Mae was matched with Big Sister Vicki Mech-Hester for nine years, and they graduated from the BBBSCI program in 2016. Mae received her bachelor’s degree in Forestry and Wildlife from Purdue University this year and wrote this letter to our agency to reflect on the impact of Vicki’s friendship as she heads off to Colorado to pursue a career with the US Forest Service.
February 28, 2021
To Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana,
This is an open letter to all the Bigs, from a Little. I was matched with my Big Sister, Mrs. Vicki, when I was in third grade on December 18, 2007. I am writing this fourteen years later on February 28, 2021. For 14 years, my Big Sister Mrs. Vicki has been the single biggest positive impact on my life. And I am writing this letter for Mrs. Vicki and all the Bigs – speaking for myself and all the Littles, to say ‘thank you.’, and to voice just how much this program and the Bigs who volunteer their time, love, and support means to us.
It’s quite simple really. My match with Mrs. Vicki has changed the course of my life. I graduated from college in December 2020 and I just landed my first job this week. And as I start the next journey of my life, I’ve been thinking of how I have gotten to this moment in the first place. It has been because of Mrs. Vicki. In 3rd grade, I was struggling. I was behind in everything: reading, writing, math, science. I struggled making connections with other kids. I remember feeling very lost and confused. My parents saw my struggle and decided to sign me up for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana (BBBSCI) program.
I still remember meeting Mrs. Vicki for the first time in third grade. Looking back now, I feel a little bad. That first year of our match, I think I was painfully shy towards Mrs. Vicki. I didn’t exactly understand who she was yet, or how much my relationship with her would come to mean to me. But I also remember Mrs. Vicki being incredibly warm and kind. And I am eternally grateful for her patience with my younger self. Her patience gave us time to build that first connection. By fifth grade, Mrs. Vicki’s visits were the highlight of my week. We would sit across from the library and play so many games: Uno; Phase 10; and Bananagrams to name a few. A few years ago, Mrs. Vicki gifted me the games we used to play. I’ve kept them safe for the day when I can play them with my own Little.
Mrs. Vicki’s and my participation in the SMART program in my middle school years marked another turning point in our relationship. Mrs. Vicki is an incredible woman. She is intelligent, kind, and bold. But she does have a teeny tiny itty bitty small weakness when it comes to art. Being able to help her with some of the art projects made me feel incredible. I was able to help someone who had been helping me for years. To me, it marked a transition. Mrs. Vicki went from mentor and Big Sister, to mentor, Big Sister, and best friend. I still have a few of our art pieces hanging in my home.
High school was rough, go figure. As is typical during those years, I had tension with my parents and falling outs with friends. But Mrs. Vicki was always my rock. Even when I was fighting with my parents or lost a friendship, I never felt alone because I always had Mrs. Vicki. In 2016, I graduated high school and the BBBSCI program. But Mrs. Vicki and the program continued to impact my life even after I officially graduated. I had the honor of being selected as the recipient of a travel scholarship for BBBSCI. I chose to go with Mrs. Vicki on a 10-day cruise to Alaska. It wasn’t just a trip of many firsts (the first time I rode a plane, saw the ocean, and visited another country); it was another experience that altered the course of my life. That trip with Mrs. Vicki to one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world was one of the reasons I decided to pursue a career in natural resources. BBBSCI and Mrs. Vicki helped me find my passion for the natural world, travel, and adventure.
Even though I graduated from BBBSCI in 2016, Mrs. Vicki will forever be my Big Sister. She was and still is one of my biggest inspirations. Mrs. Vicki is kind, intelligent, strong, loving, and generous. I hope my life has half as much a positive force on this world as Mrs. Vicki has been on mine. At a recent dinner with Mrs. Vicki and her husband to celebrate my graduation from Purdue University, one of her gifts was a plaque in the new BBBSCI building’s donor wall. The plaque reads ‘In honor of Mae Watson, from her Big Sister Vicki Mech Hester.’ To have our relationship honored like that means more to me than words can express. It also made me want to do something to honor Mrs. Vicki, as a testament to the impact she has had on my entire being. To show and thank her for helping me become who I am. One way I plan to do that is by becoming a Big Sister myself in the future. But I still want to honor her now.
Therefore, until I am a Big, I am a Little. And to all the Bigs, I write this letter to say thank you. You may be a Big who has just been matched with your Little. Maybe you have been matched with your Little for a decade. Or maybe you are thinking about becoming a Big. I speak for the Littles who are still too young to fully understand the impact your match will have. I speak for the Littles who struggle to express their emotions (like I used to.) On their behalf and from my heart, thank you. Sometimes it may be hard, especially in the beginning. It will take patience, kindness, and time. Eventually, you will become more than a mentor to us. You will become our best friend, our biggest supporter, our greatest role model. The impact you and this program has on your Little’s life is not small. That is why you are called a Big. Because your love, support, time, guidance, and mentorship is Big to us.
In honor of Vicki Mech Hester, from her Little Sister, Mae Watson