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Congratulations to March’s Mentor of the Month, Stephanie Rittmiller!

Eliana and Stephanie

The following is written by Stephanie and Eliana’s Program Coordinator, Kohl Marrtin.

May will mark 2 years since Big Sister Stephanie was matched with Little Sister Eliana and it has been a great experience for both of them. This match has really been a great experience to watch grow, change, and adapt. They have been through a lot together and the road hasn’t always been smooth.

I met Stephanie and Eliana when BBBST had a tailgate party for a UA Wildcat football game. Eliana was a little bit shy. I asked about her Big Sister and she said it was still early in the match and they were feeling each other out. Stephanie told me about some of things they had already done in the 4 months they had been matched. Eliana said they had gone to Colossal Cave, seen a movie, and just hung out and talked. Stephanie said that Eliana was training to ride El Tour de Tucson. Eliana said that if she made it through all the training and finished the ride, she would get to keep her bike. Stephanie is very professional and I was sure of how the relationship was going at this point. It wasn’t until a few months later I began to understand the dynamic.

I talked with Stephanie and Eliana’s grandmother and they both had informed me that Eliana was struggling with school. With Eliana’s grandmother’s permission, Stephanie got in touch with Eliana’s teachers to find more about what was going on. Stephanie began to work with Eliana on her homework on some of their outings and gave Eliana some incentives to help motivate her. Slowly, but surely Eliana began to improve.

Stephanie has really been Eliana’s biggest cheerleader besides her grandmother. She was her literal cheerleader when Eliana completed the 40 mile El Tour de Tucson route and got to keep her new bike! Stephanie has never not been there for Eliana. Stephanie seems to know just the right amount to push to give Eliana and that has been proven time and time again in the match. The match really began to solidify just under year into it.

I had gone to meet with Eliana and her grandmother to conduct a survey for a special program Stephanie and Eliana were a part of. I asked Eliana what her favorite thing was about her Big Sister. Eliana said, “She really gets me and understands my situation.” Eliana also said,” Stephanie is very kind and always seems to have the right things to say at the right time.” Eliana’s grandmother said,” Stephanie is firm but fair when it comes to Eliana.” She also said that Stephanie has been extremely helpful and really has gone above beyond her role as Big Sister to help Eliana.

Stephanie has gone above and beyond not only in her match but, as a team player with the agency. Recently, she took it upon herself to create a Facebook group so that Bigs could connect with one another for outings and for networking purposes. The group currently has about 100 members!

Stephanie and her match are inspiring to me as Big because they have shown how a little effort can go a long way. I am happy to report that Eliana recently received an A on a project and that is the first one that she has received since I have known her! Stephanie has been so encouraging and supportive of Eliana and her family. Eliana’s grandmother appreciates it and I know Eliana does.

Stephanie told me that she does what is necessary for any given situation. She said sometimes that you have to give a lot to certain things and pull back on others. She said Eliana is great kid and just needs reassurance. Stephanie has given a lot and said that he gets a lot back from Eliana as well. Stephanie truly embodies the spirit of the program and has been a great asset to the agency but, more importantly to Eliana.

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