Big Sister mentor figures out how to be there for her Little Sister in spite of pandemic

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Julianne Eagan, a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vermont, hit it off immediately with her Little Sister, Ariannah Carter, a fourth grader at the Academy School in Brattleboro.

“She’s just the kind of kid who really takes every opportunity and thrives on human connection,” Eagan said.

Eagan, 47, decided to get involved as a mentor after her own two boys grew up, and she moved into an administrative role as principal of Dummerston School. That was a big change after many years as a teacher.

“I was looking for an opportunity to still have direct contact with students the way I used to,” Eagan said. “I did miss it.”

Then the coronavirus pandemic struck, and Big Brothers Big Sisters suspended in-person contact between mentors and their mentees.

Turned out Ariannah was a pro on Zoom from her experience with remote learning after the schools closed.

“She easily figured out how to connect with me using the same online tools she learned to use as a student,” Eagan said. “It’s hard not seeing her. Nothing can replace in-person contact, but she is such a positive person.”

The first time they were chatting on Zoom, Ariannah performed a song for Eagan, accompanied on the guitar by her dad. The song was from a virtual talent show Academy School had done.

“She loves to sing,” Eagan said.

And play the clarinet, which Ariannah did during a virtual lunch with Eagan. She performed Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

“She’s really inspiring to me because she’s doing her best,” Eagan said. “She really misses school and being with her friends, but she’s making the best out of this.”

More personal stories: How Vermonters are facing life in the coronavirus era

Contact Dan D’Ambrosio at 660-1841 or ddambrosio@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanDambrosioVT. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Sign up today for a digital subscription. 

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