Sisterly love

Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Katelyn Vance, left, spends time as a Big Sister with Kiarra Long, 8, a student at Jefferson Elementary School. (Fred Lynch)

About the series: Helping Hands is an occasional series about local youths who volunteer their time to help others. To recommend a volunteer for a story, contact features editor Callie Clark Miller at 335-6611, ext. 128 or e-mail

In the cafeteria at Jefferson Elementary School, Katelyn Vance leans over a lunch table to peer at piece of paper.

"What are you drawing?" Vance asks.

"You," replies the 8-year-old girl sitting next to Vance.

Side by side, it appears there's little in common between third-grader Kiarra Long and Vance, a senior at Notre Dame Regional High School. They're a decade apart in age and come from different backgrounds.

But the two girls have been sisters for over a year now.

Vance is one of several local high school and college students who volunteers with Big Brothers, Big Sisters program in Cape Girardeau.

Every two weeks, she meets with her "little sister" in the cafeteria at Jefferson and the two of them do homework, eat snacks and play games.

"I love interacting with little kids. They're my life," said Vance.

She's aiming for a profession as a nurse or pediatrician. For now, Vance works at a day care and spends what's left of her free time balancing school, a social life and time with Kiarra.

The two first began meeting last fall.

"At first, she was shy and timid, but after a year she tells me all her secrets," said Vance. "I just like hanging out with her, and it gives her someone she can look forward to being with."

They meet every other Wednesday from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters is an international mentoring program that pairs older students or adults with disadvantaged youth.

"Being there makes all the difference to these kids," said Vance. "To me, it's a privilege seeing her happy."

To learn more about volunteering with local Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization, call 339-0184.

335-6611, extension 128

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