Every year we invite staff members, parents, teachers, children and fellow volunteers to nominate Bigs who have demonstrated extraordinary measures of dedication to their Littles and our agency’s mission. We honor one Big Sister and one Big Brother from both the School-based and Community-based Programs, as well as one High School volunteer, as Bigs of the Year. For the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting this year’s honorees and sharing with you their stories—enjoy!
First up is our School-based Program’s Big Sister of the Year, Cyndi Rost.
Giving back has always been central to Cindy Rost’s life. “Volunteering was a part of what we did growing up in my family,” says Cindy.
As a St. Paul police officer and a liaison in the city’s public junior highs and high schools, Cindy also has a natural ability to understand youth and listen to them in a way that they feel respected and valued.
So when she first heard about becoming a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters, she was eager to sign up. In October 2008, Cindy was matched with her Little Sister, Linda—and their relationship quickly grew. The pair has especially bonded over their shared love for baking.
“My Big Sister has introduced me to so many new recipes,” says Linda, now a fifth grader. “She helps me step-by-step and teaches me how to make them.” During an overnight at Cindy’s house, they baked bread for Linda’s family. Linda enjoyed baking bread so much, her mom purchased a bread maker at a garage sale so that she could continue.
This fun activity has turned into future aspirations for this Little Sister, and her Big Sister is doing everything she can to help support her. “Linda told me she wants to be a cook, so I’ve tried to help her understand the kitchen and the tools that are used,” says Cindy. “And she’s just like a sponge—she soaks everything in.”
Cindy has also been instrumental in exposing Linda to the outdoors—something Linda was intrigued to learn about but had no previous experience with, since she has grown up in the city. Linda has spent time on Cindy’s farm and especially enjoys playing with the animals. With Cindy’s encouragement and help, Linda was awarded a mini-grant to attend a 4-H camp last summer where she was able to camp, go horseback riding and spend time exploring the outdoors.
Hiking, having a picnic by the Mississippi River, playing yard games and skipping rocks are just a few of the activities they have done together. “I try to teach her to be an explorer because that is how she is going to learn,” says Cindy. “I try to teach her there is always more in life to discover.”
Her Little Sister says Cindy is trustworthy and is someone she can talk to about anything, a sentiment Linda’s mom also echoes. “Cindy has taught Linda to slow down and think through situations before reacting,” she says. “Cindy has shown Linda how she can respond differently.”
Cindy’s wish is that her example carries on. “I hope Linda becomes a mentor in the future,” she says. “We all need each other to be positive role models and give back to the community.”