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Little reaps consistency, silliness from match

Little Brother Wesley sits at the computer in his second-grade classroom taking a reading test. Every so often he glances across the room. Wesley is looking at his Big Brother Sam Peters, seemingly wishing he could finish his test quicker. After all, there’s fun to be had.

Sam, a Gull Lake High School senior, has been mentoring Wesley for the last two school years but if it hadn’t been for Sam’s dedication, the match would have ended prematurely. The two began meeting weekly when Wesley was in the first grade at Kellogg Elementary School in Richland and the match continued this school year. Then Wesley’s family moved out of the Gull Lake district.

Many mentors would have allowed the match to end at this point but not Sam. The move caused hardly a blip in their friendship; as soon as the move was announced, Sam offered to meet with Wesley at his new school, Parchment Central Elementary.

Sam, who is also a student at Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center (KAMSC), changed his route home from KAMSC once a week to stop and see Wesley in Parchment. “It isn’t that much out of the way,” he says. “Plus, he’s a fun guy so I wanted to follow him.” However, the benefits of continuing the mentoring relationship go much deeper than simply having fun.

“Mentoring research shows that consistency is one of the key factors in a healthy mentoring relationship,” says Bradley Kelly, the pair’s Big Brothers Big Sisters’ match support specialist. “Sam has gone above and beyond the expectations of our school-based program by taking the opportunity to see Wesley after he changed schools. His consistency has demonstrated a successful, meaningful mentoring relationship.”

Two words are used repeatedly when Sam and Wesley talk about their friendship: fun and silly. Wesley offers Sam the “freedom to be silly” and the chance “to do what I used to do as a kid.”

One of Wesley’s favorite activities is now climbing trees and he’s in awe of how high his Big Brother can climb. “He can climb way up there!” Wesley says, adding, “He plays with me, he teaches me tricks and helps me with words while I’m reading.” Unbeknownst to Wesley, Sam has also mixed some physics lessons into their play by teaching Wesley how you can bounce a basketball while a tennis ball sits on top of it.

This doesn’t surprise Bradley Kelly, their match support specialist. “Sam stood out as a highly dedicated Big from his first days as a volunteer at Kellogg Elementary School. His conscientiousness and positive attitude have had a positive impact on Wesley,” Kelly says.

As Sam graduates from high school and moves on to the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering this fall, the formal match will come to an end. But the two plan to stay in touch and Sam hopes to be able to surprise Wesley with an occasional visit. But if that doesn’t happen at just the right time, Sam plans to give Wesley his phone number “just in case he needs me.”