Whidbey 'Bigs' score big with college scholarships
July 7, 2011 · Updated 9:00 AM
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County has awarded scholarships to two outstanding “Bigs” to help them on their way to higher education.
South Whidbey High School graduate Tabitha Helland received a scholarship for her long-term commitment to Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Helland became part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters family when she was 8, and joined the program as a “Little Sister.”
“My mom told me I was going to have a big sister and I thought: ‘What is she talking about? I have a whole bunch of sisters at home,’” said Helland, who is one of four sisters raised by their single mom Jil, after their dad died.
Despite the initial hesitation, Helland is happy she gave Big Brothers Big Sisters a shot. She had two Big Sisters through the program. One was Annie Wescott, with whom she grew especially close.
“We are still in touch. She really became one of my sisters,” Helland said.
In eighth grade, Helland became a Big Sister and was matched with a little girl named Ivy and later with Makayla in 2008, and is currently with her Little Sister Anna. Helland was named Big Sister of the Year in 2009.
“Tabitha was a natural candidate for this award as she has been part of Big Brothers Big Sisters for so many years and is an exceptional Big Sister. Taking care of people comes so natural to her,” said Michaela Marx Wheatley, the nonprofit’s South Whidbey site director. “She has been a great example for the younger girls she has mentored, and she is a hard worker and such a caring individual. I know she will succeed in college and beyond.”
Helland has maintained a grade-point average above 3.5, in addition to being the founder and president of South Whidbey High School’s Help Club, which focuses on service projects in the community.
Helland plans to attend Seattle University this fall and is considering a career in the medical field, and is also looking to continue her Spanish studies. To help pay for college, she has worked at multiple jobs in addition to her main job at Mike’s Place in Langley.
Coupeville High School senior David Lile was also awarded a scholarship from Big Brothers Big Sisters. Lile served as a high school mentor for two years, dedicating many extra hours to his matches, encouraging and tutoring the boys.