Hispanic Heritage Month: Jenny
Jenny, Community Engagement and Recruitment Coordinator & Big Sister
Let’s start from the beginning. When and how did you first get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters? (¿Por qué inicialmente inscribio a su hija, Eimy, para el programa Big Brothers Big Sisters?)
Jenny: I first got involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters as an employee in their Community Engagement and Marketing Department back in 2014. After learning more about the positive impacts of mentoring, I was really interested in becoming a Big Sister, especially to a Spanish speaking family where there was a big need. I became a Big Sister in March 2015.
Luisa: Bueno de la escuela black tones me mandaron la aplicación para el programa,yo inscribi a Eimy en el programa,atravez d la escuela supe d su programa me gusto mucho,pk veia La Niña muy contenta cuando le tocaba las visitas contigo, el programa era solo dentro d la escuela,asta que un día tuve la necesita de cambiar a eimy de black tones,entonce me sentia mal por su cambio drástico,ya que era su escuela favorita y la mia tan bn por supuesto,pero el cambio de escuela era necesario,empeze a sentirme mal porque vi a eimy muy triste porque iba perder su programa de big sister,entonce hai fue que tuvimos la conversación y me explicaste del mismo programa pero en la comunidad,la inscribi en el de la comunidad,porque eimy tanto como yo queriamos que siguiera la amistad y comunidad que habían entré ambas,senti que eimy no queria perder tu amisma y gracias a ti hiciste el gran esfuerzo de poder hacer el programa fuera de escuela para continuar con la amistad con Eimy.
Describe the first time you met your Little?
Jenny: Eimy and I first met at her elementary school. She was extremely shy and wasn’t saying much. I don’t think she was completely grasping what role I would be playing and what having a Big sister would entail. I was pretty nervous because all I kept telling myself was “Man, I hope she likes me. Is she going to think I’m boring? Not find me funny?”. She reminded me a lot of myself, I am usually shy when I first meet someone, but only until I get comfortable with them. So I was confident we would build a good friendship with time.
How would you describe your relationship with your Little?
Jenny: I would describe it as simple, fun, and adventurous. Simple because we both really just enjoy each other’s company, whether it’s just going for a walk, going to the library, doing arts and crafts, or eating ice cream, we always have a good time. And adventurous because we try to do things that take us out of our comfort zone.
What are some changes you’ve seen in your daughter since being matched? (¿Cuáles son algunos de los cambios que ha visto en su hija desde que fue emparejada con su Big Sister?)
Luisa: A cambiado la comunicación,ya que eimy tiene confianza en contarle algunas de sus cosas a su big sisters,ella era un poco tímida y a soltado poco la timidez.
Has being a Big taught you anything? About yourself? About others?
Jenny: Being a Big has been extremely rewarding. Eimy teaches me so much about life and is a constant reminder that investing in our youth and investing in the world they will grow up in should be a priority, to each and every one of us. She reminds me to stay positive and enjoy every moment, even if it doesn’t go according to plan (which for me is sometimes difficult, because I’m such a planner). I never would have thought that such a young kid would bring me such motivation, inspiration, and positivity.
Do you have a favorite experience or memory with your Little?
Jenny: Eimy and I share the same birthday on June 26th. It is such a special treat to celebrate our birthdays together every year. We usually have some dessert, blow out candles, wear birthday hats, and give each other cards. It’s great to take our annual birthday pictures and have them to look back at down the road.
Is there a specific memory you have where you realized you were making an impact in your Little’s life?
Jenny: When we first got matched, we started this tradition of creating personal cards for our family members during special occasions. So we would create cards during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays. She enjoys arts and crafts, so she really liked the idea. It wasn’t until about 2 weeks before Fathers Day, when she brings it up to me and says “Hey, we can’t forget to make cards for our dads because Fathers Day is coming up!”. I had been so busy at work that I honestly had just forgotten about it. It meant so much to me, and it showed me that she was being mindful of special occasions even before I brought them up. The example I was setting was helping her express her gratitude and love to those that she really cares about.
If you could describe your daughter’s Big in one word what would it be? (Si pudieras describir la Big Sister de tu hija en una sola palabra, ¿cuál sería?)
