MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Each Year, The Big Brothers-Big Sisters of the Mid-South names a Big Brother and a Big Sister of the Year, two mentors to young people who truly stand out.
After you read this story, you'll have no doubt in your mind why Mariah Salim deserves the Big Sister of the Year award.
WMC Action News 5 sat down with Mariah and her Little Sister, 16-year-old Jaquesha White.
Jaquesha looked over at Mariah and said, "I love you, Mariah." Jaquesha covered her eyes with her hand, and tears poured down her cheeks.
Jaquesha's tears are very real and for a very good reason.
Mariah has been Jaquesha's mentor for eight years now.
"I love my Big Sister so much," gushed Jaquesha. "There's nothing she wouldn't do for me and there's nothing I wouldn't do for her."
The two have a lot of history together.
"We would go swimming and we would bake, cooking and we would try new foods and I would take her to everything I was going to, and she would take me to everything her family was doing," Mariah smiled.
Then, July 22, 2012 happened.
Two years into their Big Sister-Little Sister relationship, Jaquesha's mother died from a long-term illness.
"When my mom passed, she [Mariah] was there for me," Jaquesha recalled as she choked back tears. "She did all these things for me. She made sure I was straight. She was there through everything and I just thank her for that because..." she paused to catch her breath. "Without Mariah, I don't know where I would be."
Mariah admits she was initially nervous about becoming a mentor.
"I didn't know what I could bring to the table. I was a student, I didn't have children of my own," she added.
Mariah describes how she went about being a Big Sister.
"Being a Big Sister is the most amazing thing ever. You can take them out to lunch, take them to the park," she explained. "It just requires that you be present and that you be available and if they need to call you, you can answer the phone and if they need advice, you're willing to do your best to give it. It really just requires that you make a commitment to be part of their life for a set amount of time."
Jaquesha described how it feels to be a Little Sister, "They're the best thing that could ever happen to you. They will help you, they will love you. I like to text my Big Sister, I like to hang out with my Big Sister, I like to go swimming. I like to talk on the phone, go to the mall," Jaquesha continued.
The Big Brothers-Big Sisters program simply asks you to commit two to four hours per month to your Little.
"It doesn't require that you have a certain educational background or a certain career path," Mariah expounded. "It just requires that you care."
She says the most rewarding part about being Jaquesha's Big is the growth she's seen in herself and Jaquesha.
"The most rewarding part of working with Jaquesha is hearing her say that she wants to go to college," Mariah said. "She's the youngest of nine. She will be the first girl in her family to ever attend college. She'll be one of the first girls to graduate from high school."
Take it from Jaquesha, Big Sisters are pretty awesome too.
"My Big Sister is just so wonderful. She's loving, caring, she inspires me to do my best, she is just amazing," Jaquesha declared.
Mariah says the time is now for you to become a mentor.
"If you're thinking about being a mentor for Big Brothers-Big Sisters, don't wait another second. Get involved, pick up the phone, send an email, because I guarantee you it will change your life," she said. "It will change that child's life and it's going to impact all of us for years to come. It's going to be the most rewarding thing you could ever do."
Jaquesha wants to attend Tennessee State University or Austin Peay State University, when she graduates from East High School.
When Jaquesha finished interviewing with WMC Action News 5, in Big Sister fashion, Mariah came over and gave her a big hug. Both of them had huge smiles on their faces.
"I love you so much," Mariah said to Jaquesha. "I love you too," smiled Jaquesha.
If there's room in your heart to become a Big Brother or Big Sister, click here to learn how to get connected.