Big of the Year Spotlight: Geena L.

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High School Big Sister of the Year, Geena L., with her Little Sister, Ellie

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!

Today we honor our High School Big Sister of the Year, Geena L.

If anyone were to ask Geena’s Little Sister Ellie what her favorite day of the week is, she most likely would say Wednesday—the day of the week she gets to spend time with her Big Sister. “Sometimes I get so excited that I can’t wait until it is Wednesday and I get to see Geena after school!” says Ellie.

On that special day when high school senior Geena meets her Little Sister at her elementary school, Ellie is always sure to pack a surprise in her backpack so they can have their own version of show and tell.

Ellie’s mother Diane says, “Ellie will pack something to share with Geena, like a present she has made for her.”

The creativity Ellie possesses is one characteristic Geena admires in her Little. “She has a great imagination and can make something out of virtually nothing.”

In addition to their weekly show and tell, the duo also plays marble run, builds K’nex toy cars, and plays Bee-Bots in the “World of Wonder” room at Ellie’s school.

A sophomore in high school when she signed up to be a Big, Geena and Ellie were matched in April of 2009. Geena’s own experience of having her older sister as a mentor led her to want to be that person for someone else. “I felt that other kids who didn’t have that special person should also have someone to look up to.”

At the beginning of their relationship, Ellie was having a hard time interacting with her peers. Geena showed Ellie what having a friendship meant, and since then has acted as a strong female role model by displaying a positive attitude and providing continued support.

As well as being a Big Sister, Geena is also a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. This has influenced Ellie to begin lessons herself, and this common interest is another topic the two like to talk about.

“I wanted to learn because Geena is a black belt,” says Ellie. “I just earned my white belt, the first belt. I was really excited to tell Geena about this, and she was really proud of my accomplishment.”

Geena says the most rewarding part of her their time together thus far has been watching her Little Sister grow and learn from different experiences—and Ellie’s mom couldn’t agree more.

“She has made a huge impact on Ellie’s desire to achieve high goals and strive to always do her best,” says Diane. “With Geena, Ellie has become more confident and happy.”

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