Real Life Stories

Remembering the Past, Reaching for Tomorrow[land]

Many people experience a pivotal moment in their life: that time when it hits you that things are going in a new direction, a moment of illumination. Sometimes that moment happens during a major life event like a graduation or birthday. Sometimes it happens on a hike, or in a yoga class. For Little Sister Melanie, that pivotal moment was on Space Mountain.

"Melanie was scared to go on it," her Big Sister Alanna tells us of the famous Disneyland ride. "After much back-and-forth discussion, [her sister and I] finally convinced her. The ride captured a photo at the mid-point, and Melanie’s expression was one of pure sereneness, like her fear and excitement collided, cancelling each other out. That photo captured a great expression during a great moment of growth. We still talk about it to this day."

Meeting Melanie at just 6 years old, it was hard for Allana to imagine moments like those. "I think I was a little nervous meeting her, because she was so young," she tells us of their first match meeting. "I wasn’t sure how she was going to react to me as a stranger."

Alanna found Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bay Area after a volunteering in her cousin's third grade classroom. She found working with the kids in the mornings brightened her workweek. “It’s rewarding to impact a life and have yours impacted in unexpected ways as well,” she explains. The year-long commitment appealed to her. “I was looking for a long-term volunteering. I thought BBBSBA would be the perfect program.”

Long-term is what she found. 11 years went by in a whirlwind of museum trips and hikes, projects and travel, and meals shared. They caught movies together (“[My Big’s] laugh stands out”) and tried their hand at ceramics (“I was inspired to take it in high school”). Their match took them on a journey from the Bay Area (“It was magical,” Melanie said of Filoli gardens) to San Diego and everywhere in between.

“The wonderment she expressed when we would try something new is infectious,” Allana told us. “I’ve tried to adopt that attribute in my everyday life.”

Nearly 18 and ready to graduate, Melanie is the model of a busy high school senior. She maintains a near-perfect GPA, is an talented artist, and takes AP classes. Last summer, she pursued her passion for nature with a full-time internship at the Children’s Garden. Despite her packed schedule, the two always make time for each other, though recently their activities have turned more towards college prep, making lists of schools and attending fairs together. “I’m looking forward to what the future holds,” Melanie tells us, excited to see how her relationship with her Big Sister will grow.

Alanna also looks forward to this new dynamic, and reflects back on all the moments, big and small, that have brought them to this point. “When I first joined BBBS, I expected I would spend time with a Little and expose her to new experiences,” Alanna says, “but I never expected to build a relationship that is so meaningful. Looking out for her and being proud of her, I feel like I am really her Big Sister.”

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