February 24, 2016 8am
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta (BBBSMA) celebrates two volunteers who have made a significant difference in the lives of their Littles. The 2016 Bigs of the Year are chosen from nearly 2,100 volunteers across 12 metro counties in recognition of their extraordinary commitment to their Littles.
Big Sister of the Year – Bianca Hughes
Bianca Hughes (Sandy Springs) has been matched to her Little Sister Alexis since 2011. In those five years their relationship has grown strong, and Bianca’s initial goal of helping a young lady realize her self-worth and confidence has been amply fulfilled. Today, Alexis is a confident young lady who aspires to become a college graduate and graphic designer.
When they were first matched, Bianca soon realized that she would not only be Alexis’ mentor and friend, but also bridge a generational gap between Alexis and her grandmother, who she lives with on a permanent basis. Bianca has helped Alexis to better maneuver through the difficulties of adolescence which today is not only about identity, friends, school, and transitions, but also about nnavigating the world of social media and all its lures and relationships.
In her essay in which Alexis nominated Bianca to become Big Sister of the Year, she stresses how Bianca has helped her academically. “Bianca made me work so hard to bring up my grades, because she didn’t want me to fail any class,” she writes. “Bianca wanted the best for me and she still does.”
With Bianca’s help Alexis is maturing into a healthy young woman who aspires to attend Kennesaw State University, where she can fuse her two interests of art and computer sciences into becoming a graphic designer.
“I joined BBBSMA desiring to offer support, encouragement, share my experiences, and ultimately make a difference in the life of a young girl,” Bianca says about her motivation to become a Big Sister, but she also says the experience changed her as well. “I continue to be inspired and learn valuable life lessons through our relationship."
Her impact on Alexis is undeniable, which is also noticed by Alexis herself: “I wouldn’t know where my life would be without her. My Big Sister keeps me going and helps me get better in life. She wants me to the best I can be.” Bianca Hughes embodies what it means to be a Big Sister, which is why BBBSMA is proud to recognize her as the 2016 Big Sister of the Year.
Big Brother of the Year – Kamal Shakir
Big Brother Kamal Shakir (Roswell) and Little Brother Stephon where matched in 2010. Although Stephon was quiet at first, he quickly learned that Kamal, who spoke with such confidence and authority, actually had a lot in common with Stephon. They both grew up without a father figure, without means, and with a desire to be successful. From then on the path to a great friendship was paved.
Kamal decided to volunteer with BBBSMA after an accident nearly cost him his life. Surviving the accident made him feel that his life had a greater purpose. Kamal imagined being matched with a tough, disrespectful Little, but instead he was paired with Stephon who was well-mannered, polite and respectful – and the connection was there immediately. “I had no idea where this relationship would lead. Over the past six years, Stephon has become far more than a Little Brother,” Kamal explains, “He’s a son, brother and more importantly one of my best friends.”
The friendship is fueled by mutual interests in music, sports, making people laugh, and commitment to faith. And through BBBSMA the two have been able to attend sporting events, concerts, and educational workshops that provide an even stronger basis for the match.
In Stephon’s essay that nominated Kamal to become Big Brother of the Year, he emphasizes the impact Kamal has had on his life as a role model. “While going through high school, I was given a glimpse of what I wanted my life to be like by observing Kamal’s life,” Stephon writes, “The constant support he has given me – by coming to all of my home games in both football and lacrosse, attending honor events, and showing up to events that my mother couldn’t attend - has really impacted my life in the best way.”
Kamal on the other side has enjoyed seeing Stephon grow into a responsible, young man. “I am so proud of Stephon. My shy, ‘athletically challenged’ Little Brother has become Homecoming King and a Varsity letterman along with being an honor roll student,“ Kamal says, “He’s truly become a member of my family.” Kamal is also proud that Stephon has been accepted to Clark University and is up for a scholarship from Brandis University.
Because of his extraordinary commitment, BBBSMA is thrilled to name Kamal Shakir 2016 Big Brother of the Year.
If you wish to feature our 2016 Bigs of the Year or hear more about the mentoring programs at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, please contact: Michele Pearce at email@example.com