Tariah lives in an 800-square foot apartment with her mother, brother and two younger sisters. She doesn’t get to play in her neighborhood because the woman above her apartment is a suspected drug dealer and it’s unsafe for her to be outside.
While Tariah’s father is now in her life, he spent time away from her while in jail for drug and firearm possession. Her only contact with him was an occasional visit or phone call. When he was released, her brother, DeAndre, was sent away to reform school – one person back in her life, another one gone.
Tariah needed a role model, and thanks to United Way of McLean County and Big Brothers Big Sisters, her life was about to change. In June 2011, Tariah was matched up with a big sister, Brittin.
When Tariah and Brittin met, Tariah had been held back in school due to low attendance and grades. They started working together on improving her grades by tackling one subject at a time. Spelling was first. Tariah had a spelling test every Friday, so every Thursday, Brittin would call her wherever she was – babysitter, grandma’s or a neighbor’s – and quiz her. With Brittin’s guidance, she started getting 100% on all of her tests.
“Watching her grow into a young lady has been so rewarding,” says Brittin. “Knowing that I have something to do with her successes is a great feeling. I love her like she’s my own little sister.”
They’re still matched together, working on reading comprehension now, and Tariah’s grades have improved immensely over the years Brittin has known her.
They also did some celebrating together this past year, as Brittin was named Illinois Big Sister of the Year.