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rapp bbsWe often think of volunteer opportunities in terms of giving to fulfill a need in the community. Nicole Frazier discovered volunteering also involves receiving.

In college, Frazier was a member of the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. "Volunteering became a part of me, and after school I was looking for something with a long-term commitment," she said.

An attorney in her office told her about his experience volunteering as a Big Brother. "I'd volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters for an event during college," Frazier said. "After hearing about my colleague's experience, I had made up my mind."

Big Brothers Big Sisters' mission is to help children reach their potential through one-to-one relationships with mentors. The group targets children ages 6-18 who are facing challenges, including living in single parent homes, growing up in poverty and coping with parental incarceration.

That's where Jasmine came in.

Jasmine and NicoleJasmine (L) and NicoleJasmine's grandmother and legal guardian was concerned her granddaughter needed an additional role model in her life, someone with whom she could express her feelings and who would listen to her concerns. She contacted Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters (RBBBS) for help.

RBBBS brought together adult mentor (Big Sister) Frazier and Little Sister (mentee) Jasmine almost two years ago. The Caroline County residents have turned out to be the perfect match, said RBBBS executive director Michelle Hedrich. "Nicole has been a true friend, role model and advocate for Jasmine."

Bigs, as they're called, spend time with their Littles, simply sharing everyday activities and events they already enjoy. Time together provides opportunities for conversation, which can lead to important discussions. "You never know how much of an impact you may have on another person's life," Frazier said.

"Jasmine was starting to take an interest in boys, and she started wanting everything that all of her friends had," Frazier said. "These things had an affect on Jasmine, and I could tell that she really did not know how to deal with the different situations."

Frazier and Jasmine together decided to attend a workshop entitled "Healthy Relationships," presented by the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault (RCASA) for Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters. "I hoped the workshop would shed some light on opening up and dealing with these types of scenarios, along with the ones she had not yet been faced with," Frazier said. "On my end, I hoped to learn how to appropriately respond to her whenever she came to me with these situations."

"One of the challenges young people face growing up is setting personal boundaries in relationships, including dating relationships," Hedrich said. "As with many parenting topics, teaching children and teens about being in a relationship is most effective when conversations and learning start long before their first date. Beginning the discussion before dating even begins lets them know they can come to you when they have questions once they are in relationships."

That's what happened. The workshop provided information and tools, and sparked conversations during and after the presentations. "I would say the most important thing Jasmine and I learned at the workshop was I have a voice, don't be afraid to use it!"

Jasmine said what she likes most about her Big Sister Nicole is that "she's a good listener and always gives [me] good advice on how to solve a problem."

"Jasmine has probably had a much larger impact on my life [than I've had on hers]," Frazier said. "I think of Jasmine not only as my sister, but also like a daughter. With everything that I do, I think about the impact that it would have on my nieces and nephews, as well as Jasmine. She has truly made me a better person."

Big Brothers Big Sisters is the nation's largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network. For more information about being involved, contact Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters at www.rbbbs.org or 540-371-7444.

For more information about healthy relationship and sexual assault prevention education, contact Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault at www.rcasa.org or 540-371-6771

Susan Larson is owner and publisher of Fredericksburg.Today, the locally focused, completely online source for Fredericksburg area news, information and feature stories. She also works as a contributing writer and social media consultant with area businesses and nonprofits.

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