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Addressing the Needs of the Whole Child

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Principal, Traci Walker Griffith, outside the Eliot K-8 School

An Interview with Traci Walker Griffith, Principal at the K-8 School in Boston’s North End.

Blog Post by: Nikki White, Executive Projects Coordinator

Big Sister has served 40 girls at the Eliot School in the North End since 2008. There has been a 50% improvement in grades among girls who took part in the program. Principal Traci Walker Griffith is an advocate of our partnership.

You’ve been a Principal at the Eliot School since 2007. Why did you want to start a partnership with Big Sister?

I started at the Eliot in 2007 when it was deemed by the Department of Education as an “underperforming school.” I knew the only way to turn around his school was to address the needs of the whole child. There was a lot to be done with the climate and culture of the school and meeting the social and emotional needs of the students. To do this, I needed to find a way for students to have mentors.

You have been a vocal advocate of the importance of mentoring. Last year we matched ten girls at the Eliot with a Big Sister. Why do you think girls need a mentor?

We must make a commitment to girls and help them develop their self-esteem and confidence. Mentors do that, Big Sisters do that. You will not reach academic achievement with students unless you have healthy, confident young kids. Big Sisters are able to model what a healthy relationship looks like for our girls.

Your daughter had a Big Sister. Did you have any mentors growing up?

I was lucky enough to form positive and impactful mentoring relationships with coaches, camp counselors, and teachers. My daughter, Elizabeth was a Little Sister. At the time there was a lot going on in her life and she needed an additional adult friend she could turn to. If you ask Elizabeth about her Big Sister she would say that she helped her during a difficult time. It was important to me on a personal level knowing that she had someone there for her.

When you walk around the school and see matches interacting what do you see?

I witness happy, smiling faces. A lot of our students work so hard academically and it is imperative we give them an opportunity to take a breath and have fun. This happens when they spend one-on-one time with an adult who really cares about how they are doing. This is why our partnership with Big Sister is so essential to the success of the Eliot School.

If there’s one thing you would want to change for girls growing up in Boston today, what would it be?

I wish that every girl in Boston could have the benefit of a Big Sister; an adult female mentor in their life. My hope is that all women, regardless of age, or where they live, can take on the role of a Big Sister and support a girl into her adulthood.

The Girls’ Bill of Rights

Little Sister Chrishawna & rainbowBlog Post by Nikki White, Executive Projects Coordinator

In our Real Choices Strong Voices workshop, “Puberty & Sexual Health and Decision Making” for Big and Little Sisters, Big Sister staff facilitators close the day with the Girls’ Bill of Rights. The Girls’ Bill of Rights purpose is to empower girls to identify the rights they have as individuals, to promote awareness of personal boundaries, and to promote and encourage self-acceptance and self-esteem. Check out the Girls’ Bill of Rights below. Do you agree with the Girls’ Bill of Rights?

GIRLS’ BILL OF RIGHTS

You have the right to be you.

 

You have the right to love and be loved.

 

You have the right to be human – not perfect.

 

You have the right to be angry and protest if you are treated unfairly or abusively by anyone.

 

You have the right to your own privacy.

 

You have the right to your own feelings and opinions, and to express them, whether or not others agree.

 

You have the right to ask questions about anything that affects your life.

 

You have the right to grow and change (and that includes changing your mind).

 

You have the right to make mistakes.

 

You have the right not to be responsible for others’ problems.

 

You have the right to trust yourself.

 

You have the right to say “no” without feeling guilty.

 

You have the right to be listened to and taken seriously.

 

You have the right to seek safety.

 

You have the right to ask for help.

 

You have the right to use your voice.

 

You have the right to be treated with respect.

 

You have the right to ask for what you want.

 

You have the right to determine your own lifestyle.

 

You have the right to not be physically, emotionally or sexually abused.

 

You have the right to not live in fear.

 

You have the right to end a relationship.

 

You have the right to be yourself and to resist gender stereotypes.

 

You have the right to accept and appreciate your body.

Big Sister Erica Warner Shares Her Impact Story

Guest Blog Post by, Erica Warner

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Big Sister Erica and Little Sister Justice

I had been involved with Big Sister for many years as a Diversity Council member before becoming a Big Sister. In 2012, I was finished with school and I knew I would be staying in Boston for several years. I felt like I was in a place in my life where I could make the commitment. I ultimately made the decision to become a Big Sister because I wanted to be able to contribute to the healthy development of a girl.

