Author Archives: Cat Laine
Big in Boston: Former Little Sister Lianne Hughes speaks at Big Sister’s 60th Anniversary Party [Video]
Former Little Sister Lianne Hughes brought the crowd to their feet at our 60th anniversary party, Big in Boston, with her inspiring words on the power of human interconnectedness and mentoring to change lives and communities.
I am beyond grateful, yet humble to be standing here in front of you today to share, recapture, and paint my story as I re-explore the creation of my masterpiece as a former Little Sister of the Big Sister Association.
Growing up in the projects of Boston, my mother was a single parent learning how to navigate her way to the American Dream. My mother struggled to maintain like many single urban parents. What was important to her was food, shelter and survival. So she did her best to raise my brother and I so we wouldn’t fall victim to the streets. She understood because of her circumstances and situation that she alone could not provide us with the resources and opportunities that we needed. So she reached out to the Department of Social Services who then connected us with the Big Sister Association.
As I shared in the video, I was nine years old and nervous the day my Big Sister and I were matched. She was white; I was black. Her name, Maja Milenkovic, sounded like a witch spell from the Disney Channel. We had so many cultural differences! I knew at nine I was socially constructed because a lot of my perceptions about white people came from watching television shows like Feed the Children on B.E.T. All I could think about was, I didn’t want someone to “save me”; I wanted a friend, someone I could relate too, and someone that was going to believe in me.
As we bridged the gap, Maja was just normal. She was nothing I expected. She liked dance; I liked dance. She loved hip-hop music; I loved hip-hop music. She was impatient in malls; I never had any patience in malls. We just had a lot of things in common. Even when it came to principles and perspective, she always mixed the old school with the new school. She never was the type of person to say, “I’m older, so I know better.” It was all about positive youth development and finding common ground.
From Maja I embraced the concept of Ubuntu, “I am because you are, humanity, human inter-connectedness”. It was from her that I learned not to judge people by their skin color, but more by their principles, character and dignity. It’s really hard when you grow up in a society where everything is so black and white. You get all these different mixed messages about people, so automatically you become programmed to judge. But I learned from my Big Sister through all the confusion and illusions, the common denominator remains the same within people. We’re human. Despite our differences, were one in the same and we should celebrate those differences.
Two years ago before I graduated from Wheelock College, I didn’t have the money to go back to school. I was short $5,000. And I remember painfully crying to Maja that, “It’s wasn’t fair that I didn’t have the money to go back.” Her simple reply of “It’s OK, Lianne. I’ll co-sign your loan” provoked the most overwhelming feeling of affirmation in my life. She affirmed that my aspiration for college was not merely a choice, but a task my heart so eagerly needed to complete. I knew it was more than just signing my loans. I knew this implied that she was inspired by my dreams, trusted my judgment and ready to join me on my quest toward self-accomplishment. This didn’t mean she paid for my college, this means she signed her name on a paper that could merit me my dreams.
With that being said, my wish for Big Sister over the next 60 years is that it grows and keeps producing Big Sisters from all different backgrounds and socioeconomic classes. Diversity within race, as well within ideas is important in the world we live in. Just being culturally competent, relatable, and interpersonal touches people from the heart; it’s human interaction at its purest.
I mean, I’m glad I and we have Big Sister, and it provides the services that it does. Because I know without having my Big Sister in my life, as cliché as it sounds, I wouldn’t have the mind set or perspective on the world that I have now.
So I challenge Boston as well as everyone in the room to think collaboratively. Envision the best possible Boston, community, and world. Let me give you an alternative way to think about it. In school, I learned about Bronfenvrenners Ecological Systems Theory. In short, it speaks to the ideology that every institution on a micro to macro level is connected. For a society that’s thriving, everybody has to be involved, but most importantly everybody has to be on the same page. Not just communities and local organizations, but governments too. I feel that when everybody is listening to the mission, negotiating, or has some type of common interest, it serves the betterment of society, and young kids are able to strive. And when we’re not, we fail, our systems fail and we fail our communities and kids.
According to Wednesday’s Boston Globe, “Poverty Worsening in Hub, Study Says”, 85 percent of families in Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury are headed by a single parent, mainly mothers and at least 20% of the adults have no high school diploma. These are the broken communities I live within. And every day when I walk though my community I see the impact and reflection of those statistics. I see young girls without fathers and mothers. I see young girls pregnant, and not enrolled into high school or on a pathway to a preferred future into college. I see young girls without that positive role model or Big Sister.
