The Gift of Opportunity: Karli & Lynn

Many people know the Robert Frost lines, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.” But what if you don’t even know there is another road? What if you don’t get a chance to choose? What if all you ever see is one path, and it presents limited opportunities?

Big Brothers Big Sisters consistently excels, with the help of our staff and Bigs, at offering positive paths and options for children in our community. Meet Karli, a local entrepreneur, who found a great, and unexpected, path with the help of her Big Sister Lynn.

“I was in 2nd grade when we first applied to be part of the program,” said Karli. “I was pretty excited about it. My mom was a single mom, and I didn’t have any siblings.”

Lynn was an 18-year-old student at the University of Texas at Austin when she decided to volunteer at BBBS. “I was walking the west mall when I saw the BBBS recruitment table,” said Lynn. “I was familiar with the program and thought it would be a good fit. I’ve always been drawn to working with kids.”

It was a great match from the very beginning. “I was nervous about it,” said Lynn. “Though, I was excited as well. I just wondered if we would have enough in common to create a good relationship. But Karli was so quiet and so sweet. She was just this sweet kid.”

“And her mom was just super,” said Lynn. “I can’t say enough good things about her mom as she was an exemplary single-parent. Kudos to her for signing Karli up for the program. She saw the chance to offer her child an opportunity. Not everyone has the strength to admit they need help.”

So began a new path for Karli. One that involved… fishing. “We went fishing a lot,” laughed Karli, “and it was great. I’d never been before, and we went to a man-made lake near Del Valle. Later, when I was in my teens, Lynn moved to Galveston, and we got the chance to fish in the bay.”

Though a seemingly innocuous outing, fishing was just one of many new experiences Karli’s Big Sister introduced her to. “We went on an organized campout once with other matches, which was allowed at that time,” said Lynn. “We’d get ice cream, go bowling, go to the mall. I remember there was a studio where you could record a song at a local mall. We recorded Cheryl Crow’s ‘All I Wanna Do Is Have Some Fun.’ And I think it was definitely fun for Karli as an only child.”

Lynn provided more than just fun, however, for this quiet child who had few outside influences in her life. She became a role model and opened doors to other opportunities in Karli’s life. “I definitely would not have been interested in college without Lynn’s influence,” said Karli. “It was so helpful to have that influence when I was in my teens.”

Karli credits Lynn, and Lynn’s husband, with not only giving her the incentive to seek out post-secondary education, but for helping her with college applications and preparation. “My mom did not have experience with all that. She wouldn’t have known how to advise me,” said Karli. “Lynn helped guide me through it all.”

“She was always a good student,” said Lynn. “It was so good to see. Karli was the first in her family to go to college.”

“Then, I was able to see her become financially independent and an entrepreneur,” said Lynn. “Today she is a freelance graphic artist.”

Though no longer a child, Karli still consults with Lynn on life’s questions. “I’ve consulted with her about job changes, money stuff, relationships,” said Karli. “I even talked to Lynn and her husband when I was buying a house.”

Throughout the past 28 years, as their relationship has ebbed and flowed, the pair have stayed connected and have been grateful for the opportunities that began with being matched. “It certainly impacted me as a mentor,” said Lynn. “I’ve had a lifelong friendship. It’s been so cool to watch Karli grow from a little person to an adult who is doing good things. It’s been a pleasure to watch her be brave, go through college, and embrace the challenges of life.”

For Karli, the match has brought countless opportunities. “I wouldn’t have excelled if it had just been my mom,” said Karli. “It was important to have another influence in my life. Lynn has been an integral part of my upbringing.”

When you think about the influences in your own life, the paths you take, the choices you make, sometimes it’s the things you didn’t know that stand out or that, ultimately, make the biggest difference in who you become. Karli and Lynn could not have foreseen the opportunities that would open up for them simply by being part of someone else’s life.

That’s the power of mentoring. We all have things to teach, to learn, and to share.

You can give the gift of opportunity to a child. Join our year-end BIG Challenge campaign to provide life-changing mentoring services for more children in our community. With your support, we can help more children like Karli achieve their biggest possible futures.

As we head into the holiday season, the gift of opportunity is the greatest gift of all. Join us.


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