A little kindness makes a big difference

High schoolers connect with middle school girls and create an unbreakable bond.


Lisa Boge

A group picture of the Bigs and Littles at a meeting last year. Program sponsor Gabby Gilliam said, “It is so much fun… it one of the most fun things I have ever done. These little girls are so sweet… being that person they can go to really fills up your heart.”

Caroline Christensen, Staff Writer

In 2016 the Bigs and Littles Sisters program was launched to help sixth and seventh grade girls with the tough transition into adolescence, and to give the girls a chance to connect with older girls.  The program pairs sixth and seventh grade girls, or “littles”, with high school girls, the “bigs.” “I think it impacts [the littles] by having a good role model and learning about healthy coping strategies, problem solving skills, and just having that collaboration with somebody else who can relate to them since they’ve been through it already and just how to maneuver the middle school world,” high school counselor Lisa Boge said.

Big and Little Sisters program sponsor Gabby Gilliam ‘19 grew up the middle child, surrounded by brothers. “I kind of had to learn from my older brothers,” Gilliam said. “So I think it would have been good to have someone other than my mom to go to for some of the issues I might have been facing in seventh grade. Let me tell you, seventh grade me thought every little thing was the end of the world. It would have been nice to have someone to go to to tell me ‘hey, it’s okay! Once you get to high school none of this will matter.”

The littles talk to their big about everything from friend drama, to what to expect in high school. “At first it is a little awkward,” program sponsor Hailey Russell ’19 said. “But it really blossoms into an amazing friendship.”

Seventh grader Ariana Thompson created a strong bond with her big in last year’s program. “We had a lot in common, and I felt like I could tell her anything,” Thompson said. “It’s just really fun talking to people older than me.”

Eighth grader Grace Tutaj shares a similar experience. “I was the quiet type, never talked to anyone but the people I knew, I was in a bad place too,” Tutaj said. “When I shared everything with my big, we grew so close. She helped me through everything I told her. I miss her so much, she was my best friend. The program I think is really what got me through middle school. I don’t know where I’d be if I was never in it.”

Eighth grader Emma Jackovin remembers the excitement she felt when she first joined the program. “I thought it would be a good way to connect with peers and older students that have been through struggles similar to mine,” Jackovin said. “And I was right. I made some new friends and connected with old friends again.”

Girls participate in fun and inclusive activities such as friendship bracelet making, rock painting, balloon volleyball, and board game championships. “Last year one of the activities I planned was balloon volleyball…it turned into this kind of craziness where the bigs and the littles were having so much fun and going back and forth with games with the balloons,” Russell said. “It was one of those things that had been planned, but through all the fun we had we kind of came up with something else and it was everyone’s favorite activity by the end of the year.”

Seventh grader Berlyn Sjullie’s favorite activity last year was coming up with different handshakes. “They were so funny, creative, and weird,” Sjullie said.

Boge recognized how the littles were positively impacting the bigs’ lives at their final meeting last year. “It is so cool to watch them together because the bigs get to be a mentor and in the leadership role,” Boge said. “It teaches positive self image, how to be a good leader, get involved, be a good person, be true to yourself. I think the littles help the bigs realize they are role models and super important to other people and the littles.”