Some of the most impactful actions by employees don’t occur in the office. Emilie Bozek is Forum supervisor with Forum and Conference Services and is an important part of OU Outreach. She is also an important part of one middle school girl’s life. Bozek is a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Norman and was recently awarded The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Norman Community-based Big Sister of 2014 award. She will be receiving this award at the Volunteer Appreciation Banquet on March 3.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is an organization that helps “children realize their potential and build their futures.” This program matches men and women (“Bigs”) with boys and girls (“Littles”) to engage in mentor-mentee relationships. Last year, there were 529 matches in Norman, which includes both Big Brother and Big Sisters. Bozek has volunteered with the program and with her Little, Nora, for almost two years. For her, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I really enjoy helping other people,” said Bozek. “It’s nice to have a consistent commitment where you’re doing something truly just for someone else. It’s also a lot of fun!” One particular moment that stood out to Bozek was participating in the 2012 Christmas Parade. Both she and Nora had a great time and experienced a lot of new things, such as Nora seeing a horse for the first time.
“Whenever I take her to do something new,” said Bozek, “it’s nice to see how happy it makes her. I especially like it when I take her to do something she says she’s not going to like, and then she ends up enjoying it.”
Over the past two years, Bozek has seen a lot of growth in her Little. Nora, now 11 years old, has grown up a lot and has broadened her horizons.
“When we first started spending time together, she would tell me she didn’t like being outside or being around people because it gave her anxiety,” said Bozek. “As our relationship has continued, I take her to do things outside and with other people. She always has a good time, and she even suggests going to the park sometimes.”
Bozek also encouraged others working at OU Outreach to volunteer, either at Big Brothers Big Sisters or somewhere else. There is a particular need for men to volunteer as Big Brothers.
“It’s not a huge commitment really because it’s just once a week for a few hours,” said Bozek. “It’s really easy, and it makes a big difference to the kids.”
There are many kids who need help, even if it’s just for a few hours each week. The students look forward to the time spent with their Big each week, and the meetings and activities let the kids know that there is someone in their life who is consistently there each week, even if a mom or dad isn’t.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is divided into community-based and school-based programs. Bozek participates in community-based volunteering, so she picks up Nora and takes her to do certain events. These events don’t need to be expensive (or cost any money at all). In fact, they can be as simple as going to get groceries or going for a walk in the park with one’s Little. The school-based program is more structured, taking place at a certain time one day a week in the student’s school. The Big Brother or Big Sister will join the student for lunch at the school for about an hour each week.
“You’ll get something out of it too,” said Bozek. “It’s easy and fun, and you’re really helping these kids.”