I met my Little Sister Justice through Big Sister’s Big for a Day program and we clicked instantly. I knew we were a perfect match. I thought she was smart and energetic. Her favorite subject in school was science, and as a scientist by profession, she reminded me of myself at her age.

Although I made the commitment to become a Big Sister, I was scared. I worried I wouldn’t be able to relate to Justice or that she wouldn’t like the activities I planned. What I learned is that she just wants to spend time with me. We both enjoy the time we have together, whatever it is we are doing. It’s about being present.

Being a Big Sister has helped me be more carefree, a better communicator, and improved my problem solving skills. Justice is 10 and she loves to run, jump, and play. Every time we meet she wants to play tag. She allows me to play in a way that wouldn’t happen otherwise in my life. Sometimes she asks me difficult questions, and with the help of my Match Support Specialist at Big Sister, I always try to answer them truthfully and in a way that she will understand.

All women should become Big Sisters because you get back as much or more than you give. There are so many girls waiting for you.

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Are you inspired by Big Sister Julie and Little Sister Selena’s story? You too can make an impact on a girl! There are more than 500 girls waiting to be matched with a Big Sister. Become a Big Sister today.

Big Sister Angie Vargas Shares Her Impact Story

Guest Blog Post by Angie Vargas

Big Sister Angie and Little Sister Paola when they were first matched in 2007.

Big Sister Angie and Little Sister Paola when they were first matched in 2007.

In 2006 while in law school, I was at a volunteer fair where I met a staff member from Big Sister who explained the process and the need for Big Sisters in Boston. I thought, ‘I think I want to go for this’.  I took an application, went home to think more about it, and then applied. The process of becoming a Big Sister was exciting and at the same time, quite scary but Big Sister had a thorough process to make sure I felt ready.

When I first met my Little Sister Paola, I thought she was sweet and just as nervous as I was. She was only 9 when we were matched; and now she will be 17 in two months. What surprised me most when we first started meeting weekly was how much fun it could be. It is not just a onetime volunteer opportunity; it is an opportunity to have an amazing relationship with a wonderful girl.

Having a Little Sister has made me more empathetic and more open to appreciating people for who they are regardless of their circumstances. We are like true sisters.  We trust each other and our relationship has evolved as she has gotten older.

Little Sister Paola and Big Sister Angie in 2013 visiting the Big Sister office.

Little Sister Paola and Big Sister Angie in 2013 visiting the Big Sister office.

Our absolute favorite activity is the annual Big Sister Appreciation Breakfast, where Big and Little Sisters are recognized for their strong, lasting relationships. We look forward to it each and every year as a way of appreciating each other.

All women should become Big Sisters because it is an experience of a lifetime. You aren’t just giving back, you’re also getting something back too. Ideally, one day Big Sister would have women waiting hoping to get matched with Little Sisters!

Are you inspired by Big Sister Angie and Little Sister Paola’s story? Thinking about becoming a Big Sister yourself? Then stop by our free event at Sara Campbell’s store in the South End on Wednesday, July 24 from 6pm-8pm to learn more about becoming a Big Sister while enjoying complimentary appetizers, wine, and a discount on all items in the store! Register here.

Or sign-up to become a Big Sister today!

Big Sister Julie Wilson Shares Her Impact Story

Guest Blog Post by Julie WilsonSelena & Julie fundraiser

Growing up, I was blessed with a supportive home life and because of this I wanted to give back. I heard of Big Sister and its reputation for their positive work in the community and passion for mentoring. I have always been a big believer in the power of mentoring and had several mentors in my life that significantly influenced my choices. The process to become a Big Sister was very smooth and thorough. Big Sister staff members helped me think through who would be the right match for me.

The training was incredibly helpful and answered all my questions and potential concerns about becoming a Big Sister.

When I first started meeting weekly with my Little Sister Selena, she was ten years old. I quickly learned how much we had in common and was surprised at how much fun we could have together.

Selena and I have now been matched for six years and she will be sixteen this year. She was instrumental in helping me launch my non-profit by giving me the courage to leave a full-time job and enter the scary world of start-up! Selena encourages me to be the best person I can be. She is an old soul with a big heart and I am incredibly blessed to be matched with her.

Selena & JulieBy becoming a Big Sister you will gain a perspective and world view that could be life changing. You have the opportunity to make a significant difference in the life of a young girl which will impact the choices she makes as an adult.

Never underestimate the power of showing up consistently for someone you love.

Are you inspired by Big Sister Julie and Little Sister Selena’s story? You too can make an impact on a girl! There are more than 500 girls waiting to be matched with a Big Sister. Become a Big Sister today.

