Elizabeth Parker says there’s something “incredible” about being a Big Sibling to Michelle, her 11 year-old Little.

“I’ve been able to watch her grow up, and in the same way, she’s watched me change during my time at the University,” Elizabeth says.

Elizabeth learned about what she calls the profound impact of Madison House from her aunt, Leslie Parpart — a former Head Program Director and Co-Chair of Madison House’s Board of Directors. From the moment she decided to attend UVA, Elizabeth says her aunt encouraged her to volunteer with Madison House. As a first-year, Elizabeth joined Madison House’s tutoring program at Albemarle County’s Woodbrook Elementary School.

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"I've been able to watch her grow up, and in the same
way, she's watched me
change during my time
at the University."

“I love the Big Siblings program in particular because it requires a long-term, sustained commitment to one child,” Elizabeth says. “Big Siblings is a high-commitment, high-reward program: we ask a lot of our volunteers, but the result is an incredible opportunity to change and be changed by a positive relationship.”

With the help of Big Siblings’ community partner, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge and the organization’s thorough process of pairing Bigs with Littles based on shared values and interests, Elizabeth “matched” with her Little, Michelle, two years ago. Elizabeth says their relationship has strengthened ever since.

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“For the first few months of our match, I was nervous [Michelle] didn’t like spending time with me because she only gave one-word answers to the questions I asked her and didn’t really volunteer any information to me,” Elizabeth says. “Sometimes, spending time with a person — and not trying to fill the space between you with words — is just as good, if not better than talking. Michelle has taught me that and it’s a lesson that has impacted my interactions with other people in every aspect of my life.”


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Big Siblings
at-a-glance

Image: Big SIblings Head Program Director Elizabeth Parker, Program Directors

Value of volunteers’ 2016 – 2017 service hours:

Total service hours during 2016 – 2017 academic year:

$156,637

5,810 hours

Volunteer commitment:

Community partner:

2-3 hours a week for at least 3 semesters

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge


For Elizabeth, getting to know Michelle’s family has been the most rewarding aspect of her time volunteering as a Big. Elizabeth recalls sending Michelle’s family postcards during her semester studying abroad in Cuba, meeting Michelle’s extended family at her 11th birthday party, and finding a plate of homemade tamales waiting for her when Elizabeth came to Michelle’s home one afternoon.

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Big Siblings grounds Elizabeth in her purpose at UVA, and her aspirations after graduation — to be a public servant.

 

Volunteering with Big Siblings has taught Elizabeth personal life lessons, and impacted her academic and professional growth, too. Big Siblings helps Elizabeth stay grounded in her true purpose while at UVA and her aspirations after graduation, she says — to be a public servant.

“Training to be a public servant is twofold: it requires direct interaction to connect with marginalized populations and it requires a level of engagement in the community to know how to best help them and adequately address their needs,” says Elizabeth. “Madison House is a quintessential part of this process.”