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'You get to go places'

March 29, 2001

'You get to go places'



Ashley Magee got more than a grown-up playmate when she asked Virginia Coleman to be her Big Sister.

"It's kind of like she's my sister and my mom rolled into one," says Ashley, 17, of Hagerstown.

Because she moved a lot, "I didn't really know what it was like to be close to someone," Ashley says.

The two met when Ashley was in Coleman's third-grade class at Winter Street Elementary School in Hagerstown.

Ashley was living with her grandmother when they received a flier about the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. It was her grandmother who suggested she ask a teacher to be her Big Sister.

Ashley says she wanted to get involved in the program because "you get to go places and spend time with someone."

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A lot has changed since the two were paired through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County seven years ago.

For starters, both are parents now.

Coleman has two sons - Patrick, 3, and Joseph, almost 1 year. Ashley has one, Trey, who is 1.

Being pregnant at the same time was a good experience.

"It was wonderful because I was her tutor," says Coleman, 40, of Hagerstown.

The subjects that Ashley studies are a bit more complicated than when she was in elementary school. Now she's taking English, world history, anatomy and marketing at Washington County Family Center.

And now Ashley is taller than Coleman.

The two alternate choosing their every-other-week activities because their tastes are different. Coleman's idea of fun is going grocery shopping; Ashley prefers hunting for clothes.

Coleman grew up with three sisters and a brother but her relationship with Ashley is different.

"When they're biological, you can impose family values. Ashley was really adamant 'You're not changing me,' " Coleman says.

"My only goal for her is for her to graduate. Ashley has worked very hard," says Coleman, a behavioral resource teacher at eight elementary and middle schools in Washington County.

Ashley hopes to reach that goal next year, making her the first person in her family to graduate from high school.

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