Lifelong link: Airman is Guam "Big Sister" of the year
Andersen Air Force Base, Guam -- Not all siblings are related. Sometimes, all it takes to be family is a bond.
Senior Airman Ameka Mmoh, a broadcast journalist with the 36th Wing Public Affairs office, built such bonds while attending boarding school -- where her peers quickly became role models and her support system. As an Airman, Mmoh has created yet another link through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Guam because she wanted to give back by becoming the support system for someone else.
Path to becoming a mentor
Mmoh began attending boarding school at the age of 12 when her mother went to work at an overseas location without accredited schools. With the support of her peers, the young student thrived and held various leadership positions throughout the student body as she finished her primary and secondary education away from her family.
After boarding school, Mmoh attended the University of Maryland, College Park, where she received her bachelor’s degree in criminology with plans of a career in law enforcement. To continue her education and gain real-world experience, she then joined the Air Force and now plans to complete her Master of Science in Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis before the end of her first term.
Since graduating from the Defense Information School at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, in 2014, Mmoh serves as an Air Force broadcast journalist at Andersen AFB. She works with a team of videographers to produce video and audio news to keep the community up-to-date with the events on and around base.
Despite a demanding workload and training requirements, Mmoh began looking into volunteer opportunities to give back to the community on Guam. Almost immediately upon contacting Big Brother Big Sisters, Mmoh was able to begin the lengthy process of determining if she was the right fit, she said.
Following the screening process, she was selected as a big sister for Keiya, a Guam middle school student. After a year of mentoring, Mmoh was recently chosen as the 2016 Guam Big Sister of the Year in appreciation for her outstanding service and dedication to Keiya.
Building a bond
“When I first met Ameka I was shy, but I was happy that I had a big sister,” Keiya said. “I was excited to meet her.”
Mmoh and Keiya connected quickly through common interests and activities. At least twice a month, the two share hobbies such as learning to play different sports, going to the beach, watching movies and Mmoh has even shared her military work with Keiya when the two filmed a concert together.
“Initially she was very shy, but we started talking and I found out we are both into professional wrestling,” Mmoh said. “I was obsessed with wrestling when I was her age and she’s obsessed with it now, so we bonded over it.”
The Big Brothers Big Sisters program allows lasting friendships to form, Mmoh said, and volunteers in the program are able to make a stronger impact because the pair spend time together on a regular basis.
“Knowing that I’m having some kind of impact on a person, especially someone as young as Keiya, is very meaningful to me,” Mmoh said. “I enjoy seeing her grow and develop and seeing how much our time together has changed her.”
Likewise, Mmoh said she benefits from spending time with Keiya by being able to destress and relax because the two have become good friends.
“Whenever I’m having a bad day and I go to see Keiya and I see how excited she is, it doesn’t matter what was bothering me, all of that disappears,” Mmoh said. “Even when I’m stressed out and don’t feel like being around anyone, seeing her changes all that and puts me in a better mood.”
In addition to helping her deal with stressors, being Keiya’s big sister is a large time investment and requires planning around a busy duty schedule, which has helped Mmoh develop her own time management skills, she said.
“Doing this program has definitely helped me with time management because it added a little bit more to my plate,” Mmoh said. “However, it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t handle.”
Mmoh carefully balances work, time with Keiya, time with other friends, studying for her master’s degree, additional volunteering and her guardsman duties as a member of Andersen AFB’s Honor Guard where she assists with the scheduling and coordination of details and ceremonies.
“She absolutely excels in time management,” said Staff Sgt. Medel Ardiente, Andersen AFB Honor Guard flight sergeant. “Her level of expertise makes her a great asset. She makes our lives easier. I am very thankful to have her on the team!”
Despite her short time in uniform, Mmoh seized a variety of opportunities through her service and credits having volunteered with Big Brothers, Big Sisters to the Air Force.
"If it wasn't for the Air Force, I don't think I would have joined Big Brothers Big Sisters," Mmoh said. “When I think of our core values, especially ‘service before self,’ I don't just think of military service. I think of giving back, volunteering and giving to the community. If I hadn’t joined the Air Force, I don't think I would have become involved in a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters.”
The minimum time commitment required by Big Brothers Big Sisters is one year. However, Mmoh said she plans to stay in touch with Keiya after leaving Guam in late 2016.
“This is not something I’m going to do for two years and then disappear,” Mmoh said. “This is something that lasts a lifetime.”