The following guest post is by Dr. Andrea Campaigne: a former Little, former Big and a current BBBS Executive Board Member. We invited Dr. Campaigne to share her experiences from her past, present and future with us.
My dad left when I was very young. My mom raised me and my sister by herself. I am so grateful to have had a mother who knew about, and enrolled us in, the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
I don’t remember the first time I met my Big Sister, Bianca (we called her ‘Bert’), but I have countless childhood memories, big and small, that she is in. She was directly involved in my life for about seven years, and has never lost touch with my family over the almost 20 years since. Some of my clearest memories are simple pleasures: learning to bake cookies together, playing mini-golf, laughing, dancing. But I know that there were bigger things too: trips to the beach, attendance at my school events and performances.
Bert was everything a big sister (no capitalization) should be. She was always there when she said she would be, she was a part of the family, she was kind, she let me be me. But she was more. She was an incredible role model without ever having to “teach me a lesson”. By being in my life at such an impressionable age, I very clearly recall her stories of moving up from the Rio Grande Valley, putting herself through college, getting her first job at a bank, and buying her first car (a dark purple Mazda RX7 that we named “Raisin” and that I loved to ride in).
Since those times, I knew I wanted to be a Big Sister myself. My best friend in college was a Big throughout our college years, but somehow it didn’t fit for me then. When I started medical school, I knew it was time. I know most people think that medical school would be a crazy time to add something like “volunteering” to my plate, but I was thrilled to get out of my groove of studying and go play with a great kid every Saturday.
I do very clearly remember meeting my Little Sister Ashley for the first time. She was an only child and her home was much humbler than mine was growing up. I wondered if we had anything in common; I wondered if she would like me. She was shy for at least 6 months. The beauty, the gift, the work of mentorship is to build a relationship over time. So I started doing all the things Bert and I had done, or really a version that suited me and Ashley. There was still learning to bake cookies and mini-golf. There was still dancing and laughing. There was going to smell every candle flavor in Yankee Candle Co. There were trips to Fiesta Texas to ride roller coasters. There were craft projects.
It wasn’t hard. It was fun. Ashley and I were matched for about seven years just like Bert and I were. And she and I have also never lost touch.
Now, my involvement in the mission of this unbelievable organization remains active, in the form of service on the Executive Board. It is a great privilege to be behind the scenes with the people who make this organization run: to make matches happen and keep them supported, to raise money to continue to reach new kids at risk/in need, to spread the word in the community to reach more adults willing to volunteer to make a difference. For this work, I am still grateful. I am Andrea Campaigne – a smart, independent, strong woman, raised by a single-parent, the first in my family to graduate from college, a physician, a wife, a former Little Sister, a former Big Sister, and a proud voice of BBBS.