So if you BELIEVE IN GIRLS (B.I.G) and that every girl in this room is a MASTERPIECE, you’re not just believing in the organization; you’re believing in a better individual, community, society and world as a whole. Because Big Sister is not just about the “neighborhood girl from around the way”, it’s about every young girl all over the world. Thank you.
CEO Deborah Re speaks on WBZ-TV’s What’s in Our Community
Since 1951, Big Sister Association of Greater Boston has been helping girls reach their full potential through positive mentoring relationships with women. CEO Deborah Re explains why this is such a special time for our organization.
Breakheart Fall Festival
Saturday, October 1, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Bring your Little Sister to the fall Festival at Breakheart Reservation! There will be fun activities including pumpkin decorating, scarecrow making, arts & crafts, candy in the hay and more. Immediately following the festival, the local bluegrass band, Southern Rail, will perform from 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. Meet at Christopher P. Dunne Visitors Center, 177 Forest St, Saugus, MA 01906. For more information about this event, please visit www.mass.gov/dcr.
Saturday, October 1, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Do you and your Little Sister have a green thumb for gardening? Bring her to the 6th annual Harvest Festival and Perennial Divide! Gardeners can exchange, donate or take home plants, as well as buy compost, honey, and hard to find plants. The festival will include live music, cider pressing, a beekeeping exhibit, and tours of a demo vegetable garden. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. This event is located at City Natives, 30 Edgewater Drive, Mattapan, MA 02126. For more information about this event, please visit www.bostonnatural.org/evtHarvestFestival.htm.
Boston Local Food Festival
Saturday, October 1, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Enjoy a fun food-filled day with your Little Sister! During this free, zero waste festival, farmers, fisher folk, chefs, and producers will showcase local food along the Boston Waterfront. You and your Little Sister can participate in educational activities, engage with top local chefs, enjoy local music and art, and purchase local food. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. This event is located at 308 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210. For more information about this event, please visit bostonlocalfoodfestival.com.
Health and Family Day
Sunday, October 2, 12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Take part in a day of health and entertainment! There will be music, gifts and prizes, health screenings, and a kid’s zone! This event is sponsored by Neighborhood Health Plan and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. This event is located at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, Roxbury Community College, 1350 Tremont St, Roxbury, MA 02120. For more information, please call Rafael at 617-937-5912.
Fall Harvest Festival
Sunday & Monday, October 9 & 10, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Bring your Little Sister to a Newburyport tradition held for over 35 years! The Fall Harvest Festival features talented artisans selling handmade crafts and artwork, local food vendors, live music in Market Square, the annual scarecrow contest and a Kid’s corner. There will be many festive things to do, all in the beautiful setting of downtown Newburyport! This event is open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. This event will be located in Downtown Newburyport, MA 01950. Please call 978-462-6680 for more information about this event.
Opening Our Doors Event
Monday, October 10, 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
The Fenway Alliance presents the 10th Annual Opening Our Doors celebration, Boston’s largest single free day of arts, cultural and educational events. There will be over 60 events including music, theater and dance performances, walking tours, art and film exhibitions, indoor kite flying, and more! Each visitor will receive a free 10th birthday cupcake. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. This event will be held at the Christian Science Plaza in Boston, located near the intersection of Huntington Ave and Mass Ave. Please visit fenwayculture.org for more information.
Weather Observatory Open House
Saturday, October 15, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Take your Little Sister to the Blue Hill Weather Observatory, the oldest continually operating weather observatory in the country! Enjoy the amazing view, fascinating history and fun activities at this open house. This event is open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. This event is located at Blue Hill Observatory, Milton, MA 02186. Donations for materials for some activities are requested. Please see details at bluehill.org or call 617-696-0562 for more information.
Boston Book Festival
Saturday, October 15, 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Bring your Little Sister to the 2011 Boston Book Festival! There will be celebrated children’s authors, storytellers, and fun activities! This event will take place in various locations in Copley Square, Boston, MA. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters ages 7-13. For more information and to see a lineup of author’s attending, please visit www.bostonbookfest.org.
