Every year, Big Brothers Big Sisters recognizes two outstanding volunteers who have gone above and beyond as mentors. The Big of the Year winners are announced on Thank Your Mentor Day, part of National Mentoring Month.
Samantha Leonard has been named our 2022 Big Sister of the Year for her unwavering commitment to ignite her Little Sister Miranda’s potential through adversity, as well as for being a dedicated advocate for youth mentorship in the community.
SAMANTHA LEONARD, 2022 BIG SISTER OF THE YEAR
BIG SISTER TO MIRANDA SINCE 2018
Miranda came to Big Brothers Big Sisters looking for a friend. A traumatic incident after wrestling practice one day had caused Miranda to withdraw. She started to lose interest in school and sports and spent a lot of time alone at home. With hardworking parents who were also caring for her two younger sisters, Miranda needed someone who was able to give her the one-on-one attention she needed to regain her self-confidence and joy for life.
Since the day they were matched, Samantha has been dedicated to empowering Miranda’s potential. She taught Miranda how to express her emotions, which greatly improved her attitude and grades. She also kept Miranda motivated in school when remote learning threatened her academic progress, ultimately helping her secure a Girls on the Rise scholarship. Through all the adversity Miranda has had to overcome, Samantha has been the constant guiding light.
“Without Samantha, I believe my life would have stayed as gray as it was when I first started high school,” Miranda said. “Having a mentor like her is genuinely the best thing that could have happened to me. I can never thank her enough for not only being my Big, but my best friend.”
Now as Miranda navigates post-graduation adulthood, her Big Sister’s guidance and support is more important than ever. Miranda recently completed her first semester of college and has been trying to decide on a career path she feels passionate about. In her ever-evolving role, Samantha has been the one to help Miranda stay on track for success long-term as she explores her options.
“When Miranda graduated high school last May, it closed one chapter and started a new one that I absolutely love,” Samantha said. “As her mentor, watching her mature and truly discover her passions has been a pivotal stage, and being able to help her make decisions that will ultimately impact her future is something I hold extremely close to heart.”
In addition to empowering her own Little’s potential, Samantha has also helped other promising youth by sharing Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission throughout her community. From leading our Big Recruitment Committee to hosting online fundraisers, Samantha has always been eager to volunteer her time and energy to match more children with caring mentors of their own.
“Seeing Miranda graduate high school, go on to college, thrive—these are things that I wish for every child,” Samantha said. “If I can share my match story or do a Facebook Fundraiser and spark one person’s interest to ask me about Big Brothers Big Sisters, if I can recruit even one more potential Big, why wouldn’t I do whatever I could?”
“Volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters has added such fulfillment to my life. I can’t imagine my life without being a Big Sister.”
To take the first step to becoming a Big, visit ocbigs.org.volunteer.