Big Brothers Big Sisters Celebrate Women’s History Month

Interviews and photos by Jan Osborn.

Since 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is incredible potential. As the nation’s largest donor- and volunteer-supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (Bigs) and children (Littles), ages 5 through young adulthood in communities across the country. We develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.

Jenny Harper and Jennifer Ganly

As we close out the celebration of Women’s History Month, BBBS would like to recognize two women who work diligently to improve the lives of Littles. Jenny Harper, BBBS of Greater Dallas President, and Jennifer Ganly, Big Sister, recently visited with Dallas Doing Good to share some of their experiences with BBBS.

Jenny, Would you share your story of how you first became involved with Big Brothers and Big Sisters?

Jenny Harper

To be truly honest, I came to BBBS out of necessity. I had just moved to DFW (2002) to earn my Master’s degree in social work from UTA. I needed a job and didn’t know a soul in the area, so I opened the phone book and started calling social service agencies. I was offered a part-time position as a Match Support Specialist. My goal was to work here for the 2 years it would take to complete graduate school and then venture into school social work. Well, almost 20 years later I am still here and serving as the President of the Greater Dallas Market. 

Through Big Brothers Big Sisters, I found my passion to support others to be their best selves. I’ve had the honor to coach matches where I met absolutely incredible youth, parents/guardians, and volunteers. As my time with the agency progressed, my leaders gave me opportunities to connect with school districts, community partners, corporate partners, donors, and board members. I have had the privilege to meet some of the most giving and caring human beings in our community and it inspires me every day to lead in a way that fulfills their dreams, hopes, and love for youth and our community as a whole. In my role as President, I now get to directly or indirectly support thousands of people to be their best selves and change our world for the better. I moved here knowing no one and now have an entire network that supports me to be my best self. 

What stories have most impacted you during your time working with Big Brothers and Big Sisters?

I have had the opportunity to hear so many incredible stories. What inspires me most about BBBS is that each story is unique to the child’s needs. Children and volunteers are matched on personality, interests, and common goals. Therefore, each match is personalized to serve the child in the way they need it most. 

My favorite stories are those where the Little discovers their worth, their voice, and their power. So many children we meet are unsure of themselves. However, with the support of their Big, they come out of their shell, make new friends, find connectivity at school, and discover that they can control their destiny when they make the right choices and work hard. 

Big Brothers and Big Sisters are celebrating their 95th anniversary this year. What do you think has been the catalyst for such staying power?

Human connection is a vital part of life. I have yet to find a person who cannot identify someone in their past who helped them become the person they are today. Therefore, mentoring is a universally understood concept. What sets BBBS apart from other mentoring organizations is our systems for child safety, structure, and support. 

What is your vision for your organization five years from today? 

As BBBS approaches its centennial birthday in the next five years, my goal is to ensure we have the right foundation to sustain the next generation. To do that, we must continue to grow and deepen our collaborative connections with school districts, community organizations, and corporations. Greater Dallas communities are rich with resources and opportunities for youth needing or wanting support. When BBBS partners with others, we provide service to meet the needs of the whole child and family that can truly break down barriers and disrupt generational poverty, generational incarceration, and create a more equitable future.

In honor of Women’s History Month, how did women become a part of the Big Brothers organization and what have been some of their major contributions over the years?

The Big Brothers Big Sisters movement was set into motion in Texas in 1927 by Jessie White, a probation officer in Dallas. She observed a common denominator shared by the juveniles she worked with– that all of the youth lacked a trusted adult role model in their lives. That following year, she began a movement that led to the incorporation of Big Brothers affiliate in Dallas. Big Sisters were soon added. 

The women in our community have continued to stand up to serve our community by volunteering as Bigs on average at a rate of 3:1 to men. 

JENNIFER, Tell us about where you grew up and how giving back was a part of your family dynamic.

Jennifer Ganly

I grew up in Northwestern New Jersey in a small country town.  My first memories of giving back were small acts of kindness in our neighborhood whether it be helping an elderly neighbor shovel snow from their driveway or searching for a neighbor’s lost dog.  However, my family has been on the receiving end. I remember how I felt when my grandmother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. The neighbors would help my mom by picking up my sister and I from school or cooking dinner for her while she took her mom to Chemo treatments. It was such a relief to have my mom have outside support.   All of these small acts of kindness always had an impact on me.   As I got older and opportunities presented themselves to volunteer on a bigger scale I never turned it down.  

Would you share your story of how you first became involved with Big Brothers and Big Sisters?

I had been working long hours and started to realize that I missed volunteering and making a difference has always been a passion.   One day I walked into a previous boss’s office and he was running late to pick-up his little brother.  I had known my boss for a while and he never mentioned a little brother. With curiosity, I asked him about it and he explained how he was in the big brother big sister program.  It sounded like something that I would love to do and a few weeks later there was a representative in our lobby from BBBS.   The rest is history!    One of the questions they ask is that there are often not enough male volunteers to cover all the little brothers.   Would I be interested in taking on a little brother if the opportunity presented itself? I was so eager to volunteer I quickly said yes.   One of the best decisions I have made is to be both in the program and yes to a little brother. 

What stories have most impacted you during your time working with Big Brothers and Big Sisters?

In a world that has become used to instant gratification you have to be patient with children as you may not always see the difference you are making.  The most aha moment was when Amareus was sidelined for one of his JV football games due to an injury. I had texted to say Good Luck and that I would see him that night at the game. When he texted back “ I did not know you would be there since I was not playing. I should have figured. You have always been one of my biggest supporters.” I knew that my consistency and commitment had not in any way gone unnoticed and he could count on me.

Tell us about your relationship with Amareus and how your relationship has evolved over the years?

I am very fortunate to have a great relationship with Amareus.   When we first started out like every new mentorship we were both a little bit quiet and reserved.  When I first started it was mostly about exposing Amareus to different opportunities.  Over the years we have learned to have a mutual trust as well as respect for each other and have meaningful conversations on goals and getting the most out of life.  Most importantly we have learned to be vulnerable with one another which is critical in a mentorship.  

What is your favorite thing about being a BIg?

One of my favorite things about being a Big is taking Amareus to new places and giving him new opportunities.  Watching his face light up or seeing the light bulbs go off because he is seeing new possibilities is priceless.   The cherry on top is when the mom texts you and says that Amareus stated “He had the best day of his life” or inquires how long can I be his big sister because I am awesome.  You know you nailed it!   There is no better feeling.  

What does it mean to be a Big Sister? 

To me being a big sister means being loyal, compassionate, flexible and patient as you show them all the possibilities that life can hold for them.  And no matter how many stumbling blocks they come across they know that you will always have their back.  

To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters, go to

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