BY CARMEN HUFF
When they met 10 years ago, Corey Cannon, a volunteer at Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central Indiana, was hard-pressed to get 9-year-old Heather Collis to talk. “We went to a park on The Hill, off of 10th Street, and sat on the swings,” Cannon remembers. “I tried to make conversation as much as I could. We were only there for about 30 minutes. But the next weekend, I went back and picked her up again.”
Cannon was a 19-year-old sophomore at Indiana University; Collis was a third-grader at Fairview Elementary School. Their first meeting was like many first encounters between “Bigs” and “Littles.” Awkward.
Now, Cannon is a teacher at Frederick Douglass SUPER School 19 in Indianapolis. She’s getting married in November, and Collis will be a bridesmaid. Clearly, theirs was a very successful match. Strained conversations turned into bowling outings, swimming at the Monroe County YMCA, and trips to Olive Garden for Shirley Temples, breadsticks, and pasta.
As Collis got older, Cannon started taking her to the library to help her with homework and edit her papers. “I really tried to encourage her in school,” Cannon says. “When it was time, I told her I would take her on college tours, even if it was in Florida.”
Collis is now a freshman at Ivy Tech Community College–Bloomington studying human services. Not only is she the first person in her family to go to college, she’s a 21st Century Scholar, having completed a state-sponsored program that provides a four-year scholarship to Hoosier students who meet income criteria and commit to academic success, remain drug and alcohol free, and complete college-preparation activities.
“Corey was the first person in my life who’d been to college,” Collis says. “I knew if I wanted my life to be different than it was growing up, I had to do something.”
“Heather used to ask me what would happen after our relationship ended,” Cannon says. “Our relationship will never end. I expect her to be part of my kids’ lives.”