Big Brothers and Big Sisters helping students during the pandemic and going into the school year

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HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Nutmeg Big Brothers and Big Sisters have strengthened bonds with students of all ages during the pandemic, and now they’re gearing up for the school year.

Julie Haring is a volunteer mentor with Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters. She’s a violinist and doctorial candidate at the Hart School. She’s been matched with 9-year-old Damarrius now for three years. He’s a kid getting ready up for the 4th grade.

“It’s been a match made in heaven for us. He is so vibrant and full of personality. It’s really fun for us to discover all of the things we have in common and go on adventures together,” said Haring.

But remote learning hasn’t been easy amid a pandemic, and that’s where their bond comes into play.

“It’s fun,” Damarrius said. “We do a lot of fun things together. We went on a hike. We went to the park. And we went to get ice cream and make and bake cakes and stuff.”

Haring also happens to be the daughter of educators and knows a thing or two about school readiness. That knowledge has paid dividends when it comes to helping Damarrius get ready to head back to the classroom after a challenging year of communicating with real teachers through technology.

“She helps me with my money to count it and with math,” said Damarrius.

“We would just have little moments here and there where we would do a little bit of school stuff even if he didn’t realize it,” said Haring.

Lead Match Support Specialist Jackie Lundie has overseen hundreds of matches at this Hartford-area nonprofit.

“[My] Mom, every time I call her and ask how things are going, she describes Julie to be amazing and the perfect match, and it’s because Julie has been so consistent and a stable figure in Damarrius’s life. Everything else is going crazy but Julie has still been there,” Lundie said.

As kids Damarrius’s age prepare for the 2021-22 school year, not yet eligible for a COVID vaccine and amid rising Delta variant infections, Julie and Damarrius are consistently nurturing this connection for their mutual benefit.

Nutmeg Big Brothers and Big Sisters are running a campaign, 80 for Autumn. They’re looking for 80 volunteer bigs who want to help a kid throughout the school year. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, just head to NBBBS.org

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