Sweets. Smarts. Savvy, style, and substance. For over 10 years, Patti Watson-Soluade has consistently brought those qualities to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri (BBBSEMO). And the vehicle for each of them has been care – care that’s deep, genuine, courageous.
Our agency celebrated Patti as its Staff Member of the Year during our live “Evening of Joy: Honoring BBBSEMO’s Village” broadcast in January. In the decade she’s been with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Patti has excelled in roles ranging from administrative volunteer (where she got her start with us) to full-time Match Support to Senior Relationship Manager.
Alongside her professional dedication, Patti has also been an active Big Sister with her husband Walé; their nine-year Big Couple match with Little Brother Ja’Vante (now a high school junior) thrives today, and the total experience has informed much of the wisdom Patti’s imparted to Bigs she’s supported, staff she’s managed, and colleagues she’s sharpened.
Patti spoke to what’s kept her going during the “Evening of Joy” celebration. “I really do this work from a place of joy, love, and care; and from a place of excellence. Big Brothers Big Sisters is not [meant] to supplement what parents are doing but to complement the work parents have already done with their children… to walk alongside kids and families and give them that extra boost. That’s why I love this place. That’s why I love being a Big Sister. And that’s why I’ve found joy in the work here.
She also shouted out BBBSEMO’s Staff of Color (SOC), the employee collective behind 2020’s original Three Best Hopes, a document BBBSEMO has formally adopted as a strategic "anchor in its commitment to ”standing, unflinchingly, against racism, bigotry, and injustice. Patti represents the SOC collective as both a group and a vision – a responsibility she approaches with pride, anticipation, and resolve.
- “Over the past year we’ve been doing a lot of work on being an anti-bias anti-racist [ABAR] organization. We really see Big Brothers Big Sisters should be a place for all kids, where we co-labor with the community and see Black and Brown children for who they are and the lived experiences they have… and we want to make sure we bring in volunteers who understand anti-bias anti-racist work and want to collaborate with us in making sure kids have healthy and enduring relationships.” – Patti Watson-Soluade, Staff Member of the Year
It’s most fitting to celebrate Patti by having others describe her impact on their work, perspectives, and experiences. Here’s how folks have been touched by Patti’s care over the years.
Caring genuinely as a manager
"Patti is a supportive, understanding person. She is always there when you need her and she always shows how much she cares and values her staff. She is a genuine person, which makes it easy to talk with her. She is more than a supervisor, she is a friend." – Aaron Foster, Relationship Specialist
“When I think of Patti, I think of strength and confidence… of someone who will push you to be your best self and wants to always see you succeed. I have learned it is okay to make mistakes but always push yourself to learn from those moments. I am forever grateful for the lessons she has taught me." – Tracey (Young) Sansoucie, Relationship Specialist
“Passionate, authentic, tuned-in, team-oriented, invaluable – these words come to mind when I think of Patti. She has the unique ability to honor the individuals she manages, identify their strengths, and encourage them to use their gifts so they can flourish. She is truly a hidden gem at the agency and deserves to be illuminated.” – Kelli Barnes, Relationship Specialist
Caring deeply as a Big Sister
“Patti always makes sure my head is focused on my goals and taught me a lot of things I’ll never forget.” – Little Brother Ja’Vante
“One thing I’ve learned from watching Patti is to allow the relationship dynamic to organically define itself. I can’t help but think that a good number of Bigs go into these relationships with pre-set notions of the role they will play in their Littles’ lives and miss the opportunity to truly connect where they can actually add value. It’s not about a mindset focused on ‘filling a void’ but instead learning from their Little, where they can contribute to their lives in ways that are relevant.” – Big Couple partner & husband Walé Soluade
Caring courageously as a colleague
“Patti has a remarkable gift for seeing the good and the joy in all of us and, at the same time, holding the strength and the courage to tell us when we have to do better.” — Kate Dopuch, Chief Program Officer
“Over the years I’ve gotten to know Patti as a co-worker, Big Sister, wife, and mother, in that order. In the last year and a half, I've really gotten to know her as a compassionate Black woman determined to do what is best for the families we serve and her direct reports. I am more than elated to pass the torch of 'Staff of the Year' to Patti because what our Staff of Color (and the Sister Circle) has been empowered to do, could and cannot be done without her. BBBSEMO was just starting to recognize the gem they have in Patti before naming her Staff of the Year. And, now as a Staff of Color Representative, our agency needs to honor and cherish her as a leader!” – Relda Brooks, immediately-past Staff of the Year and current Enrollment Specialist
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