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January 28, 2013
Lisa Nichols and Cynoma Graham will be celebrating eight years together as “Big” and “Little” in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. They met on February 15, 2005 when Cynoma was eight years old and have been inseparable ever since. As Lisa says, “We’re matched for life, Cynoma!”
“I was just afraid to meet someone new,” said Cynoma Graham, a sophomore at Marysville High School. “I was shy.”

You wouldn’t know it today. The self-confident and motivated teen has aspirations to attend Ohio Hi-Point Career Center next year en route to becoming a cosmetologist.

But when Cynoma was eight years old, she met a new friend who’s been by her side ever since. Her mother had enrolled her in the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program to help her with her shyness and her struggle to make friends. And on February 15, 2005, she met Lisa Nichols, a Marysville resident and Parts Manager at Kenworth of Columbus. The pair were introduced at a rescheduled Christmas party and have been matched ever since, with Lisa serving as Cynoma’s mentor.

“When I met Lisa, it only took one or two times for me to be able to open up to her,” Cynoma said. “Lisa is my ‘sister’ and another security blanket. If I fall down, she’ll pick me right back up. She’s been there for half of my life now. And I think that’s really cool.”

Lisa and Cynoma visit quite frequently. They get lost together in corn mazes. Attend the Big Brothers Big Sisters parties. Make gingerbread houses every Christmas. But Cynoma’s favorite tradition is the pair’s weekly Friday night dinners when the two of them go out and “just talk.”

Cynoma’s favorite tradition is the pair’s weekly Friday night dinners when the two of them go out and “just talk.” Here, they meet at Boston’s in Marysville.
“When you’re having a stressful day, it’s great to get things off your mind,” she said. “Just having somebody there to help you through any problems you’re having.”

“Cynoma keeps me young!” said Lisa. “There have been so many things I wouldn’t have experienced without her in my life.”

Jill Smith, Program Coordinator for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Union County Program, a United Way Partner Agency, has watched their relationship develop over the years. She says Cynoma has struggled with issues in her environment and Lisa is a constant, always there for her, looking for resources and problem solving together. They focus on Cynoma’s education and her future goals. Lisa knows Cynoma has great potential and believes in her, which helps Cynoma to believe in herself.

“As Cynoma has blossomed into a beautiful young woman, their relationship has become even stronger by dealing with real life teen issues,” said Smith. “Cynoma has had Lisa to help guide her through her teen years, making her more confident and resilient.”

At BBBS Recognition Banquet, 9/2/2010
“She was so messy!” said Lisa. “She couldn’t eat, print, or touch anything without making a mess. She’s really transformed. She’s grown in confidence. She’s always been pretty sure of whom she is for herself, but not toward others.”

January is National Mentoring Month. A national research study conducted by Public Private Ventures documented that “Littles” in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program are 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol, 52 percent less likely to skip school, 37 percent less likely to skip a class, more confident of their performance in schoolwork, 33 percent less likely to hit someone, and better able to get along with their peers and families. There are nearly 70 Union County children, mostly boys, on the waiting list hoping to be matched some day with a mentor.

“Many families are in need of a positive person in their child’s life,” Smith said. “There are lots of reasons. Grandparents raising grandchildren. Children with incarcerated parents. Single parent homes. Other caregivers raising children. Boys living with no male. Mentoring a child is a powerful and rewarding experience for the mentor as well as the child.”

Cynoma was on the Honor Roll at Bunsold Middle School
“You don’t have to have a lot of experience,” said Lisa. “You have to have a heart for people and like to do fun things. I took my parents for granted. I thought everyone grew up with two parents. My parents took me to church. Supported me in all my activities. Through this experience, I’ve realized how fortunate I was.”

Cynoma knows how lucky she is to have a mentor.

“Children can be hurt so easily,” she said. “I love that Lisa is here for me. She’s someone to trust. It’s something magical to have.”

United Way is supporting the Big Brothers Big Sisters Union County Program with $24,000 in 2013. For more information, visit us at www.unitedwayofunioncounty.org or Big Brothers Big Sisters at www.emarysville.com/bbbs/index.php or (937) 642-2157.
 
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United Way of Union County, Inc., 648 Clymer Road, Suite 120, Marysville, Ohio 43040-1661
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