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How a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentorship turned into a 20-year friendship

Kristen Slaughter and Kiara Brown
Miya Norfleet
Kristen Slaughter met Kiara Brown when Brown was an 8-year-old at Adams Elementary School in south St. Louis.

The friendship between Kristen Slaughter and Kiara Brown is unconventional. The two are of completely different generations; Slaughter is 22 years Brown’s senior. They also met at wildly different stages in their lives. And their friendship was meant to last just a year.

Yet somehow they’ve managed to stay close friends for two decades.

Slaughter and Brown were introduced through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, an organization that seeks to benefit youth by facilitating meaningful relationships with adults. At the time, Slaughter was early in her career with the nonprofit organization and Brown was an 8-year-old student at Adams Elementary School in south St. Louis.

Over the years, they learned how much they have in common. “We’re both Aquarius,” Brown said. “Once people got past the difference in age and the difference in the way that we look, it’s like, ‘Wow, those two are kindred souls,’” Slaughter said.

Brown, now 28, is a mother of two and has started her own career, but she still finds time to connect with Slaughter. “As life happens to us we don’t talk as much, but as soon as we get together, it’s like we’ve never been apart,” Brown said.

Kiara Brown and Kristen Slaughter with their kids.
Courtesy of Kiara Brown and Kristen Slaughter
Kiara Brown and Kristen Slaughter hanging out with their kids.

Since their introduction 20 years ago, they have celebrated birthdays together and many meals. The content of their conversations has also changed.

“Kiara knew me when I was newly married, no children, newer in my career, and over the last 20 years that has changed a lot,” Slaughter told St. Louis on the Air. “I became a little more seasoned and stepped into a new role at work. I have a 14-year-old son now, and we’ve gone through other personal changes.”

Slaughter was recently named Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri’s new CEO. She credits a conversation with Brown during a recent lunch with inspiring her to go for the top job. “Kiara was really one of the determining factors [for me], and I think that goes to show how much influence she’s had over the last 20 years,” Slaughter said.

To hear more about how Kristen Slaughter and Kiara Brown have maintained their 20-year friendship, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.

Kristen Slaughter and Kiara Brown join St. Louis on the Air

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Miya is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."