Kaylee & Barrie

Kaylee and Barrie bonded instantly. After getting over the initial surprise at how tall Barrie stood in comparison to her, Kaylee couldn’t help but give Barrie a big hug. She just knew from that first meeting that the two of them were meant to be. Feeling a “comfortable vibe right away,” Kaylee skipped past the icebreakers and started sharing with Barrie all that was going on in her life.

A once nervous mentor who had “no idea how to interact with a teenager,” Barrie was quickly amazed by Kaylee and her maturity. After learning of her complicated family dynamic and the passing of her best friend, it was clear to Barrie that Kaylee had faced more than most people her age, and more than many people do in their entire lives. All of that lead Barrie to question how she could make an impact in the life of someone who was already so resilient, so capable. So Barrie focused on just being a friend and ensuring Kaylee knew that she was there for her.

To grow their relationship, Barrie thought “jumping off a cliff and seeing if [they] could fly on [their] own” outside of the program’s structured events was what they needed to do. If taking Kaylee to movies wasn’t enough to secure their bond, one summer Barrie accompanied Kaylee to a writing program in Brooklyn. Helping Kaylee make the unexpected discovery that she loves writing research papers; reminding Kaylee to take pride in all that she does; and, other times, just taking Kaylee out to dinner to try new foods were a few of the ways Barrie was Kaylee’s champion and friend.

With neither of her parents having attended college, the whole concept felt abstract to Kaylee. She credits Barrie with having “opened her eyes to what it really is.” Kaylee’s mom was always supportive of her going to college, but it just didn't seem real, or particularly appealing until Barrie sold her on the experience.

Over the years, Barrie has made good on her commitment to "be there" for Kaylee. After receiving a text at the 11th hour asking for help with a college essay, Barrie edited Kaylee’s essay on her phone, and while on her honeymoon! When Kaylee started a GoFundMe campaign to raise extra money for college – something she wouldn’t have done without Barrie’s encouragement — Barrie’s mother and aunt contributed.

Today, Kaylee is a freshman at SUNY Geneseo and believes she wouldn’t be who she is and where she is if it wasn’t for Barrie, as expressed in her heartfelt text to Barrie’s mom:

“Hi Mom! All the stories Barrie tells me about you makes me want to fly to your house just to give you a hug. I need to thank you for two things. One, thank you for donating! It means the world to me that you took a minute out of your day to donate. Second, thank you for bringing Barrie to this earth. She has helped me become who I am today. She helped me find my true potential and taught me how to never let anyone take away my dreams. For that, I am really grateful for both you and her. I hope we will be able to meeting in person someday.”