Artwork creates a bond in Big Brothers, Big Sisters program

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Any good artist knows it takes time and effort to make something amazing. Sarah Adkins and Jalisha Staten have experienced that together.

They’re connected through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham. Sarah, the big sister, is a Ph.D student at UAB. Jalisha, who also goes by ‘Jill,’ is in fifth grade. They frequently visit Ground Floor Contemporary in downtown Birmingham, where Adkins has studio space to do artwork.

“It’s really nice to have her in the studio, also with shows and everyone there just supporting her making art, which has been really great,” Adkins said.

They also bond over other art forms, including music they find on their phones. Adkins uses another art form, quilting, to explain why she joined the program.

“I think about a lot of volunteer opportunities like you’re sort of putting a stitch in a blanket that you’ll never get to see again,” she said. “But with Big Brothers Big Sisters it’s like a quilt or blanket you actually get to form with someone else.

They’re forming that figurative blanket each time they’re together. But they admit their initial meeting was a bit awkward.

“I don’t think she talked to me, really,” Adkins said, laughing. “She was like really quiet.”

“I was like, ‘Oh God,'” Staten said. “I don’t know her. I’m just going to have to play nice.”

But Adkins says it took only about 30 minutes to break the ice, and they’ve been developing a closer relationship ever since. Staten says she’s learned how to be herself and never be scared to show herself. And the impact flows in both directions.

“I thought it was really cool that I got to start (the program) when I started my Ph.D,” Adkins said. “Having Jill, my little, along with me the whole way has really transformed the way that I thought about education and community. I think if I didn’t have Jill throughout that entire process, I don’t think I would be able to feel like myself in the same way that I do.”

It’s two people growing together, changing each other the way paint changes a page, creating a final product that’s much more colorful. Because life, like art, is a process: if you put in the work, you can get a beautiful result.


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