Addressing the Needs of the Whole Child
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.