The Big Brother-Big Sister of South Middlesex, Inc.(now part of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest) matched Mali McKinney and me, Barbara Callan-Bogia, on June 12, 1998. I was married, had my own a management consultant business and wanted to help make a difference in a young girl’s life, if possible.
Mali was just 8 years old. Our first year together was one of getting to know each other as we went to the movies, museums, baked cookies, went on picnics, etc.
Mali and I focused on reading chapter books and the next year Mali was the most improved reader in her class. After reading “Little Women” we then visited Louisa May Alcott’s’ house.
All of us have been told that matches of Big’s and Little’s usually last only a year, maybe two. It’s been an amazing adventure for Mali and me that continues to this day, 16 years later!
Through the years, Mali became a restaurant critic rating the restaurant on their friendliness of staff, quality of food, and bathroom cleanliness. Her ratings were tough from an A+ to an F!
In high school during Mali’s freshman year winter vacation in April 2005, I offered to take a day off and we would go anyplace she’d like to go for the day. To my amazement, Mali asked if we could go to college for the day, as she wanted to see what it was like. Even as a freshman in high school Mali wanted to go to college for fashion design even though her friends made fun of her as they could not understand why she would want to go to college.
I was lucky when I called the Consumer Science Chair, Dr. Luoto, at Framingham State College and explained who I was and what my “Little Sister” wanted to do. Well, Dr. Luoto and her assistant Alex were terrific! They set Mali and me up with a half-day of activities. They were very impressed that a 9th grader was already thinking ahead to college. We attended a class, were given a private tour of the fashion collection, talked with students, and then had a very good talk with Dr. Irene Foster who was the Assistant Professor of Clothing and Textiles at the time.
When Mali was 16, she asked me what would happen when she turned 18, as she would then transition out of the Big Brother – Big Sister program. My response was, “What do you want to have happen?” Her answer was that she didn’t want us to stop hanging out together and stop being friends. I said, “Great, because I don’t want to stop either, so we won’t.”
Mali did well in high school and started working when she was 16. She has worked at David’s Bridal for over six years now.
My work changed and I moved to Boynton Beach, FL in 2006 which was very upsetting to Mali and me. We all know how distance can break the bonds that tie you. I was determined that Mali and I would stay close despite the move. So, guess what destination Mali had her first airplane ride to all by herself? You bet she flew down to visit with me and my husband. She’s been back to see our new home and learn more about Florida.
Mali was accepted to several colleges; however, since she did not receive enough financial aid she attended Middlesex Community College for two years and then transferred to Framingham State.
While at Framingham State University (from which she will soon graduate), Mali applied to attend the Paris American Academy in Paris, France for a month-long intensive Couture Techniques Workshop. With help from her Big Sister and friends, Mali was off to Paris in July 2012! She thoroughly enjoyed her time there and learned to make a designer dress, hats and more. She also worked behind the scenes helping models for the Paris Women’s Fashion Week! How cool is that?
Fast-forward to May 18, 2014…..Mali McKinney will fulfill her long-awaited dream and graduate from college. She will be receiving a Bachelors Degree in Fashion Design. And, if can you believe this, Dr. Foster was Mali’s Professor for one of her classes this last semester.
When I tell people something about Mali, they often say what a great thing I have done. Actually, I believe it’s the other way around. Mali has given so much love, laughter and knowledge to me that I would never had experienced if it were not for her. Thank you so much, Miss Mali! I can’t wait to see what the next 16 years hold for you and me.