Senior named Bluegrass’s Big Sister of the Year
February 10, 2011 By Leigh Cocanougher
recently named “Big Sister of the Year for the Bluegrass” by Big
Brothers Big Sisters.
Having been paired with Nia for two years, McCollum has
enjoyed watching her mature. “Her confidence has flourished,
and she’s become comfortable with who she is as a person,”
Lydia McCollum ’11 always dreamed of having a little sister. So when she discovered that through the national organization Big Brothers Big Sisters she could do just that, she jumped at the chance to participate.
Two years later, she has gained not only a “little sister” she loves but also the title of “Big Sister of the Year for the Bluegrass.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters, which has been pairing adult volunteers with children ages six through 18 for more than 100 years, has the mission of providing “children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.”
And much more often than not, the lives of the adult volunteers are changed for the better, as well. Such was the case for McCollum.
After spending several months volunteering in the local Big Brothers Big Sisters office (performing tasks such as answering phones, organizing files, sending letters, making flyers and helping with the annual fundraising event, Bowl For Kids Sake), McCollum was matched with Nia, who is currently 11 years old.
“Nia is not only the little sister I’ve always wanted, she’s one of my best friends,” McCollum says. “Our weekly time together is something we both look forward to. I’m able to step away from life at Centre—all the stresses of school and extracurricular activities—and simply be myself and focus only on our time together.”
Whether they’re visiting nearby Millennium Park to feed the ducks, sampling cupcakes at Danville’s The Twisted Sifter, playing basketball, painting their nails or visiting Centre’s Every Day Café, the pair enjoys every moment they spend together.
“Whatever we’re doing, we have fun,” McCollum says.
And because she and Nia have been “sisters” for more than two years, McCollum has had the opportunity to watch Nia “grow up so much. I met her in the beginning of her fourth grade year, and now she’s a pre-teen in her first year of middle school. What a mature, confident young lady she’s become; her confidence has flourished, and she’s become comfortable with who she is as a person.”
McCollum illustrates this point by explaining that Nia, who has a slight hearing impairment and wears a hearing aid, used to be slightly embarrassed by the impairment. “I helped her to overcome the embarrassment by showing her that a hearing aid is not much different than glasses,” McCollum says, “and I pointed out that she has an awesome purple hearing aid.”
McCollum has also helped transform Nia’s beliefs about the value of education. “I think that my being a college student and her seeing the importance I place on academics has improved her attitude towards school,” McCollum says. “We’re already planning her enrollment in college!”
And while McCollum has enjoyed watching Nia grow in so many ways, she is aware that she too has been transformed by their friendship.
“Our relationship has confirmed my career choice, which is elementary education and children and adolescent counseling,” she says. “Nia means the world to me, and I’d highly recommend becoming a Big Sister or Big Brother to anyone and everyone. It’s been one of the most meaningful and fulfilling experiences of my life.”