Our 2023 Matches of the Year

The new year always brings a sense of excitement at Big Brothers Big Sisters as we celebrate the announcement of our Central Texas Matches of the Year. In conjunction with National Mentoring Month, this is a time when we celebrate outstanding Bigs and Littles in our program. And what would a celebration be without ice cream?

Ice cream may not be at the center of most stories… but it should be. It simply makes things better, like helping two strangers bond and become family. This was the case with Big Sister Alli and Little Sister Kiyah, Big Brother Dean and Little Brother Erick, our 2023 Matches of the Year.


For Alli, it was the match that almost wasn’t. An art education major with an all-level teacher certificate, Alli always liked working with kids, even noticing BBBS ads when she was in high school and thinking it would be fun to be a mentor. “I was on my way to meet my first match and it fell through. My Little backed out,” said Alli. “But a few months later I was matched with Kiyah, and it happened right while I was going through a divorce. So, it almost didn’t happen again, but I decided I wanted to go ahead (and become a mentor).”

“Our first meeting was awkward, sitting in her living room and meeting. But after that, we’d go out and get a lot of ice cream. And she is such a sweet person. She was quiet and shy, but happy about being matched. We’ve palled around ever since.”

Seven years later, they still like to go get ice cream, trying different places around town. “Some of our other favorite activities are going to eat Korean food, making jewelry, walking, practicing cooking, and learning about healthy eating. I have all these hobbies I like to pull people into,” laughs Alli. “I worked with Kiyah and her younger sister, since they’re only a year apart, teaching them a few cooking techniques. They both cook at home, but there are some things they aren’t allowed to do without supervision.”

The instruction proved to be a hit and very helpful to the girls who live in a single-parent household and assume a lot of responsibility at home. “Their mom has a chronic illness,” said Alli. “They help out a lot around the house and take care of their little brother.”

Passing along life skills can be a key part of the mentoring experience. “I think being matched has opened some doors for Kiyah and given her a chance to find her own path,” said Alli. “I think it has helped her to be a more open person and provided her with a different perspective.”

Their relationship has created a different type of cultural exchange as well. “For me, it’s helped me have a lot more empathy for others and provided an insight into how others live,” said Alli, “because she’s grown up in a way that’s different from how I grew up. It’s reminded me to be kinder to others because everyone has a different life experience.”

Seeing her Little Sister grow as a result of their shared experiences is one of the things Alli has enjoyed most about being matched. “Watching Kiyah grow into her own person, gain more confidence, and stand up for herself has been such a joy,” said Alli, adding, “We talk college a lot and she’s interested in attending, but the next thing on our list is driving. The dealership I work at is sponsoring car maintenance classes for youth and I want her to get that knowledge.”

It’s exactly what mentors do – pass along tools for success. “Extra support from a non-parent goes a long way. Even with all my resources, if I’d had a mentor, I think my life would have turned out differently and I think I’d have made better decisions,” said Alli. “Mentoring literally helps everyone.”



Big Brother Dean remembers his first meeting with his Little Brother Erick very clearly. It was a match introduction at Erick’s house. “I was sitting with the match support specialist and Erick’s mom. We were talking about expectations of the match and such,” said Dean, “and Erick was hiding under the dining room table.”

“I think he was scoping me out,” said Dean. “He’d move a little closer and peek around the corner. Finally, he came and sat close to his mom. I asked him some questions and we discovered we both like ice cream.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Dean took Erick to get ice cream at Dairy Queen where they sat and chatted. It was the first of many such outings and seven years later they still enjoying just hanging out.

“It’s just Erick and his mom,” said Dean. “They don’t have a lot of other family in the area.” Consequently, having a Big Brother has offered Erick a positive role model.

Though always a good student, Erick’s mom noted that he was lonely. Since being matched, she says Erick is more positive and upbeat. She has also found that Erick is realizing the importance of being honest and having goals.

“I’ve noticed he’s grown more confident through the years,” said Dean. “I think the match has helped him become more comfortable navigating the world. When we were first matched, he wouldn’t really talk to others. Now, he is more outgoing and more confident in speaking and thinking for himself.”

The pair have enjoyed a variety of outings. “There are a lot of our activities that stand out,” said Dean, “but probably the main one is when he wanted to do paintball. It was really fun, and really painful.”

Dean laughs about that experience as well as all the Marvel movies they’ve watched together. But he pauses and gets emotional as he points out that each of their outings has reminded him to be present in the moment. “Watching his growth, him becoming just a really incredible young man, I realize he was living in every single moment we had,” said Dean, “especially when he was younger. And I got to witness and be a part of that. It reminded me to not worry about what the future may bring, and it’s been really fulfilling.”

“The profound impact he’s had on me is not something I was expecting,” said Dean. “I was simply expecting to hang out with a kid a couple of times a month, not to have the depth of that bond I have with Erick. That certainly surprised me and is definitely the most rewarding.”

The pair were excited and surprised they were selected as a match of the year. “I was certainly surprised but humbled and grateful to receive this award,” said Dean. “I haven’t seen Erick since finding out, but we texted about it and agreed we need to celebrate the honor with Marvel movies and ice cream.”

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