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“The stories of our Bigs and Littles of the Year are inspiring,” said Pam Iorio, President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. “And we realize these friendships are even more important today, as we keep kids connected, especially during this time of physical distancing.”

2020 Big Brother and Little Brother of the Year: Matthew Barnes and Jaylin

By the age of 10, Little Brother Jaylin endured more pain than any person should have to deal with, coping with the loss of his mother, father and stepfather. Surrounded by the love of his grandmother and three aunts who raised him, they felt the missing piece for Jaylin was having a strong, positive male role model in his life. Big Brother Matt Barnes remembers when he first met Jaylin, the entire family, was there, too. They wanted Matt to know, just how important Jaylin was in their lives.

For Matt, it was an opportunity to give back in a different way. But it’s grown into more than just a volunteer experience, they are truly connected for life. Matt was in the stands watching proudly when Jaylin hit a grand slam; and he’s also been there for Jaylin during the tough times.

Over the past four years, Jaylin and Matt have worked together on goal setting and they’ve had plenty of fun along the way: they compete to win against one another in every sport, whether it’s mini-golf or bowling! Jaylin graduated this year and has an interest in automotive technology. The future entrepreneur wants to open his own automotive shop, focusing on electric cars.

“I had it hard growing up, but I never used that as a crutch, and found ways to better myself,” said Jaylin. “And Matt has helped me grow as a man, which isn’t easy, especially in the society we live in now. He’s taught me how to speak up, and I thank him for that.”

2020 Big Sister and Little Sister of the Year: Ashley Cureton and Little Sister Brianna

By nature, Brianna is quiet, but it’s her artwork and smile that light up the room. Brianna’s mother knew her daughter had potential, but in middle school, Brianna would often close herself off, not wanting to talk to anyone. When she met her Big Sister Ashley, they realized they had two main things in common: a love of frozen yogurt and they are not big fans of being outdoors! Even though they started to connect, Ashley knew her Little Sister still had walls up.

What she didn’t know, was that when Brianna’s serious relationship with her girlfriend ended, severe bullying intensified. “I didn’t tell anyone about it, I had never experienced that before,” said Brianna. “I was in a very dark place and didn’t want to be here anymore.”

But it was during her lowest time that Brianna realized that she did have a strong support system in her family—and her Big Sister Ashley—who were there for her, not to judge, but to listen.

The past four years have been a long journey of healing and building trust. Ashley admires Brianna’s resiliency and courageous spirit. Brianna graduated this year, and hopes to pursue a career in art therapy, to help other young people know, no matter what they’re going through, they’re not alone.

As Brianna and Jaylin embark on their professional careers, several Big Brothers Big Sisters supporters are providing gifts and services, including career counseling, to help celebrate this accomplishment and prepare for a successful future.

About Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
Founded in 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is the largest and most experienced youth mentoring organization in the United States. The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Big Brothers Big Sisters’ evidence-based approach is designed to create positive youth outcomes, including educational success, avoidance of risky behaviors, higher aspirations, greater confidence, and improved relationships. Big Brothers Big Sisters has 240 local agencies serving more than 5,000 communities across all 50 states. For more information, visit: www.bigbrothersbigsisters.org

SOURCE Big Brothers Big Sisters

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