Sister Act

The Shorthorn: Jeff Limbacher Leslie Moore, third year Biology major, helps 11-year-old Hillary Boylan make cookies. Moore has been a Big Sister to Boylan for two years. Moore says that being a Big Sister is not about changing her life but letting the child be a part of her life.

Student adopts "little sister," volunteers time

by Sally Claunch

Special to The Shorthorn

Last week, Hillary Boylan and Leslie Moore made sugar cookies with pink icing. While they were mixing batter and rolling out dough, Hillary told Moore about a boy at school that had given her a flower and about a song she and her friends like. Moore, a third-year biology major, has been 11-year-old Hillary Boylan's Big Sister for two years. She decided to be a Big Brothers - Big Sisters of Arlington volunteer because she wanted to make a difference in the life of a young girl. Hillary and Moore say they have both benefited from the friendship they have forged. They enjoy activities together and also the day-to-day details of each other's lives. They realize how fortunate they are to have found in each other a friend and a confidante. And they work to promote the organization that brought them together. Moore said the organization has helped her, in a way, return to her childhood. "I remember how much influence my own sisters had in shaping my life; I wanted to help someone else and have fun," Moore said. Moore is the youngest of three girls. "I'm the baby; I've been lucky to have my sisters," she said. When Moore went to BBBS to volunteer three years ago, she said she wanted someone who either had learning disabilities or was very intelligent. She said she wanted to be matched with someone she could teach. "I'm a good teacher, and I wanted someone who could benefit from that," she said. BBBS matched Moore with Hillary and they became friends quickly. Moore said Hillary is "smart as a tack," and they get along well together. She said they have the most fun when they just hang out together. "It's great because I can act like a little kid (with her) and get away with it," she said. "We just hang around being silly. It is good bonding time." She said they sometimes go to the park, the stock show or go

roller skating. Moore goes to school and works full time, yet still makes time to be with Hillary. "I don't have an enormous amount of time, but everyone is going to blow a certain amount of time, whether you're just staring at a book or watching TV." She said she tries to use that extra time to spend with Hillary. Occasionally, she and Hillary will just do homework together or Hillary will accompany her to the biology lab while she conducts experiments. "Since she has been visiting UTA with me, now she talks about going to college," Moore said. She explained how none of Hillary's siblings ever considered going to college. She said being a Big Sister is about giving the child new exposures and expanding her world. "It's not about changing your life to be a Big Sister; it's about letting the child be a part of your life," Moore said. Now Hillary talks about going to college. "I either want to be a pediatrician or a cardiologist," she said. Moore said her relationship with Hillary is very satisfying if somewhat staggering. "I'm only 21; it's amazing what an influence I have on this little girl's life," Moore said. "She has so much potential." While they were baking cookies, Hillary talked about the closeness of their relationship. "I can talk to Leslie about crushes I have, that I can't tell my mom," Hillary said. Moore beamed at her and said, "She's really growing up; I can't believe it." Moore said she tries not to share with Hillary when she has a romantic interest in her life, but that Hillary can always tell. "I'll be on the phone with someone, and the minute I get off, she knows if it's a guy I like," Moore said. "She picks up on every innuendo she knows me so well." Karen Branson, program director of BBBS of Arlington, has been with the agency for four years. "We require that a child be ages 7 to 15, a resident of Arlington or Mansfield school districts, live in a single parent household and that the child and the parent agree to enter the program," she said. Branson said the agency does not give any formal training, but conducts background and criminal history checks. "The thing that distinguishes our mentoring program from others is ongoing professional supervision," Branson said. Each match at the agency has a case worker supervisor with a master's in social work. She said the agency always needs volunteers, particularly men, because men don't volunteer as frequently as women. Even if someone is not interested in a one-on-one relationship with a little brother or sister, there are other ways to get involved. "We have other programs, even clerical work," she said. " We do not have enough volunteers." BBBS of Arlington publishes statistics that back up how well its program works. Matched Little Brothers and Sisters are 46 percent less likely to use drugs, 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol, 52 percent less likely to skip school and 33 percent less likely to commit violent acts. "If anyone is interested in making life better for at-risk kids, give us a call. We have all kinds of ways you can volunteer," Branson said. Moore said the fact that BBBS of Arlington is a not-for-profit organization distinguishes it from many other similar programs. "The United Way provides about 10 percent of our funds. The rest of our funds are through private donations," she said. "A very small percentage of our funds go to administration," Moore said. Hillary said she wanted to participate in the BBBS program because her brothers and sister had done it and had good experiences. "I'm glad I did it," she said. Moore agreed, "It's the best thing I've ever done," she said.

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