By Holly Rasche November 21, 2012 Category | Professional development, Educator voices First Day Nerves Portland, Oregon-based NWEA and Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest have missions that dovetail: Both are dedicated to making a positive impact on children and creating equal opportunity. NWEA staff recently committed to the work of being long-term volunteer mentors, or “Bigs,” and the partnership began officially at a meet-and-greet at the NWEA offices on October 24, 2012. For the past six months we had been planning for the day we would meet our Little Brothers and Little Sisters, and finally the day had arrived. At our final meeting where we were working through the details and confirming we had signs for each Little, there was a sense of excitement and nervousness in the room. We finalized our plans for how our whole office would welcome our Littles and help them stay safe as they walked from the bus to our front door. We had no idea how many people would show up for our Littles – there must have been over 30 people in our lobby waiting to be part of the welcome. And welcome them we did! As they hopped off the bus, people immediately surrounded each child with smiles, high fives, and words of welcome…and the kids felt our warmth. They smiled, gave high fives back, and literally skipped into the lobby and ran under the balloon arch looking for their Bigs who were waiting with colorful signs and nervous smiles. Connections were made and the bonding began! It was special to hear the buzz in the room as the Bigs and Littles began to get to know each other. There were modified handshakes that looked like two people dancing together. There were smiles, laughs, and intense conversations. And at the center of it all were our Littles. Although this is just the beginning, it was a wonderful start for all of us. For our Bigs, what a treat it is to watch your care of our kids. For those of us on the sidelines cheering, it was wonderful energy to have ten-year-olds in our office. And for our Littles, it is their chance to be the most important person in the room. What could be better?