Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

Bright Young Girls or “Bright Young Things”?

Victoria Secret

Guest Post by Marketing Intern, Molly Decker

At Big Sister, we pride ourselves on staying up-to-date about gender-specific marketing; marketing strategies could not be more gender-specific than those of Victoria’s Secret: a corporation famous for their bras and underwear, and most recently for the popularization of their PINK line. PINK is Victoria’s Secret’s line for their younger 15-22 year-old demographic. However, Victoria’s Secret has gone younger.  Victoria’s Secret has recently come out with a line called “Bright Young Things,” otherwise known as PINK’s Spring Break collection. Bright Young Things features, among other things, underpants that have “Wild”, “Call Me”, “Dare You”, and “Feeling Lucky” printed on the back (or the front, in cases of the thong). Not only are they covered with sexualized phrases, they are cut in familiar Victoria’s secret styles of “cheeky hipster,” “lace trim thong,” and “The Date Panty.”

When a tween or teen girl sees her peers wearing PINK merchandise, few things will make her want it more than getting a “no” paired with a “because I said so” from her parents and mentors. This is why it is not enough to ask that Victoria’s Secret simply eliminate the collection. PINK will still be there. This is why it is not enough to tweet at Victoria’s Secret that this collection is unacceptable and leave it at that. The fact is, no matter how hard we try, young girls will continue to see these sexualized media messages, through other advertisements.

We need to educate these young girls.

Maybe they are daughters. Maybe siblings. Maybe they are our Little Sisters. Regardless, they need to know that when their parents, teachers, Big Sisters, and other mentors tell them to think critically about the messages on the backs of these underpants, it is not because we do not want them to be popular, or because we do not want them to succeed. On the contrary, we want them to succeed more than they know. We want them to succeed in finding relationships with people who will hear “call me” after a conversation about mutual likes and common goals, not see it on the front of their thongs. We want them to know that while Victoria’s Secret may see them as Bright Young Things, we see them as Bright Young Girls, and that alone makes a difference.

So the next time a young girl in your life asks why you think she shouldn’t choose “Wild” underwear, talk to her about why she feels she needs them. Talk to her about the social and media pressure she may be feeling. Encourage her to come to terms with her body and what she wants to do with it on her own terms, not her friends’ terms, or Victoria’s Secret’s terms. Teach her that success is not about what she wears, but what she knows and where she goes with that knowledge.

What are your feelings about Victoria’s Secret’s marketing campaign? How do you respond to the overwhelming pressure of the media? Do you have any advice for Big Sisters who don’t know how to begin that conversation? Leave a comment below.

Little Sister Roseanne’s Trip of a Lifetime

In February, when most Bostonians are still bundling up and braving the cold, Match Support Specialists are thinking ahead to summer and planning for what our Little Sisters will do with that time off from school.  This year, Big Sister Association partnered with several fantastic organizations to offer summertime opportunities for the girls we serve.  Little Sisters attended traditional sleep away camps in Maine and New Hampshire, including stays at The Summer Camp, Camp Brantwood, Main Idea, and White Mountain Camp.  They also participated in service-oriented internships through Boston Center for Youth and Families SUPERTeens and The Food Project, as well as attending the Dana Hall Girls Leadership Program.  Big Sister Association is committed to helping Little Sisters engage with programs that keep them stimulated personally and intellectually over the summer, a time when many feel bored, experience a loss of learning and engage in risky behaviors.  By doing something new and different for the summer, Little Sisters also become more independent, more confident, and more aware of the opportunities that exist for them.  This has certainly been the case for eighteen-year old Little Sister Roseanne, who participated in Grand Circle Foundation’s Next Generation Leaders Program and who has been matched with her Big Sister Joy since 2005.

Big Sister was invited to nominate Little Sisters who were college-bound high school seniors for the Next Generation Leaders Program. Roseanne, then a student at Boston Latin School and who had always demonstrated intellectual curiosity and determination at school, in extra-curricular activities, and in her match was nominated. Roseanne worked diligently on her application, including essay questions about her strengths and areas of growth in regards to leadership.  After an in-person interview with several people at Grand Circle Foundation, Roseanne was chosen to participate in the program, where she completed a seven week paid internship in Boston and participated in a ten day, all expenses paid, leadership and service trip to Kenya and Tanzania. As someone who is more of an introvert, the intense group experience that focused on teamwork and leadership was a challenge for Roseanne—one that taught her a lot about herself and others.

Roseanne is interested in information technology and at her internship, she was able to learn valuable and relevant skills using programs like Excel, Hyperion, and Tableau, and was exposed to a variety of work opportunities in her field of interest.  However, nothing compared to the adventures she had in Kenya and Tanzania. She was able to experience the culture first-hand, eating native foods, participating in ritual dances, and playing with kids in a local orphanage. This fall, Roseanne started her freshman year at Harvard University, an experience that will certainly be worlds apart from her time in Africa. However, this latest adventure is something she will carry with her. Her thoughts on the experience, “I’m resolved to talk to more people from different backgrounds and it’s given me another reason to do well in college – so I can secure a well-paying job and travel.”

Check out the video of Roseanne’s travels here!

Guest Post: How I Met The Girl Who Became “Lil’ Sis”

Guest Post by Big Sister Alicia Carlson

(Originally posted on Alicia’s person blog, here.)

Little Sister Maliha, her Big Sister Alicia, Big Sister Annette and her Little Sister Sabrina.

