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts. “She is a compassionate role model and friend to Jenika who is helping her to live up to her fullest potential. To have that type of support in your life is invaluable.”
In its 70th year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts has created and served more than 20,000 matches. This school year, the nonprofit aims to serve 3,600 youth. For more information, visit: www.emassbigs.org.
About Big Brother Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts is an innovative, energetic organization that is making a real difference in the lives of nearly 4,000 youth annually by providing them with an invested, caring adult mentor in long-term, professionally supported relationships. With research and proven outcomes at its core, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts is working to defend the potential of children facing adversity and ensure every child has the support from caring adults that they need for healthy development and success in life. The organization’s vision is to inspire, engage and transform communities in Eastern Massachusetts by helping youth achieve their full potential, contributing to healthier families, better schools, more confident futures and stronger communities. Throughout its 70 years, the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate in New England has created and served more than 20,000 matches. For more information about the agency and its mission, visit www.emassbigs.org.