Bree Bedsworth (A.A., ’09) made a decision that would impact both her life and the life of another when she signed up to volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Claremore. Little did she know that two years later she would be named Oklahoma’s 2011 “Big Sister of the Year.“
Then a third-year President’s Leadership Class student at Rogers State University, Bedsworth was motivated to be involved both on campus and in the community.
“I feel like having the opportunity to be in PLC and do things on campus really shaped me into the person I have become,” Bedsworth said. “It got me excited to volunteer and be an active part of my community. RSU prepared me for my career as well as full, balanced life outside of college.”
Bedsworth said she immediately felt drawn to the program when Jessica Wilbourn, the BBBS area director, met with PLC to recruit volunteers. As the youngest of six siblings, Bedsworth had always wanted a little sister. She thought it was the perfect opportunity to provide the support and encouragement that her sister always had for her.
Bedsworth was matched up with Michaelene, known as Mikey, about three years ago. At the time, Mikey was eight.
“When I first signed up to become a big sister, I was nervous because I felt like I had a huge responsibility,” Bedsworth said. “But once I met her, it all became really easy. We connected and got along really well from the start.
“One of my favorite things about being Mikey’s big sister is getting to experience firsthand the changes that are happening with her. I get to see her becoming more confident, interacting with kids more and doing better in school.”
This year, Mikey is a fifth grader at Stuart Roosa Elementary. It is Bedsworth’s first year to teach fifth grade at Justus-Tiawah. Both schools are located in Claremore.
“Sometimes we just sit and do homework together,” she explained. “I can help Mikey with things she doesn’t understand, and at the same time compare what I am teaching to what she is being taught at her school.”
Bedsworth sees firsthand in her classroom how many kids would benefit from a big. Although she can be supportive and believe in each of her students, it’s often outside of the classroom that they really need support.
“It’s such an involved career,” Bedsworth said of teaching. “I can’t believe how attached I am to my kids. I experience the ups and downs of fifth grade with them. Some of them just need a little boost of confidence, and a big brother or big sister could really help with that.”
Bedsworth says she can’t imagine a day that she and Mikey won’t be sisters. The friendship they have developed is something special that neither of them can see ending even when Mikey graduates from high school and is no longer technically a part of BBBS.
“Honestly, I feel like I have learned more from her than she has from me,” explained Bedsworth. “She’s incredibly mature, responsible, caring and strong. She has been through more than I will ever go through, but she still has a positive outlook on life and that has really impacted me.”
By Monique Demarais, RSU PR Intern