She wanted to volunteer with Big Sisters but didn't like the idea of daylong outings.
So when Burnaby resident Kerry O'Donoghue heard about the organization's study buddy mentoring program, she knew it was the right fit. The program matches girls with volunteers who tutor them.
"That was my strength, I felt," O'Donoghue says. "I knew I could help with that."
Through the program, O'Donoghue, who has short, spiked hair with dark bluish/purple ends, was matched up with then 14-year-old Gabrielle Martin.
The pair started meeting once a week for about an hour a time so that O'Donoghue - who writes resource material for Science World and teaches dance - could help Martin with her math.
"It was so different in the beginning. It was just like a tutor thing, but then we ended up getting to know each other, and I would be so excited to go and do math, (I'd say) 'Oh ya, Kerry,'" says Martin, a bubbly teenager who lives in New Westminster, but attended Byrne Creek Secondary in Burnaby. "I would just laugh."
"How many libraries did we get told off in," O'Donoghue says. "We had to move out of libraries because we kept getting told to be quiet."
Along with math lessons, there has been a lot of laughter between the pair over the years. They've grown close enough that they do call each other sisters, though it's a statement that takes people aback, given that Martin's Caribbean features contrast with O'Donoghue's British-background.
"Even now, she's not like my tutor, she is like my big sister," Martin says. "Like whenever I introduce her to people, (I say), 'This is my big sister Kerri.' And they're like "Uh ..."
"I'm like can't you tell the resemblance?" Martin adds, playing along with the scenario.
They both laugh - loud enough to see why they no longer frequent libraries.
Instead, the pair meet every Tuesday night at a Starbucks in New Westminster.
Martin gets serious for a minute, looks at O'Donoghue and says, "You did become a mentor."
"We became more than just study buddies," she says.
The pair took a brief break from meeting a couple of years ago when O'Donoghue gave birth to her daughter, who's now a two-yearold named Matilda.
They continued to get together as friends and eventually turned back to the books, which paid off. Martin graduated in June, and O'Donoghue was there to help celebrate.
"Even emotionally, just knowing that I have someone other than my family, knowing somebody outside actually cares about me - another adult," says Martin. "It's really nice to have her take time out of her day to actually come to my graduation and cheer me on."
"Really loud," they both say at once, laugh-ing.
One funny story that O'Donoghue notes is that for years, she didn't tell Martin her real age. The Big Sisters then-coordinator of the program warned O'Donoghue that Martin didn't want a "boring" math tutor and her mom had dragged her in.
"She's dead set against it. Don't tell her how old you are," the Big Sisters coordinator told O'Donoghue.
At the time O'Donoghue was 39. "I remember I had my big 40th birthday, and we all went to Vegas, and I couldn't tell her," O'Donoghue says.
"For years, I was telling you I was (in my) late 20s," O'Donoghue says to Martin. "She probably thought I looked old for a 20-yearold."
O'Donoghue only confessed her real age when her daughter was born.
"I kept going on about being an old mother; she's like, 'You're not too old to have a baby,'" O'Donoghue says.
As for Martin, she says she looking to fight in her future. She's considering getting into boxing.
O'Donoghue weighs in, saying, "I'm against it, of course."
Whatever Martin's future holds, it seems likely that O'Donoghue and lots of laughter will be in it.
To learn more about becoming a study buddy tutor, referring a little sister or donating to the study buddy mentoring program, call 6048734525 ext. 300 or email email@example.com.