Bloomington, Illinois,
16:57 PM

Sisters at Heart

“We plan to remain in each other’s lives forever.”

Meet San Albert, short for Sanquandrea. A shy fourth grader recognized for her intelligence and potential. Knowing San's qualities could blossom, her mother arranged for her daughter to meet someone special after school. When the day came to find out WHO it was, San’s excitement nearly bubbled over. “I’m going to make a new friend,” she beamed. “A friend who’s a little older and wiser than me.”San Albert's mother knew her daughter's quiet demeanor could grow and blossom. So she signed San up for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

Meet Pam Sandlin, San’s soon-to-be older and wiser friend. “I didn’t know what to expect,” Pam smiled. “Was I nervous? Yes.    But I couldn’t wait to meet her.”

Little did Pam or San know, their after school introduction would be the start of an incredible story…

…one that began after each decided to join Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee.

Flashback to 2009:

“The organization did a great job matching us,” said Pam. “Early in the relationship, we discovered we had lots in common. We’re both taller than average, love basketball, we’re close to our grandmothers, and love our families.” 

Pam learned about Big Brothers Big Sisters through her employer, State Farm.

“I was an empty nester looking for a meaningful way to give back to my community. When State Farm shared the opportunity to get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), it was perfect. I love children and thought, ‘this is my chance to be a Big Sister!’”

During their first encounter at San’s elementary school, the pair instantly clicked. Soon, they were meeting every week to laugh, joke, share stories and dreams. “I always looked forward to seeing Pam because I knew we’d have a great time,” said San. “We’d go to the movies, eat at restaurants, watch basketball games – and we even went whitewater rafting! She makes life a happy adventure.”

A Friendship in Full Bloom

San says Pam saw her strengths and encouraged her to be the best person she could be. “My favorite memory is a special camping trip we took together. The theme of the weekend was, Face your Fears. I have a fear of heights. But Pam made sure I didn’t miss out on the fun. With her encouragement, I finished an obstacle course, climbed mountains, walked a tight rope and even zip-lined! Pam is my rock.”

But the Big Sister encouragement didn’t stop there.

In addition to our fun, I often talked to San about her future,” said Pam. “Wherever we’d go, we’d strike up conversations about the careers of people we came in contact with. I reminded her how important a high school diploma is - and we talked about college a lot.”

A New Journey

As the years passed, Pam watched San grow from an introverted fourth-grader into a confident, strong young woman. Elementary school came and went, then junior high, then the final years of high school arrived.

“Pam toured colleges with my mother and me,” said San. “My favorite journey was our three-day trip to Louisiana State University. It was the longest amount of time we’d spent together and we grew even closer.” 

In May of 2017, San graduated high school. Pam was there to celebrate her success. “Oh my goodness, I’m so proud of her,” said Pam. “She’s such a mature young lady and a leader among her peers. She told me about times when things got tough in school, yet she was the source of comfort for other students. They considered her honest and trustworthy.”

While Pam and San’s formal Big Sister mentoring ended when San graduated high school, their relationship has not stopped. “I’ve enjoyed watching her grow, excel and flourish,” said Pam.In the fall of 2017 San began her freshman year at Volunteer State Community College, with plans to pursue a career in psychology. I always wanted to help people the way Pam has helped me,” San explained. “In sixth grade I received high marks on a career test and since then have always wanted to be a doctor, nurse or psychologist.”

While Pam and San’s formal mentoring ended when San graduated high school, their relationship has not stopped. “I’ve enjoyed watching her grow, excel and flourish,” said Pam. "She’s really a strong young woman and I want to continue helping her in any way I can. I’m so grateful to have Pam in my life. She’s encouraged me in whatever I wanted to do and has always been there for me.”

More than friends…

“After almost a decade of friendship, we’re sisters at heart,” smiled San. “We plan to remain in each other’s lives forever,” said Pam.

To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters, or to become a volunteer, click here.

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