National Mentoring Month: Local veteran helps to build confidence in girl's life

National Mentoring Month: Local veteran helps to build confidence in girl's life

January is National Mentoring Month. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida shared with us one of those incredible Angels In Our Midst who commits the time to making a difference in the life of a child.

"When I joined the military, I was one of those people that joined because I wanted to get an education. So, I think, applying to Big Brothers Big Sisters, I essentially wanted to give back to the community and help a young girl be successful,” explained Erin Roberts.

When Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida paired Air Force retiree Erin with her little sister, Janaisha, it was a very good match. The C. A. Weis third-grader had been struggling a bit with reading; "Some big words. Some big words."

Erin saw this as a perfect opportunity for her to make a difference; "For me, it was, I can give a couple of days a month, couple of hours a week to helping a young girl." To Janaisha, it's more than little help; "She helps me with a lot of stuff. Even if I get words wrong, she helps me."

The two bonded quickly. They really are like a big and a little sister; like friends. In less than a year's time since their match, Erin's commitment to a young girl is paying dividends.

"I try to come every Monday and read with her for 45 minutes right before her lunch break. And, uh, her last report card, she did pretty good. So, we're hoping that this report good will be even better."

A proud Janaisha says, "My reading, like now, is excellent!"

The improvement has been a big boost to Janaisha's confidence and so has the other part of their relationship. You see, beyond school work, they share girl things and girl talks.

Erin makes sure they go on adventures where her little sister can share new experiences. Janaisha rattles off just a few of their excursions; "We go to Sky Zone, skating; the skating rink, the beach. This time she says she's going to take me to learn how to swim." It's a lot of fun for Erin too; "She has the most infectious smile. I love taking her places and doing stuff with her and catching her in a picture, just having a good time."

That smile does pretty much tell the story of the difference mentoring can make in a child's life. But then, Erin says, there's the rest of the story, "I don't know if she gets more out of what we do together, or if I do."

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