Our Stories

Miss Kansas: How Mentorship Changed My Life

Second grade was a pivotal year in my life as a child. I was experiencing neglect at home and although I did not understand the severity of my environment, my teacher did. Mrs. Bartholomay impacted me far more than an ordinary teacher. She recognized my struggles and made sure I felt special in any way that she could offer in her position. One of these was a form of “book club” during recess. I did not enjoy recess most days; it was a continuation of loud noises and energy that I was too tired to partake in. Instead of hanging out with my peers, I would read with Mrs. Bartholomay and I really enjoyed the extra attention. I began to enjoy reading and it became a form of “safe space” that I utilize today. These interactions and her intentionality with me left such an impact that I carried the small card she had given me until my high school graduation. I only spent a fraction of the school year with her before having to move, but she brought so much light into my life that it continues to push me today as an adult.

I may not have known she was mentoring me at that time, but I recognize the importance today as an adult. This is what motivates me as I continue to be a mentor for my Little, Lizzy. I remain intentional in our interactions and continue to push her to be a better role model for those around her. Lizzy has taught me so much in this life, and I hope that I leave just as much of an impact when she thinks of me and our relationship. From McDonald’s dates to walks in the park, I know these small moments will matter more than the big adventures we will experience together.

Still, there are hundreds of children like my Little or my younger self who are waiting for their mentor at Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters. Just a few hours of your time a month connecting with a child in your community can make a difference in their life. One person’s simple act of kindness and connection changed mine, and I’ve chosen to pass on that same gift to my Little. Will you? Learn more at kansasbigs.org.

- Ayanna Hensley, Miss Kansas