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Meet A Match: Valerie & Cecilia

April 3, 2023, Katie Huynh

Big Sister Valerie and Little Cecilia have been matched since 2019 and in those four years, they’ve developed a strong friendship rooted in trust, support, and curiosity. The two share many memories together that include exploring art and culture, attending community events, and recently, trying Japanese Taiko drumming! Most importantly, Valerie and Cecilia continuously show up for each other through life’s ups and downs. We interviewed Valerie to share her experience as a Big and her thoughts on her match relationship with Cecilia.

What has your experience been like being a Big to Cecilia? How do they make you feel?

Cecilia and I do a lot of things together that I genuinely want to do myself – something I love about Cecilia is that they are usually game for any idea!

It’s been a joy to watch Cecilia grow and develop new interests, tastes, and a personal style. Individuality and freedom of expression are things I value in everyone, and this is a value Cecilia and I both share. These days, we also share an interest in theatre which has made attending Children’s Theatre Company even more fun since we can leave the theater discussing the actors, set, and lighting, and speculate about what’s going on behind-the-scenes.

I believe having a close relationship with Cecilia makes me a better decision-maker in every aspect of my life because they share a perspective with me that I wouldn’t get otherwise. Cecilia also gives me hope for the future and motivation to do what I can to make the world a better place that they can inherit.

Could you share a new experience Cecilia has given you?

We recently took a six-week Japanese Taiko drumming class together through Taiko Arts Midwest! This had been on my bucket list for a long time, and I was so glad Cecilia agreed to try it with me. We took a 1-day intro class first to test the waters and confirm it was something we both enjoyed. I can always tell if Cecilia enjoyed an activity when they tell me afterward, “that was fun!”.

Taiko drumming was a great way to get out of our heads and into our bodies. It’s considered a martial art, so there were neat rituals like bowing as you enter the practice space. Hitting a big drum makes you feel really powerful, and the art form includes elements of Korean mask dancing so aspects of it feel like a dance. Overall, I recommend the activity for combining athleticism, music, and dance!


What is something that you see differently now because of your relationship with Cecilia?

I’ve thought a lot about the concept of “chosen family” in relation to Cecilia and from my conversations with their supportive grandmother, Deb, as well as conversations with my friends who are in their 30s and 40s. Many people have complex relationships and ideas about their families. It’s easy to feel lonely and isolated, especially coming out of the pandemic. I like that the concept of “chosen family” can heal some of these wounds and give agency back to the people to be the change they want to see. It takes a lot of courage to trust other people to treat you as if you were family! But once you make the leap, you realize people are very willing to love and be loved in deeper ways.

When we talk about youth mentorship, we’re not just referring to the volunteer’s impact on the child. Oftentimes, our Bigs tell us they are impacted as much, if not more, than their Little. Valerie and Cecilia’s strong match shows the importance of supporting each other’s interests and values as well as being open-minded to new ideas – a great testament to the power of youth mentorship.

Interested in becoming part of an impactful relationship like Valerie and Cecilia? Get started at our Volunteer page or Enroll a Child page.