MANCHESTER—For being non biological sisters, Sophie Hill and Kasia Sosnow have the same glimmer of passion in their eyes when talking about spending time together.
In just three short months, the match has learned a lot about each other. Sosnow is a special education teacher at Manchester Elementary Middle School where Hill attends third grade. Sosnow is Hill’s big sister in the United Counseling Service Big Brother/Big Sister mentor program.
Together they go sledding, hiking, play with Sosnow’s pets, and enjoy the holiday festivities in town including the Elf Express train ride and the tractor parade.
Sosnow has worked at MEMS for eight years and moved to Vermont from Long Island, N.Y. Her MEMS colleague was Hill’s former mentor. She has three other siblings and said she always wanted to be a teacher to spend her life helping others.
“[There’s] a lot of kids in need of good role models here and I try to do my part to bring awareness to the program,” Sosnow said. “People don’t realize it’s not that much time — an hour per week and one group event or on the weekend and it sounds like a lot but it flies by and it’s so much fun and it means so much to the kids. I think people, especially the young guys would be surprised at what they get out of it.”
Sosnow acknowledged the lack of male mentors in the program. The ones that participate are either retired or older. About 25 percent of them are males, according to Sue Pierce, UCS Northshire Early Childhood Services manager. “We always match gender, so that means there are less boys that we can serve,” she said.
Sosnow already knew Hill from seeing each other at school. She said she reminds her of her niece back on Long Island.
Hill enjoys art, animals, reading Dr. Suess and watching television, she said. She has two older brothers who sometimes pick on her. She also likes to ice skate at Riley Rink and hopes Sosnow will take her to a museum because she’s never been to one.
“It opens a lot of doors for opportunities for kids who haven’t had chances [to do certain things], smaller town,” Sosnow said. “It’s not that the homelife is lacking. Her parents are busy and it helps their kid a lot.”
The focus of the sisters’ time together is about having fun. It’s not a time to do homework or put the child under stress, Sosnow said.
“You’re there to support the child’s life and enhance their experience,” she said. “Mentor time is not to be meant as leverage. I’m always going to be there and you’re always going to have their time. Something they can rely on.”
“I love spending time with [Sosnow] because I love her,” Hill said. “One day I want to become a big sister.”
Sosnow also teaches hot yoga locally and used to dance.
“When I’m with her dog he doesn’t bark,” Hill exclaimed.
“I’ve worked with kids for so long, I’m so grateful to be matched with Sophie,” Sosnow said. “To some extent it helps having a background with kids, even if you’re someone without kids or who wants kids, feels like they’re making an impact. I have no excuses, you have to make time. It’s the highlight of my week. Always feel like schedule is so full but be surprised as how much you can fit in.”
Reach staff writer Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471 or @MC_McGeeney.