Part of something bigger

Senior Airman Rachel McAdams (right), a commander’s support staff technician with the 17th Medical Group, helps a customer with paperwork Tuesday. Airman McAdams was recently recognized for her volunteer work with Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Angelo, where she works one-on-one as a mentor for her 14-year-old “little sister.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Stephen Musal)

Senior Airman Rachel McAdams (right), a commander’s support staff technician with the 17th Medical Group, helps a customer with paperwork Tuesday. Airman McAdams was recently recognized for her volunteer work with Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Angelo, where she works one-on-one as a mentor for her 14-year-old “little sister.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Stephen Musal)

Senior Airman Rachel McAdams works hard at her computer Tuesday. Airman McAdams is a commander’s support staff technician with the 17th Medical Group. Hanging on the wall behind her is her line number for staff sergeant.

Senior Airman Rachel McAdams works hard at her computer Tuesday. Airman McAdams is a commander’s support staff technician with the 17th Medical Group. Hanging on the wall behind her is her line number for staff sergeant.

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Senior Airman Rachel McAdams says one of the reasons she joined the Air Force was to be part of something bigger. While many who join the military make the same statement, not all of them think of building a friendship as that "something bigger" - but this commander's support staff technician from the 17th Medical Group has found somewhere she is making a difference.

The 23-year-old senior Airman said what she looks forward to most each week is the time she spends with Selah, a 14-year-old girl who she met through the San Angelo chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, a national one-to-one mentoring program where she volunteers.

Selah and Airman McAdams were paired together after an in-depth interview with the volunteer organization, where Airman McAdams was questioned on such topics as her hobbies, subjects she was good at in school and what she wanted in a "little sister."

"I felt like I was going up for my Top Secret all over again," Airman McAdams said as she recalled the interview. "I wanted someone older, a teenager who was somewhat similar to me if possible," she said. She got her wish.

"They introduced me to this short little 14-year-old with reddish-brown hair and blue eyes who was outspoken and outgoing," she said. "She looked just like me and acted just like me," she added. "In all honesty, she's become one of my best friends in this town."

The feeling must have been mutual; Selah wrote an essay last year on how Airman McAdams had helped her change and grow. Because of that essay and Selah's determination, Airman McAdams was recognized in January as the Big Sister of the Year for Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Angelo.

While Airman McAdams said she feels she's made a difference in her "little sister's" life, she said she couldn't take credit for the award.

"It wasn't really me who won anything, it was Selah," she said modestly. "I didn't do anything special." Airman McAdams added that Selah has probably helped her as much as she's helped Selah. Through spending time with each other, the two have learned more about themselves.

"The struggles and problems she deals with as a teenager mirror those which we struggle with as adults," Airman McAdams said. "The scale may be smaller, but the issues are the same." She smiled. "Selah's very outspoken and independent," she said. "She's brave, just being herself."

Airman McAdams said she first saw Big Brothers Big Sisters in a postmaster notice. She took a chance volunteering and encourages other Airmen to do the same.

"When you're young, especially when you're living in the dorms, it's important to get involved," she says. "It's more fun than just going out drinking and clubbing," she adds. "It makes the days go by so much faster - every week I look forward to seeing Selah."

For information on volunteer opportunities in the San Angelo area, contact Maureen Hartford at 654-3893.