Volunteering to be a big part of someone's life doesn't have to take a big chunk of time. Meet a big and little pair that meet just once a week.
It's pretty rare to find a third grader that will give up play time with her friends, but Elizabeth Arteaga does it every week.
"I think its very admirable of her to give up one recess a week to spend with me," says Elizabeth's 'Big', Joshanna Stone.
For the past two years, Elizabeth and Joshanna have turned lunch time into their meeting time as a pair through Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Sitting in the Highland Park Central Elementary, Joshanna thumbs through a book about being a dog owner while Elizabeth munches on pizza. "We read and do puzzles," adds Elizabeth.
You can see the relationship that's developped between the pair while Joshanna opens Elizabeth's strawberry milk and laughs. Elizabeth drinks it every week. Joshanna admits she has seen a difference not just in herself, but in Elizabeth.
"She's doing well in her reading. She wasn't bad before but she's improved, doing better with big words."
Plus Elizabeth is enjoying another benefit too. My big brother says it's not fair." He must be jealous, I thought. "Yeah, it's good, because most of the time he's mean."
"I wish I could be a big sister with the longer program, but time-wise, I really can't," Joshanna adds.
But now, as a state employee, Joshanna gets ninety minutes a pay-period for mentoring. That comes after a recent proclamation by Governor Kathleen Sebelius. This school lunch program provided the perfect opportunity to use that time.
"This one little piece can go a long way for our kids," says Val Patterson with Topeka Public Schools. "To have their eyes on text is a wonderful, wonderful deal."
It's a deal with Elizabeth that Joshanna won't break anytime soon. "As long as she wants me, I'm in it for the long haul."
"I like it because I get to spend time with a big, huge person. She's my buddy!" grins Elizabeth.