Uncommon Sisters: A Story About Jesse

(Jesse’s First Progress Report in High School)

When I started my freshman year in college, I couldn’t imagine the roads that lay ahead,  the people that I would meet or the life changing experiences that would forever shape the way I viewed the world. Most of all, I didn’t know that in the process,  I would acquire the most uncommon of sisters–Jesse and April.

I met Jesse when she was a first grader in the community program at Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). At that time, I was finishing my freshman year in college. Jesse was considered an at risk youth. Her mom was a single mother of three, her father, a former inmate. Back then, she wasn’t doing well in school. Her grades were in jeopardy and she had behavioral issues with teachers.

The community program at BBBS is designed to extend beyond the school.  Bigs would have the opportunity to show their “littles” what their life was like. At the same time they’d impart wisdom on the youth and get them to see what life was like outside of their usual environment. The match between me and Jesse was an atypical one. Usually, the age requirement for mentors participating in the community program is 21. I was 18 at the time that I applied. Somehow they let me in.

I met Jesse as a shy 1st grader preparing to enter 2nd grade. Like many her age,  she was reserved but it didn’t take long for her personality to be revealed.  She was witty and inquisitive. The most common question she’d ask was, “Latifat,  why are you always saying you’re broke?” I’d always reply, “because I’m a college student and I have to focus on things that I need not things that I want. I do it so that I can get to where I want to be in life.” After my reply, we’d do a “free” activity. 

Often, that meant that we’d head to the library, do homework and/or study. Jesse’s relationship with me was atypical. We were expected to go to events and some outings. However,  I went above and beyond. I wanted Jesse to experience how it was to have real a big sister. It also meant that Jesse got to follow me EVERYWHERE.

I didn’t hold back. I took Jesse to cupcake parties with my friends, organizational events and meetings with my clubs, and shows that happened on campus. I took her to speaking engagements like when we saw the great Maya Angelou. I even took her to a few class lectures.

Jesse was my little sister and everyone knew it. We’d take several trips out of town. I remember the time we spent a weekend visiting my aunt and cousin two hours away in St Augustine. She’d spend weekends at my apartment and we’d have slumber parties.  My friends and family knew her as my sister. Jesse’s family also knew me as well.

What I appreciated about our bond was how natural it was. He family treated me like family and mine did the same. One day my car overheated while we were on the way to her track meet. Her mom pulled up to help me out. Jesse has been there for some of the most critical parts of my life. She’s met my boyfriends and we’ve talked about some serious subjects. Jesse was there for my graduations.  I was also there for hers. We’ve shared milestones like when her mom remarried as well as obstacles like when she needed academic interventions.

Jesse’s questions of ‘why are you broke’ have turned into ‘are you rich Latifat?’ I’ve had to remind her of where I was financially. As a result, Jesse understands some level of personal finance. You have to spend and save wisely to be able to do the things you want to do in life. In addition, she’s learned countless lessons about life because of our relationship.

My relationship with Jesse has had some trying times.  We’ve grown apart and had to grow together. Still Jesse has been there.  I’ve gotten to watch her blossom from a young girl  into a beautiful young woman. She has so much ambition and potential. I’m so happy that I’ve had the opportunity to be there along the way.

We don’t always choose or destinies. Sometimes it chooses us. Jesse and I were matched in July 2009. Although our match officially ended in August 2013, she is still my sister to this day. 

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