Big Sister Cristiana Shares Her Impact Story

Guest Blog Post by, Big Sister Cristiana Amara

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I want to share my story to encourage other women to consider becoming a Big Sister this summer. I heard about Big Sister through an information session held at work, and a friend suggested that I get involved.  I had always wanted to be a Big Sister but never followed through with it. I decided to go for it!

After completing the application and interview process with Big Sister, I received a call from our Big Sister Match Support Specialist to tell me she had a match for me! “Her name is Olivia, she’s in third grade, and she has brown curly hair but wishes she was blonde. She wants a dog and she has three brothers, so it sounds like she needs a little girl time.” I couldn’t wait to meet her! I was nervous and excited!

Olivia and I met at the school to go over the expectations with our Big Sister Match Support Specialist. Olivia was a little shy when she first came out of her classroom. We talked about some of the things we would like to do together including crafts and games. Because Olivia has family in Europe, I planned themed days like French Day, when Olivia read me stories in French, told me about places she had been, and colored the Eiffel Tower. Some days we just played UNO or Go Fish and would find ourselves laughing the entire time.  

Since then we have gotten to know each other and have realized how much we have in common. We are both involved in so many activities; spend summers in Europe visiting our grandparents; and speak foreign languages. When school ended for the summer, we transitioned into the School-Based Plus Program, which allows us to spend time together outside of school at places like the Franklin Park Zoo and the Aquarium.

Being Olivia’s Big Sister has been a rewarding experience. It’s amazing how good it feels when she says she wants me to stay longer or that she always has fun with me! I’ll never forget the day her mom came to meet me at school. I headed toward her with my arm extended to shake her hand and instead she hugged me, saying “Thank you for being so good to my daughter. She loves spending time with you.” I was truly touched.

At the end of the day, Little Sisters are just looking for someone to talk to, to confide in, and support them along this road we call life, and you can be that person!

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You too can make an impact on a girl! There are more than 500 girls waiting to be matched with a Big Sister. Become a Big Sister today.

Big Sister Jeanne & Little Sister Rodrienne’s Lemonade Day Story

Little Sister Rodrienne and Big Sister Jeanne at their Lemonade Stand.

Little Sister Rodrienne and Big Sister Jeanne at their lemonade stand.

Written by, Nikki White

Big Sister Jeanne McDermott of Belmont and Little Sister Rodrienne, 11, of Cambridge sold lemonade on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Boylston Street as part of Babson College Lemonade Day last month. As a team, they made $87 in sales and won an award for the most energetic and creative. Big Sister Jeanne said they learned a lot of valuable lessons that day about owning a business.

They created a video to share their story about these valuable lessons.

Check out their homemade video on our YouTube channel!

June Big Sister Scene

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 A Simple Solution to the Tough Questions

Written by Erica Brien, Enrollment & Matching Specialist

Being a Big Sister is a chance for women to positively influence and guide young girls through the challenging obstacles and uncertainties of adolescence. When given such a unique opportunity, however, women also face great responsibility.

In the enrollment process, many women ask, “What if my Little Sister has questions I can’t answer?” or “What if I can’t relate to my Little Sister’s experiences?” The truth is, although Little Sisters do ask Big Sisters questions with a multitude of potential responses and share experiences that Big Sisters may not be able to relate to, Big Sisters should not be nervous in anticipation of such a question or conversation. There is a simple solution and response: ask your Little Sister open-ended questions.

In most instances, asking your Little Sister nonrestrictive questions before sharing your own perspective is actually more beneficial for her, as it aids in her healthy development. Through open-ended questions, you offer your Little Sister numerous opportunities:

  • A chance to explore her own ideas, form her own thoughts, expand her personal narrative and determine what she sees as possible solutions to any given situation.
  • Encouragement to look at situations more objectively.
  • Motivation to put herself in someone else’s shoes.
  • Nonrestrictive questions give your Little Sister the opportunity to grow more confident in her own opinions, develop a higher self-esteem, and foster empathy for others.
  • The opportunity to stay connected to her voice and the confidence to believe in it.
  • In the future, this will help your Little Sister develop more authentic relationships, comfortably assert her needs, and allow her to form healthy boundaries within them.

Additionally, you benefit from asking open-ended questions to your Little Sister as well. Through sharing her own views with you, you are offered an inside look into your Little Sister’s life and culture. Your Little Sister may remind you of the thoughts you used to have as a young person, the characteristics of life you used to value, and may even inspire you to make positive changes in your present-day life. An enjoyable aspect of asking your Little Sister open-ended questions is the prospect of listening to an infinite number of potential responses.

