Cheryl and Lenore first met through Big Brothers Big Sisters Mountain Region
38 years ago. “She showed me that you can go out and do anything you want to achieve.” – Lenore
By Olivia Harlow | firstname.lastname@example.org
Aug 3, 2019
At 13, Lenore Tapia-Baker was grieving the loss of her mother,
struggling with the shift from childhood to adolescence and
getting bullied in school by classmates because she was a tomboy,
Then she met Cheryl Alters Jamison.
The pair were matched through the local chapter of the nationwide
nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters’ volunteer mentorship program in 1981,
when it was just 2 years old. The teen and the young woman
— 15 years her senior — quickly developed what would become a lifelong
and life-changing relationship.
“We just hit it off,” Tapia-Baker said. “We were finishing each other’s sentences from the beginning.”
They don’t just consider themselves friends, said Jamison, 66,
an award-winning cookbook author, and Tapia-Baker, 51 — they’re family.
Tapia-Baker said her relationship with Jamison “gave me a boost …
and filled a void” left by the death of her mother a few years earlier.
She needed a positive female role model at that critical time in her life, she said.
When Tapia-Baker turned 18, the two were among the first
“Big Sister-Little Sister” matches in Santa Fe to graduate from the program
— and Tapia-Baker was the first local “Little” who went on to become a mentor
in what is now Big Brothers Big Sisters Mountain Region, a 40-year-old,
10-county operation that matches more than 1,000 kids each year
between 6 and 18 with adult volunteers.
It’s not just about serving “needy” or “at risk” kids, said CEO David Sherman —
“I hate those terms,” he said — but instead involves “being an advocate for a child.”
The overarching goal, Sherman said, is “helping young people reach their fullest potential.”
Sherman, who took the top position at Big Brothers Big Sisters Mountain Region last year,
said he is still in touch with a Little Brother he mentored 20 years ago.
As Sherman and other officials with the nonprofit prepare for fall celebrations
spotlighting the organization’s 40th anniversary, they are searching for people like
Tapia-Baker and Jamison to tell their stories, testifying to the long-term effects
the program has had on its participants.
“The mentor relationship is extremely valuable,” Jamison said.
“You can count on somebody. They’re gonna be there for you.”
She and Tapia-Baker met each week for nearly five years, making popcorn
and watching movies, riding bikes through the park, rollerblading
around downtown and preparing meals together. Among their favorite memories:
carving pumpkins for Halloween, skiing in Telluride, Colo.,
and attending a Beach Boys concert at the
New Mexico State Fair in the early 1980s.
Jamison had a job at the time in arts management, which required regular travel.
Tapia-Baker sometimes tagged along to places like California and New Orleans.
Through these excursions, Tapia-Baker said, she developed a love for adventure.
But one of the top priorities for Jamison was far more commonplace:
helping Tapia-Baker complete her homework, from proofreading her Little Sister’s
written assignments to helping her research information for book reports.
She often used their shared love of baking to strengthen Tapia-Baker’s
mathematics skills by turning recipe measurements into equations, she said.
As Tapia-Baker grew older, Jamison helped her write résumés, apply for jobs
and enroll in classes at Santa Fe Community College. Most of their time together
was spent talking. Their conversations revolved around friends, boys and
“just personal stuff,”Tapia-Baker said.
“As a female role model, she showed me that you can go out
and do what you want to achieve,” said Tapia-Baker,
who went on to work in management positions,
including 12 years as a manager at an Albertsons store.
Having learned firsthand that mentorship can leave a lasting impression,
Tapia-Baker said, she became a Big Sister soon after graduating from the program:
“I wanted to give that to someone.”