BEING THERE, BEING BIG, BEING BLUE
A Big Sister in law enforcement talks 1:1 mentorship and making community change
When Big Sister Abby decided she was ready to mentor, two things topped her priority list: focus and longevity. In the 3+ years since she came to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri and got matched with Little Sister Noel, Abby has found the kind of one-to-one, consistent relationship she’d hoped for, and more.
Abby, who’s been in law enforcement about five years now, had weighed mentorship in her early days of police work. When negative images and stereotypes about law enforcement rose with the #Ferguson unrest in 2014, Abby really started mulling over what kids in St. Louis thought and felt about police.
It also compelled her to seek a concrete way she could help restore – in uniform and plain clothes – some community trust in police.
“Being a police officer has made me think about community relations more, and it added to my consideration of becoming a Big,” Abby says.
“Even though it’s not mass change, you can make a huge impact in one person’s life. Which is better,” the Big Sister reasons, “than making a little dent on a larger scale.”
Bigs in any line of work are clear: good matches benefit adult mentors just as much as they do young mentees. “I don’t know how they do it, but my Little Sister and I are very well-matched,” Abby smiles. “She’s a lot like I was when I was a kid – very upbeat, very happy… she’s really open to talk to me about things. She’s so fun to hang out with!”
Amidst that fun, spending time with Little Sister Noel has brought impromptu glimpses into community perceptions of police. “One time,” recounts Abby, “we went to the Botanical Gardens and a Metro conveyance van went by. [Noel] made a noise, and I said, ‘What is it?’ She was like, ‘It’s the police!’ I said, ‘You do realize I’m the police, right?’ And she goes, ‘Yeah… but you’re not them.’ There was a little fear there….”
To this point, neither Little Sister nor her family has seen Officer Abby – that is, they haven’t met Big Sister uniformed. Instead, “I try to talk to her a little bit, to make sure she knows what I do,” Abby explains. “That’s part of why I became a Big: to make sure kids know that we’re not bad.”
“Everything gets broken down to black and white with little kids – good guys, bad guys – I want Noel to learn from her positive interactions with me, to know she can approach police if she’s ever in a situation where she needs help.”
Although Abby did not come to BBBSEMO through the Bigs in Blue initiative, she has hopes for its success.
“As a police officer,” she says, “you’re already invested in the community. With this, you’re just coming at it from a different angle. So for departments like Metro to offer incentive to get officers interested in becoming a Big… I think it’s a great idea.”
To learn more about Bigs in Blue, as well as other special initiatives at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, visit us here.