By Melody Keilig
At nine years old, Ashlyn Medina was looking for a big sister. The qualifications she laid out were simple: she wanted someone that would do anything fun with her, ranging from trips to the library to skiing and other athletic activities. Her only condition was to have a sister that loved Chinese food.
One year later, along came Judy Dombrowski. She was much older than Ashlyn, being in her late 40s when the two met, but thirteen years later, the bond remains strong between them.
The two were matched in the Big Sister Association in Boston, a mentoring program for young girls. Ashlyn’s mother had signed her up to have a positive outlook while the family was going through a difficult period.
How the Matches Are Made
“My parents got divorced and were going through a rough time, so my mom wanted me to be involved in something positive,” Ashlyn said. “She wanted me to have someone to look up to.”
The program strives to make meaningful matches, so they take a very close look at each applicant and their needs as they look for potential Big Sisters. The parents or guardian of the “Littles” are spoken to, in order to understand the family dynamic and learn more about the child in need of mentoring.
Before the matching takes place, the “Bigs” must pledge to stay in the program for at least six months.
“That’s their way to find out who is really serious about it,” Judy said.
Once a match is made, the Big is required to visit the Little’s neighborhood and pick them up at their house. The program wants the Big Sisters to get familiar with their Little Sister’s family and household to get them more acquainted.
“ I was coming from Back Bay station into Hyde Square,” Judy said.
“Yeah, it wasn’t a good area back then,” Ashlyn interjected. “It’s better now, though.”
A Quiet Start
Ashlyn and Judy weren’t as talkative the first day they met back in 2002. They sat in the family’s living room in silence for quite some time before Ashlyn remembered the preparation she had done earlier that day to show Judy.
“I was like, ‘You want to see my room?’,” Ashlyn laughed. “I had cleaned my room that day just to show her.”
After a shaky start, they began a routine outing of visiting the library, going to the food court at the Prudential, and then finishing off their day with Chinese food for dinner.
Ashlyn revealed later that she hated the library, partially because she had some difficulty reading. English was her second language, but she would do anything to hang out with Judy.
Eventually, they began branching out to different activities.
“We did museums. Museum of Science, Museum of Fine Arts, the Freedom Trail, everything that Boston has to offer,” Judy said, adding, “You know, we never did get to the Aquarium, did we?”
“No, I think we did,” Ashlyn replied. “I think we did once.”
Part of the Family
Even big moments in Ashlyn’s life, such as her first Communion at church and both her high school and college graduation, there was always a seat for Judy.
“I grew to love her just like my other family members,” Ashlyn said.
Although they have been Alumni of the Big Sister Association for a few years (girls must leave the program when they turn 20), Ashlyn and Judy still meet up at least once or twice a month.
To this day, Ashlyn and Judy still cannot pick a favorite activity; they always did a few different things in one day, but there is always one activity they have made into tradition.
“We’re meeting up this Saturday for a yoga class, swimming, and then Chinese food,” Judy said, smiling at Ashlyn.
Big Sister Association by the Numbers
Created using Visme. An easy-to-use Infographic Maker.