Luisa: Divertida,porque divertido,porque veo alegrias en Eimy cada vez que le tocan las salidas con su big sister ya que ella disfruta tanto y hace muchas actividades dentro del programa.
Where do you see this friendship heading in the future? Is there anything you hope to instill in your Little?
Jenny: I hope we are able to have a life-long friendship. We have been matched since she was 7 and she is now 10, I’ve seen so much growth in her in just 3 short years, so I can’t imagine a couple more years down the road as she grows into a teen and then a young woman. I hope to instill in her the resilience, confidence, and patience she will need to conquer any challenge and attain any goal she sets for herself throughout her life.
What advice would you give other Latino adults who may be hesitant to volunteer as a Big? Why is there a need for more role models, especially in the Latino Communities?
Jenny: I would advice them to just go for it, sometimes we psych ourselves out about whether we will have the time for it, or if we will be a likeable Big. But when you are matched with someone who you have a lot in common with, it won’t seem like a chore at all. And like anything else in life, it’s about organizing yourself. It’s a flexible program and you can work the outings into your particular schedule. I believe there is such a need for more role models because Hispanic families are learning more and more that it really takes a village to raise a child (and that includes people outside of the family), and the more positive adults the children are surrounded with the better. I believe families are also getting more educated on the importance and impact of mentoring which is making them more inclined to seek these opportunities.
How important is the role of Match Support to be able to speak Spanish as well? Also how important has it been to have a Big Brother that speaks Spanish and has similar background to your son? (¿Qué tan importante es el papel de Match Support para poder hablar español también? ¿También que importante ha sido tener una Big Sister que habla español y tiene fondo similar a su hija?)
Luisa: Match support,para poder hablar español,es importante ya que hai niños de raza latina, y deben comunicarse con los padres que aun no dominan el idioma de ingles,sera mas facil para su big sister si domina ambos idiomas,porque asi podra conversar con esos padres hispanos que no hablan el idioma ingles, entonces sería menos complicado hacer los planes de salidas ect.
How has your Hispanic heritage/culture shaped you to become the person that you are today?
Jenny: My Hispanic Heritage has taught me to be humble, thankful, and a deep love for family. I have a big family so growing up I always had aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and my parents who I spent a lot of time with. We lived close to one another, so we would get together every weekend to eat and enjoy each other’s company. It created a bond full of unconditional love, trust, support, laughter. This played a huge role in my friendship with Luisa, Eimy’s mom. I was very intentional about building a relationship with her. We are all like family now. We are both from the Dominican Republic, so I think sharing the same language and culture really helped us click immediately. I always wanted to show Luisa that I respected and admired her role as a mother (she keeps herself busy with 3 beautiful girls), and I was there to be a partner/collaborator with her in ensuring Eimy has the support she needs in reaching her full potential. We regularly check in and are always very comfortable to talk about anything that comes up.
Growing up in a Latino community/household, what did you see or experience that could have been different if positive role models had a bigger presence?
Jenny: Living in a Latino community/household, most of us are surrounded by a large family, but I wish I had women outside of my family who were closer in age to me who I could look up to. In shows, magazines, and the general media, I always yearned to see a young woman, who looked like me and was of a similar background as me, to show me a lot of the lessons my mom for example couldn’t at the time. I moved here from the Dominican Republic at 5 years old, my mom was 29 and it was her first time here in the US. My mom wasn’t knowledgeable of the college process, pop culture, and some of the new things that I was getting exposed to at my age living in the US. That’s why I think it’s so important for young Latinos to step up and become mentors to the youth, not to take the place of the parents, but to be an extra resource and someone to look up to for guidance.
What are some challenges that Latino families or children face? And how as an agency could we work on catering to this need?
Jenny: I believe some Latino families and children, especially immigrant families sometimes face the challenge of feeling like they must adapt to the American culture or finding the balance between being American and still honoring and being proud of their heritage. You shouldn’t feel like you have to choose. I think it’s important for the youth to still honor the traditions and their native language while being American citizens. And sometimes you can get lost in that. I believe the agency can do things to share more information about different Latin American countries and create a space where we honor those countries and provide a platform for native speakers to share about their individual country and culture.
Children s safety is our number one priority; throughout the duration of the match, not just the beginning!