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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cumberland and Salem Counties recently announced their 2022 Big Brother and Big Sister of the Year.
Big Brother of the Year
“If I never had a Big like Matt in my life, I would never have done and experienced so many new things. Mr. Matt is a dedicated hard worker. I have learned from him how to work hard for what I want.”
As an only child, Stjepen spent a lot of time alone before his mom decided to enroll him in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
This is where he was matched with Matt, a constant friend that Stjepen can trust, be an example for, and show Stjepen what it means to set goals and go after your dreams.
When Matt and Stjepen hang out, they go to sports games, museums, car and motorcycle shows, and have lunch together. Matt goes out of his way to make sure each experience creates a memory that Stjepen will remember fondly.
With Matt, Stjepen watched a 76ers game courtside, sat in fighter jets and watched them perform in the air, helped build homes for hard-working families, tried new and exciting foods, and played countless arcade and video games.
While the last couple of years have impacted the world in countless ways, Matt made sure not to let the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impact their bond.
He has tried hard to make sure Stjepen continues to thrive in his teenage years. Matt celebrates Stjepen’s successes with him while addressing challenges as they come.
When Stjepen turned 16, Matt rallied his friends, family, and the community to give Stjepen an amazing birthday party.
He taught Stjepen the basics of how to drive a car and arranged for Stjepen to have lessons with a local driving school to make sure he was ready to get his driver’s license at age 17.
He even took him to the driver’s test, and Stjepen passed!
Stjepen is currently enrolled in the automotive program at his high school and hopes to become a mechanic one day.
He knows he must work hard and be disciplined in order to find success. Matt’s support and advice have been transformative and their bond is now more like family.
Stjepen’s Mom shared: “Since Mr. Matt became his Big Brother, Stjepen has had more to look forward to. Mr. Matt has been a blessing to my son as well as to me. He has been there for my son for birthdays, holidays, and school functions like choir and band concerts. I see Mr. Matt as part of our family. Most notably, he was there for my son the day my mom died, and without his support, I do not think my son and I would have survived that day. I fell apart and was not able to be there for my son the way he needed me to be. Mr. Matt was there for Stjepen and stayed with us the whole time. Mr. Matt continues to help my son as he grows into adulthood. He has shown my son the importance of working for something that he wants. He has also taught my son that volunteering in the community and giving back is rewarding.”
Big Sister of the Year
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cumberland & Salem Counties names Arlene Maggioncalda as the 2022 Big Sister of the Year.
Just over ten years ago, Arlene was matched with Trinity in the school-based program, and they have been friends ever since.
Arlene has continued to offer guidance and support through the years and is looking forward to many years of friendship and growth to come.
The first year, Arlene and Trinity met first thing in the morning at school and at lunchtime, developing a tight bond.
By the next summer, Arlene and Trinity expanded their match to include visits outside of school so they could do more together.
She taught Trinity how to establish boundaries and how to appropriately interact with classmates and friends, leading to a spike in self-confidence.
As Trinity changed schools and moved around, Arlene continued to take her to lunches and dinners. They spent days at the beach and went shopping together.
By December 2016, Arlene and Trinity’s match moved to Community Based Mentoring since they could no longer meet at school.
Arlene continued to support Trinity in her academics and offered advice as she navigated middle school and began the transition to high school.
Trinity has become more confident and maintains an after-school job.
Trinity shared: “She [Arlene] has taught me how to handle the things that are out of my control. I have learned to take a step back to think about my situation and control my emotions in a positive way. Arlene encourages me to go and be myself around people. My future is still uncertain, but I do know one thing: Arlene will be there, and she will support me through it all.”
Trinity’s mother has always encouraged Trinity’s friendship with Arlene. She is happy that Trinity could get out of the house to do fun things. “She [Trinity] continues to weigh her options for her future, and Arlene helps point her in the right direction. She supports what I am trying to teach Trinity and pushes Trinity in a good way. Trinity can talk to her about things she does not want to talk to me about, and I am glad Trinity has her.”
Arlene believes that she has made a difference in Trinity’s life and shares that Trinity has had a positive impact on her life as well. “We have had many conversations about asking for help when she needs it. Arlene has shared that Trinity is resilient, kind, and caring, she will always be a part of our family.”