Mentoring Real Life Stories: Meet Dancing Duo Michelle & Ana
Michelle Nigro, former NFL cheerleader and owner of Town Barre, was always interested in becoming a Big Sister. About six months ago, she finally made the decision to get involved. From the start, her Little Sister Ana was the perfect match. The active, pizza-loving pair has gone rock climbing, ice skating and even practiced for dance recitals together. They don’t take themselves too seriously and just have fun together! Most importantly, we love Michelle’s hopes for Ana as she grows older. Read on!
How did you hear about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay, and what made you want to get involved?
BBBSMB actually came to my previous job! My office manager coordinated a visit and they were talking about the school based program. It was always something I had heard about and thought it was a really nice program, but I knew I was going to be leaving that job soon so I inquired about the community based program.
I was really excited to get a Little because it was always something I had thought about growing up. I always had a big family, so I had tons of support and friends and cousins. I know some people don’t always have such a big family, so I thought it’d be fun to do some of the activities my aunts, uncles and cousins were able to do with me when I was growing up. I wanted to be that support for someone who might not have the same support system.
What was the first time meeting Ana like?
It was definitely a little nerve-wracking! Once I started talking to them both [Ana and her mom] about the things we liked, I was completely at ease. Joy, Ana’s mom, is so sweet and she’s been through the process with her son, so she knew the questions to ask. When I got the chance to hang out and talk to Ana, we had already started planning some of the activities we were excited to do together. I was going to be happy with whomever I was matched with, but it was really cool to see that we had similar interests. It made the process of getting to know Ana really nice.
Do you have any favorite activities you like to do together?
She right away was like “I like singing, dancing, acting.” I danced growing up, and we were talking about her dance classes and her upcoming recital. One of the things we wanted to do was dance together. She could show me her dance for her recital and practice and teach me part of it. It was probably a few months after we first met that we finally got a chance to do that. It was the perfect timing because her recital was coming up a month later. We practiced her dance, and she taught me some of it. I gave her pointers, and she’s always giving me pointers, too. We had a lot of fun, and it was good physical activity! I was able to go to her recital a few weeks ago and watch her perform the dance that she taught me. It kind of came full circle, and I was glad I got to be there for her recital.
Another activity that comes to mind is that we both really love food and pizza, so we made a goal of going to 15 different pizza places in about a year. Even if we don’t get very close, (I think we’re on number three or four!) it’s fun to always have something to do before or after a visit, just maybe go grab a slice of pizza because we both love eating too!
You just passed your 6-month mark, how has your relationship grown since you first met Ana?
In the beginning, sometimes she’d be more talkative or sometimes she’d be more quiet, so I’d lead the conversation, always asking questions. Now, it’s like we are just buddies! She’ll talk to me about what’s going on in her life: her upcoming recital or she has her own company at school, she says. I think it’s a little bit more natural to hang out, and now we both give each other suggestions of what we want to do. I have to say, it’s not a huge difference because from the beginning I think we both luckily felt really comfortable with each other and got along really well. I feel really lucky, and I hope Ana feels the same way. We always have a lot of fun. If anything, now we are just having more fun!
Are there any values you want to instill in Ana?
I would love to instill that she keeps up her confidence as she grows up. I know when some little girls start growing up, they get a little shy or they start thinking about what other people think- probably too much. I want her to stay how she is and keep trying all the activities she wants to try and keep being the boss of her made up business at school. I recently started my own business, so I love talking to her about those types of things. I hope that she keeps it up and doesn’t care about what other people think and keeps being the star of the show as she gets older!
Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about becoming a Big?
Definitely look at the reasons why you want to do it and your schedule. Don’t let a busy schedule deter you from doing something like this. I remember, my friends were like “how often do you have to meet? Are you going to have time?” I was like it’s two or three times a month, and I’m not really worried about it. You work with the family and match support if something comes up or you go away or you have a funeral or something and you need to reschedule. It’s less about feeling like it’s a necessity and more about you looking forward to spending the time together.
What’s also nice is I’m doing activities that bring you back to being a kid again! When we tried rock climbing and ice skating, I was a little shaky at first, as was Ana. Both times, she said something along the lines of “you have to believe you can do it and you will!” Urging me on as much as I was her- which was really cool to see.
The Big definitely gets something out of it as well as the Little too. The Big is probably doing so much it doesn’t even realize for the Little’s life, and they’re just having fun. It’s not a daunting volunteer experience. You get so much out of it, and it’s so much fun.