Sunday, October 16, 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
You and your Little Sister can join other volunteers at the Coastsweep event to clean up our local beaches! The annual event has grown over the past two decades. In 2010 alone, nearly 3,000 volunteers removed 10 tons of trash from 130 miles of coastline! This event will be located at Brakenberry, Thissell, Endicott, President’s, Brindle, Mingo, Lynch Park, Dane St, and Independence Park beaches. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. To sign up to attend please contact Mereditch Doellman at email@example.com or 978-232-2125. To learn more about Coastsweep, please visit www.coastsweep.umb.edu.
Head of the Charles Regatta
Saturday, October 22, 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 a.m.
Bring your Little Sister to one of Boston’s largest rowing events! Watch rowing teams from all over the country compete on the Charles River! In addition to the action, the regatta offers a number of family-friendly activities, including a rowing and fitness expo and food vendors serving delicacies from all over the world. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. This event is located at the banks of the Charles River, Cambridge, MA. For more information about this event, please call 617-864-8415.
Deer, Oh Dear
Saturday, October 22, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Deer have become a more common sight in the Blue Hills. Bring your Little Sister on this educational walk and learn more about these beautiful creatures from a DCR park ranger! Make sure you wear comfortable clothes and sneakers! This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. Meet at the Blue Hills Trailside Museum at 1904 Canton Ave, Milton, MA 02186. For more information about this event, please see www.friendsofthebluehills.org.
Saturday, October 29, 1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
M.Y.H.O.O.D. (Mentoring Youth Hold Onto Obtaining Dreams) is a nonprofit organization that provides a creative and educational outlet for youth striving to accomplish their goals and dreams. They are sponsoring a safe Halloween Party that you and your Little Sister can attend together! The party will feature games, food, and free candy. This event is $5 per person, open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. The event will be held at the Epiphany School at 154 Centre St, Dorchester, MA. For more information about this event, please call 857-284-2850 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Big Sister Amanda Martinez and Little Sister Mickaella share why they believe in the power of mentoring. Amanda, a former Little Sister herself, was named a 2011 Ignite Award winner at Youth Mentoring Day at the State House. Thanks so much to Mass Mentoring Partnership and Conover Tuttle Pace for creating this piece and helping us highlight the impact mentoring can have on a young girl’s life.
Big Sister Amanda Martinez was named the Patriots Difference Maker of the Week by the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.
Amanda Martinez had a Big Sister when she was younger and always wanted to return the favor. When she moved to Boston she became a Big Sister and has been matched with Mickaella, a middle school student, since January 2008. They enjoy doing arts and crafts, learning about new cultures, meeting new people or trying new foods and being active in the summer rock climbing, rollerblading, bike riding, and swimming.
Amanda loves being a Big Sister because “it gives me the opportunity to have a positive impact in a young girl’s life and to learn about other people’s life experiences.” She also believes that “it is important for girls today to have positive female mentors because there is a lot of negative messaging that is pinpointed towards girls and having a mentor gives a young girl an opportunity to concentrate on what she has to offer on the inside.”
Mickaella loves having a Big Sister because “it is like having an automatic friend. Without my Big Sister I would not know how much fun it is to eat Indian food or that I am smarter than I think I am. Amanda has also helped me learn that there is more to life if you look at it from a different point of view.”
Boston, MA – September 19, 2011 – Big Sister Association of Greater Boston announced that Chelsea Clinton will be their Special Guest at their 60th anniversary celebration, Big in Boston, to be held at the Museum of Fine Arts on November 12, 2011. Elaine Schuster will be given the 2011 Believe in Girls (B.I.G.) award for her philanthropy and personal dedication to the healthy development of girls. Big Sister’s past honorees include City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley, Sheriff Andrea Cabral, Cambridge College President Deborah Jackson and Boston Herald Editor Shelley Cohen, among others.
The announcement was made by Big Sister CEO Deborah Re at “In the Company of Great Women,” a reception on Thursday, September 15, 2011 celebrating Mrs. Schuster and all of the agency’s honorees from past years. The private reception was hosted by Boston philanthropist Harriet Lewis of the Grand Circle Corporation, at her Back Bay home.
Big in Boston will be held in the new Art of the Americas wing of the MFA.
Over the weekend, Saturday’s Boston Herald included an Op-Ed that our CEO Deborah Re wrote regarding a t-shirt that said “I’m too pretty to do homework, so I have my brother do it for me”.