So next time your Little Sister asks you a question you can’t answer or shares an experience you can’t relate to, remember that you don’t need to have an answer; your Little Sister already has the right response within herself. With your help, she’ll be better able to find it.

Pay it Forward – Do you have women in your life who would make great Big Sisters?

BS Elly Van Faasen and LS Aniah

Spread the message with the click of a button! If you are not already connected to Big Sister through Facebook please “Like” us or follow us on Twitter. There are a lot of great resources and posts that you can share.

Begin or continue the conversation! Talk with friends, family, and colleagues about the need for more women to inspire a girl in their community. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being present.

Share your story! Write about your experience as a Big Sister, your favorite match activity with your Little Sister, or how you supported a friend to become a Big Sister and send them to Nikki White at nwhite@bigsister.org.

Upcoming Events

Summer PicnicJohn Hancock Presents: Big Sister Association’s Summer Picnic!

Saturday, July 13

10:00am-2:00pm

Camp Harbor View, Quincy, MA

RSVP: Katie Hayden at khayden@bigsister.org or 617.236.8366

photo 21Real Choices Strong Voices

Saturday, June 22

Real Choices Strong Voices is thrilled to announce our new topic, Dream Big!  You Don’t Need a Fairy Godmother; Just a Plan.  This enlightening and engaging workshop will help your Little Sister explore ways to articulate her hopes and dreams and practice strategies to reach a goal.

Please contact Holly Armstrong at harmstrong@bigsister.org to reserve your spot.

Highland Street Foundation Free Fun Fridays!

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Blog Post by, Nikki White

One of Big Sister’s major supporters, the Highland Street Foundation, sponsors Free Fun Fridays, a series where locals and tourists alike can visit cultural attractions all around Boston at no cost on Fridays throughout the summer. The calendar of dates and locations is listed below. Follow the Highland Street Foundation  on twitter  @HighlandStreet for updates.

June 28

FREEDOM TRAIL FOUNDATION
MASS MoCA
STONE ZOO
WORCESTER ART MUSEUM
HERITAGE MUSEUMS & GARDENS
TANGLEWOOD

July 5

MASS AUDUBON’S BOSTON NATURE CENTER
CAPE COD MUSEUM OF ART
MARTHA’S VINEYARD MUSEUM
CHILDREN’S MUSEUM AT HOLYOKE
VOLLEYBALL HALL OF FAME
PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM

July 12

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON
LARZ ANDERSON AUTO MUSEUM
CAPE COD CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
PILGRIM HALL MUSEUM
MUSEUM OF RUSSIAN ICONS
JACOB’S PILLOW DANCE FESTIVAL

July 19

JFK LIBRARY & MUSEUM
REAGLE MUSIC THEATRE
BUTTONWOOD PARK ZOO
DANFORTH ART
HANCOCK SHAKER VILLAGE
GARDEN IN THE WOODS

July 26

COMMONWEALTH SHAKESPEARE COMPANY
NEW ENGLAND HISTORIC GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY
AMERICAN TEXTILE HISTORY MUSEUM
CHILDREN’S MUSEUM IN EASTON
AMELIA PARK CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
HIGGINS ARMORY MUSEUM

August 2

BOSTON CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
FRANKLIN PARK ZOO
ARNOLD ARBORETUM
FULLER CRAFT MUSEUM
WENHAM MUSEUM
THE MAHAIWE PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

August 9

BOSTON HARBOR ISLAND ALLIANCE
THE SPORTS MUSEUM
BATTLESHIP COVE
OCEAN EXPLORIUM
THE CAPE COD MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
THE ERIC CARLE MUSEUM

August 16

THE INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART/BOSTON
USS CONSTITUTION MUSEUM
CONCORD MUSEUM
EDWARD GOREY HOUSE
SPRINGFIELD MUSEUMS
BERKSHIRE MUSEUM

August 23

ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER MUSEUM
MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY
NEW BEDFORD WHALING MUSEUM
FITCHBURG ART MUSEUM
FRUITLANDS MUSEUM
STERLING AND FRANCINE CLARK ART INSTITUTE

August 30

PLIMOTH PLANTATION
THE DISCOVERY MUSEUMS
NEW REPERTORY THEATRE
ECOTARIUM
NORMAN ROCKWELL MUSEUM
THE MOUNT: EDITH WHARTON’S HOME

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