Staff Spotlight: Chelsea Parham, Program Service Supervisor
This National Mentoring Month, we wanted to highlight one of our own employees. Check out Chelsea’s match story below!
How long have you been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters? When did you first start working here, when did you start volunteering?
I started working at BBBS in May 2014 and became a Big Sister in April 2015. I first learned about BBBS when my sister, Airlie, starting volunteering in Greenville, NC in college. In North Carolina, BBBS agencies matched across genders and she was paired with a sweet, curious, engaged Little Brother named Nick. I got to know him well over their 3 year friendship and came to appreciate the importance of connecting with a young person and the impact it can have not only on the Big and Little, but also the people around them.
How long have you and your Little been matched?
My Little Jailyn and I were matched on April 9, 2015. Fun fact: We are currently the longest active school based match in the BBBSMB program!
What made you decide to become a mentor?
Working in Match Support, I have the opportunity to talk to Bigs, Littles and families all day. I get to hear the stories, the admiration and appreciation shared, and the reflections on growth and change over the course of a friendship, and I decided I wanted to be a part of that through my own experience. I felt I had the time to give to a kid waiting for a mentor and I knew that I was ready to open myself up to a new friendship. I saw it as an opportunity to open my world to a new perspective and experience and hoped along the way that I was able to support and impact my new friend.
How has being a Big impacted you?
Being a Big has impacted me on more levels than I think I could put in 1 blog post! Being a Big has taught me how important the little things are in a friendship. Like being consistent, vocalizing that you care about the other person and people they care about, being willing to compromise, and being willing to set boundaries. Jailyn has taught me so much about the importance of just being there and engaged with the people you care about.
Does being involved with the organization as a mentor influence your position as an employee?
Being a Big helps me connect with the Bigs and Littles in a different way on Match Support calls. I learn so much from being a Big myself that I try to translate into my coaching and support. The biggest thing I have learned is that being a Big is rewarding- when you know how to balance that feeling of reward with the inherent challenges that will come up in any friendship. I try to bring that perspective and empathy to my match support interactions.
What is your favorite memory with your Little?
I’m sure most people nowadays know how important slime is to the younger generation. Jailyn has not escaped the infatuation with this trend. We spent SEVERAL weeks trying to perfect a slime recipe. We watched other Big and Little pairs use kits to successfully create their perfect slime – But Jailyn and I wanted to do it from scratch. Be used detergent and borax (with gloves, safety first), water and mixing tools. It took weeks of Jailyn trying to coach me through mixing the perfect amounts of ingredients and one sunny Friday, sitting on the playground, WE DID IT! We mixed the perfect slime. I still have mine in a ziplock bag on my desk. We wrote out our process so we know exactly how to recreate the perfect slime for next time.
Favorite thing to do with her?
Color! We have a coloring book we’ve worked on the past 2.5 years that is really intricate and detailed. On each page, we put the date of when we started and when we finish. Looking back through, we recently realized we have gotten much quicker and more detailed over time. Coloring gives us the opportunity to be creative while having lots of conversation.
What do you consider to be the most rewarding part of being a Big? The most challenging?
The most rewarding part about being a Big is seeing her smile every time I walk up to her classroom or hearing her classmates say, “Jailyn, you’re Big is here!” It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of her routine and community and to have built a genuine care for one another over the past few years. We know we can rely on each other, be honest with each other and most importantly just have fun together. The most challenging part is recognizing the areas I can support her development and growth and feeling like I am supporting her development. Thankfully I have a great Match Advocate (shout out to Carly Segreti) who reminds me of the little things I am able to role model and provide as an opportunity that are helping Jailyn grow and learn.