Although JCPenney pulled the t-shirt from the online “shelf” before the Op-Ed was published, Big Sister felt it was necessary to give girls a voice on this very important issue. We are proud of this piece, and of the opportunity it gives us to show that Big Sister Association of Greater Boston is the leader in the healthy development of girls.
As you were saying: T-shirt Message Offends by Big Sister CEO Deborah Re [Boston Herald]
Women are graduating from high school and college in record numbers. They are on corporate boards, they are leading major institutions, they are in the Senate and they have become secretaries of State.
So does a T-shirt that says “I’m too pretty to do my homework so I’ll have my brother do it” really have an impact on girls’ chances for achieving success?
You bet it does. For every statistic about girls succeeding, there is another that shows the negative impact of marketing messages leading to lower levels of self-esteem, higher rates of depression, risky behaviors and poor life choices. When girls are taught to value their appearance to such an extreme without a responsible adult in their lives who can counter these messages, their opportunities will be compromised.
JCPenney pulled this T-shirt from the company’s Web site on Aug. 31 with the following statement: “JCPenney is committed to being America’s destination for great style and great value for the whole family. We agree that the ‘Too pretty T-shirt’ does not deliver an appropriate message, and we have immediately discontinued its sale.”
How did the shirt make it to the online shelf in the first place? Weren’t there men on their creative team who have daughters and know the impact of messages like these? Weren’t there women on the team who can look back on being an adolescent remembering the insecurity of trying to fit in? This shirt was being marketed to adolescent girls at a pivotal time in their development, a time when they begin to internalize messages about what it means to be a girl. The implied message that doing homework — i.e. acquiring knowledge and thinking critically — is not feminine.
I caught enough of a radio talk show discussion of the subject to know that there are many adults, including the hosts of the show, who think that messages like this one are inconsequential. The callers and hosts overwhelmingly agreed that people are simply overreacting to a harmless and trivial T-shirt. A mother called in and said that she would buy the T-shirt for her 12-year-old daughter; another caller said that it was ridiculous that people were upset, and that he wore a T-shirt in college that said “Got a sister?”
The point they are missing is that they, as adults, have context for these messages to help them process the information and dismiss them as absurd. A young girl does not have that context.
As a community of adults that supports the healthy development of children, we are responsible for reinforcing positive, empowering and constructive messages.
We want girls to know that their appearance is not their most valuable asset.
We do not want our daughters to think that they need to look a certain way or dress a certain way to be accepted.
We want them to know that being pretty and being smart are not mutually exclusive. And, given all the challenges confronting our educational system, why risk sending a message to girls, and boys as well, that doing homework is not important?
As I thought about this issue I decided to solicit the opinion of the T-shirt’s target demographic. When asked what she thought of the T-shirt, my friend’s newly minted 12-year-old daughter Cassidy responded, “Who would wear a T-shirt that says they are stupid?”
Let’s hope Cassidy can stay strong against all the other marketing assaults that are coming her way, as the T-shirt is hardly the only offender.
As you were saying: T-shirt Message Offends [Boston Herald]
Mass Mentoring Partnership recently published a great guest post by Big Sister Lindsay Snyder, Director of External Relations & Development at the Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA), on why she become a mentor:
A few months ago, while eating lunch at a T.G.I. Friday’s with Destyne, my Little from the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston program, she asked me why I chose to become a mentor. We were about to dig into the “Brownie Obsession,” this ridiculously delicious, dense sundae, when I said, “Well, because I was so fortunate to have so many mentors in my life, I wanted to be on the other side and give back…plus, you’re fun to be around and I’ve learned a lot from YOU.”
When I decided to become a mentor, I originally thought about it in terms of “paying it forward.” I have been blessed with several strong female mentors in my life, including my grandmother, mother and three women I used to work with at the Crittenton Women’s Union. I learned acceptance and forgiveness from my grandmother, strength and perseverance from my mother, and how to be a dedicated, passionate advocate for nonprofits from my former colleagues.
Now that I’ve been a mentor for two years, I think about the things – little and big – that I’ve learned from my Little – most of all, she keeps me in check. You need that when life gets hectic.
There are so many farms and apple orchards around Massachusetts. To find the one closest to you and your Little Sister, visit this resourceful website: http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/apple_pyo.htm. You can find other fun events and delicious recipes there as well!
