Choosing To Be There
Annette Craycraft’s story as told to Sarah Connolly
When I was growing up, there was a kid who I went to high school with who had a Big Brother. I remember him coming to all of his sporting events and just supporting him in whatever he was doing at school. I think he even stood up with him at his wedding. I just always thought that was a cool thing to do – to be a part of a child’s life in that capacity. I always wanted to be involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters because mentoring is so important to me. As soon as I relocated back to this area, I felt like it was a good time to submit my application and get involved with the organization. I have been with Big Brothers Big Sisters for about ten or eleven years, and I am on my third match now.
My first Little Sister really struggled with math and science. She had a really difficult time with that. She came from a family with a lot of other stressors, so they didn’t have time to sit with her and help with schoolwork. She and I worked to put a science fair project together, and she got a ribbon on it. She was so excited about it that she wrote me a note, put it in an envelope with the ribbon, and gave it to me. She told me that she wanted me to have it because I helped her with it. It was so sweet because it was probably one of the first ribbons she had won from science or math or anything of the sorts.
I felt like I was probably making a difference in her life when I asked her – you know, like you ask any kid – what she wanted to do with her life, and she told me that she wanted to go to college. No one in her immediate family had gone to college. It wasn’t something that they really ever thought about, but from spending time with me she began to see that there were other options out there.
I remember the first time I brought her to Ball State University. Even though she had lived in Muncie for a while, she had never been on campus before. I just remember driving her around, and she was just in awe that this was here in the community she lived in. That was kind of a defining moment for me because it was really important to me that she was able to see that she had other options in life and that her circumstances didn’t define her.
That match was very rewarding, but it was difficult at times because of the struggles she went through. I’m a fixer. I like to fix things. I’m one of those people where if I see something in my life that needs to be taken care of, I just take care of it. There were just a lot of dynamics with her family, and it was sometimes sad to sit back and watch the things that she had to go through. However, I do think that everybody should know what’s going on in our community because I think a lot of people turn a blind eye to the suffering. Mentoring can be a great way for people to see this whole other way that people live that isn’t necessarily the typical middle class way they may be accustomed to. There’s stuff that’s shocking, but it’s important to be exposed to it because these kids need folks out there to be advocating and fighting for them.
I don’t have children of my own. I feel like when a lot of folks have kids, that’s the way they leave their stamp on society. Since I don’t have kids, mentoring is how I’m leaving my stamp.
I really hope that I am helping make a difference in someone else’s life, and that when they look back on their childhood, they’ll have good memories of the times we shared together. The most rewarding part about mentoring for me is knowing that some of the things and experiences that I gave them will help them better their lives and get them out of the circumstances they are currently living in.
I think that if a child has one positive role model, it can completely change the trajectory of their life. I mean, if you grow up in a family where no one has gone to college or no one has maybe even been out of the welfare system, it’s hard to break out of that cycle. But if the child can have somebody in their life who is a positive role model that can show them that they have the brains to do this and the capacity to do that – that can really make a difference in their life. I also think it helps for them to know that there’s a caring adult out there. I think there are times when the Little Sisters I have had felt like there was no one there to listen, so it’s just good for them to know there are people out there who do care for them and who aren’t there just because they have to be. They’re there because they choose to be there, and that really means the world to these kids.
Sarah Connolly was born and raised in Muncie, but she is currently a sophomore at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. She is pursing a degree in Political Science and Sociology, hoping to work in the international development field. Outside of the classroom, she is involved in theatre on campus, writes for the school newspaper, and participated in various community service organizations. She has loved volunteering with The Facing Project, and would encourage everyone to get involved with this amazing organization.
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About The Facing Project:
The Facing Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that connects people through stories to strengthen communities. The organization’s model to share stories and raise awareness is in cities across the United States focused on topics such as poverty, sex trafficking, mental health, immigration, and more. Facing Project stories are compiled into books and on the web for a community resource, used to inspire art, photography, monologues and—most importantly—community-wide awareness, dialogue, action, and change toward a more understanding and empathetic society.
This story originally appeared in Mentoring in Muncie, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware County in Muncie, Indiana.