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Samantha Harrison said she was surprised to win the High School Big of the Year award from Big Brothers Big Sisters Kentucky. But those who have worked with her weren’t surprised at all.
Harrison didn’t know she had been nominated by her match support specialist, Cassie Edinger.
The annual award was presented at the BBBSKY Friendship Celebration on Aug. 20.
Each match within BBBSKY has a match support specialist to check in with the match, the school and the families to provide support.
Harrison’s positive influence on her “little,” Brooke Rollins, was one reason for the nomination.
Since they were matched in December 2009, Edinger noted Rollins’ grades have improved in several areas and she is also more sure now that she will attend college.
But, Harrison said she has “learned so much” from Rollins, too. “I have taken so much away from Brooke about spending time together and having fun and relaxing,” she said. The two beaded hundreds of bracelets to support Beading for Autism, which taught Rollins about community service.
They met for an hour a week during the match, spending half that time on academic endeavors and half the time on other activities, like using six months to build a 3-D dinosaur model to put in Rollins’ room.
Rollins started middle school this year, and Harrison remembered the transition from elementary school being difficult to her.
“I didn’t want her to fall through the cracks with middle school,” Harrison said.
So, the two went over class schedules, homework expectations — and combination locks.
“I really look up to Samantha because of everything she does to help people,” Rollins wrote in a letter to support Harrison’s nomination. “Anyone who meets her will immediately know that she could win the Nobel Peace Prize with her eyes closed.”
Harrison also became a staff member at Harmony Elementary’s after school program, which Rollins attended before moving on to middle school this year.
Harrison’s time at the Husky Hideout also influenced her college and career goals.
She is hoping to study occupational therapy at Spalding University, one of only two Kentucky universities offering the program.
“I like working with people, helping people,” she said. In addition to BBBSKY and Harmony Elementary, she also helps at her church, St. John United Methodist Church in Prospect.
She is also working on earning her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest and most prestigious Girl Scout award.
She encourages others to get involved in BBBSKY as much as she can, another point Edinger made in the award nomination. “She is always willing to talk to anyone about the program and encourages her friends to be involved as well,” Edinger wrote.
“The more ‘bigs’ we have, the more kids we can help,” Harrison explained.
NOHS typically has about 10 students per year involved as “bigs,” according to associate principal Andrew Terry, the most of the three Oldham high schools.
“The program is so valuable for both participants,” Terry said. “The ‘bigs’ also get a real-life leadership opportunity rather than just talking about leadership ... they are actually experiencing it.”
Although the two are no longer matched because NOMS doesn’t have a site-based BBBS program, Harrison hopes she can still support Rollins.
“She may not know how to shoot a bow and arrow from the top of a cliff and hit the bull’s eye at the bottom,” Rollins wrote, “but she does know how to be kind and caring like no other person.”