Hyde Park, MA
Saturday, September 3, 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Celebrate Labor Day weekend with your Little Sister with a jazz festival featuring local award-winning artists. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket and enjoy this relaxing end of summer serenade! Meet at the Martini Shell at 1015 Truman Parkway in Hyde Park, MA. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. For more information about this event please see http://www.mass.gov/dcr/events/bhhikes.pdf.
Civil War Tour
Saturday, September 3, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Visit the free Civil War exhibit “Torn in Two” at the Boston Public Library with your Little Sister. Learn the history of the Civil War and view 50 historic maps, and 40 photographs, painting, prints, diaries, political cartoons, music and press from the period. Tours begin in the “Torn in Two” exhibit located in the Changing Exhibits Room on the first floor of the Central Library’s McKim Building (Dartmouth St. entrance) in Copley Square. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters ages 13 to 18. For more information about this event please visit http://www.bpl.org/news/calendar.htm.
Wednesdays, September 7, 14, 21, 28, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Bring your Little Sister and join a free yoga class on the Esplanade! Each week a different professional instructor teaches the class, allowing you to experience different styles of yoga. Beginners are welcome. This event is located on the Charles River Esplanade on Storrow Drive, Boston, MA. Meet by the Arthur Fiedler Statue. Please visit www.esplanadeassociation.org or call 617-227-0365 for directions or more information about these events. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages.
MIT Second Fridays
Friday, September 9, 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Jump start your weekend at the MIT Museum with your Little Sister! You will be able to get up close and personal with Kismet the Robot, see the world in 3-D in the holography exhibit, and enjoy performances, demonstrations, and lectures throughout the galleries. Light refreshments will be served. The MIT Museum is located at 265 Massachusetts Ave, Building N52, Cambridge, MA. Please call 617-253-4444 or click here for more information about this event. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages.
Saturday, September 10, 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Channel your inner artist with your Little Sister at this interactive arts festival. Affectionately dubbed Ahts, The Boston Arts Festival features over 60 juried artists from Boston and two stages showcasing Boston’s best performing arts groups. This event is located at the Christopher Columbus Park, on Boston’s Waterfront between Faneuil Hall Marketplace and the North End. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. For more information about this event please call 617-635-2370.
Sunday, September 11, 11:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Bring your Little Sister to the annual Victorian Fair! A two-block section of Main St. in Melrose will be closed and will contain booths with beautiful crafts, give-aways, mini-golf, face painting and more! Local restaurants will prepare tasty samples for fair attendees. Some games and food will be for purchase. This event is open to the public and for Little Sisters of all ages. Please see http://www.melrosechamber.org/Melrose-Victorian-Fair.html for more information about this event. The rain date is September 18, 2011.
Instruct Inspire Incite
Sunday, September 11, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Join the opening ceremony of the Instruct, Inspire, Incite exhibit of the Lexington Arts and Crafts Society. The participating artists will be on hand to describe the pieces they have created. There will be various styles of artwork on display, ranging from basketry to Chinese calligraphy. The exhibit will be open until September 25th. This event will take place at 130 Waltham Street, Lexington, MA 02421. It is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. Please call 781-862-9696 for more information.
Sunday, September 11, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Say farewell to Summer and hello to your neighbors in Dorchester! Enjoy an afternoon of fun at the annual Neighborhood Block Party! A DJ will provide music and entertainment. Food and beverages will be served. This event will be located on Van Winkle Street, Dorchester, MA. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. Please see www.mydorchester.org for more information about this event.
Saturday & Sunday, September 17 & 18, 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church of Boston is organizing the sixth annual major Serbian Festival in Boston. Celebrating the culture of Serbia, this festival will feature live music and performances by the Grachanitsa Serbian Folk Dance Ensemble of Boston. Come enjoy Serbian culture with your Little Sister! This event is located at 41 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge, MA 02140. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. Please call 617-674-4035 for more information about this event.
Late into the night on August 10, rising senior interns at Liberty Mutual built 20 bicycles that would be given to Little Sisters at Big Sister Association of Greater Boston and Little Brothers at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay the following morning. Our Little Sisters loved their new bicycles and helmets! We would like to thank Liberty Mutual for promoting healthy play, helping our Little Sisters safely enjoy the summer and continuing this program for the third year in a row.