I was first exposed to Big Sister Association of Greater Boston by my friend, Annette, who has been a mentor for a few years. I really admire her commitment and the bond she shares with her Little Sister. During Annette’s 4th of July cookout last year, I met her Little Sister Sabrina’s 14-year-old sister, Maliha. We got along really well – we spent the day swimming, playing games, and talking about her teenage world. So where was her Big Sister? Turns out Maliha was on a waiting list to be matched.

Over the following weeks, I gave it some thought. Although I wasn’t enrolled in a Big Sister program as a teen, I had a wonderful mentor who happened to fall into my life. (Or maybe I fell into hers…) She made such a significant, positive impact. She listened to me vent about my teenage frustrations, helped me through some particularly scary situations, taught me about Internet safety, and even set me up on a blind date with a co-worker’s son so I could attend my junior prom. And she continued to help me through college, and wasn’t because I pursued the same career path! Although we don’t talk often now, I’ll always remember what she did for me.

I picked up the phone, called Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, and made one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Maliha and I were matched as Big/Little Sisters last November, and have been having a blast ever since. We’ve gone hiking, watched movies, baked, and took a day trip to Rockport. She did well in school this year, decided to join student council, and got accepted into a prestigious local children’s chorus – I’m pretty proud of her.

Big Sister Alicia and Little Sister Maliha in Rhode Island

I have to share the Facebook message Maliha sent when she found out about the match last November:

“Hey , Guess what ? I heard the BIGGEST news in the whole wide world . . . Were gunna become Sisters! Man, I am the happiest person on earth !”

So this year, on September 24th, I will bike 25 miles (maybe 50 if training goes well!) with the Big Sisters team in the Rodman Ride For Kids. All money raised will help this wonderful organization support matches like Maliha and I, and help recruit more volunteers for the kids still on their waiting list. I’m really excited about this ride, but I am going to need your help. My goal is to raise $1,000 for the Big Sisters team. While everyone is in different financial situations, I hope to get 100% participation. Any amount will be greatly appreciated. Please follow this link to my fundraising page. Thanks for your support!

Big Sisters of Greater Boston has a number of ways you can volunteer– be a Big for a Day, volunteer at a school, or become a Community Based Mentor. There are currently over 250 girls and young women waiting to be matched.

Related Posts

Start Training: It’s Rodman Ride Season!
Guest Post: Little Sister KK’s First Celtics Game
Recruiting More Big Sisters: We Need Your Help!

Guest Post: Little Sister KK’s First Celtics game

Guest Post by Big Sister Sara Shelmerdine

Little Sister Makaylah ("KK") at her first Celtics game

From the moment I met my 7-year-old Little Sister KK, she made it clear to me that she was a huge Celtics fan.  We were introduced through Big Sister in September of 2010 and became fast friends.

An opportunity came in early December through the program and an anonymous donor for two tickets to a game against the Bulls.  I called KK’s grandmother, Joanne, the day before to tell her and she was so excited. She couldn’t wait to tell KK that she would be going to her first game.  I picked KK up on game day and she was decked out from head to toe in Celtics gear.  Everything that night was exciting — from walking into the arena and going up the escalators together, to buying popcorn and slush. We found our seats and were so close to the court;  you really felt like you were apart of the action.  KK didn’t stop smiling for a second and we stayed in the stands for a while even after the game ended.  I explained to her on our walk home that the tickets were donated to us by someone we don’t even know and she said “Wow, they must have really wanted us to have fun!” The experience was something I will never forget, and I hope she won’t either.


We’d like to thank all the people and companies who donate tickets to Big Sister as they give our Little Sisters a chance to have wonderful experiences such as these.  If you are a company or individual who would like to make a ticket donation, please contact our Program Support Coordinator, Jen Gentile at jgentile@bigsister.org or (617) 236-8366.

P.S. The Celtics beat the Bulls 104-92 (Dec 3, 2010).

Denise Hajjar Spring Fashion Show Raises $9,000 to Support Big Sister

This past week I had the privilege of trading in my work flats for stilettos to walk the runway as a guest model for our first annual fashion show to benefit Greater Boston’s girls. The event was a smashing success, raising nearly $9,000 for Big Sister as Boston-based designer Denise Hajjar showcased her Spring and Summer line at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel.

The elegant Oval Room was filled with hundreds of new and familiar faces. Among the crowd notable names such as State Representative Smitty Pignatelli, Allyce Najimy from the Foundation to be Named Later, Linda Holliday, and author Elisha Daniels were there to support of Boston’s girls. There was so much love in the room for our organization, our Matches, and our work.

Backstage was a hectic scene that Project Runway reruns did not prepare me for: long racks of beautiful dresses, tables full of accessories of every kind, shoes by local designer Kristina Kozak, as well as makeup and hair stations. I was joined by other guest models from the Big Sister Community: Board member Jane Deery and Big Sister Bernice Osborne.

We had fun chatting with the professional models about fashion show tips, practicing our runway walks, and telling them about Big Sister. They were all interested in our work and I saw a few of them talking to our Recruitment Team after the show. It was great to see the array of different age, race, and size of the models. It was clear that Denise Hajjar values diversity and her designs can be worn by anyone.

 The night was a great accomplishment for the entire Big Sister community. Thank you to everyone who attended this fun event, cheered for the nervous guest models, and offered your kind words after the show.  Because of all of you we raised nearly $9,000, made some new friends, and will now be holding this event annually. That means I have approximately 52 weeks to practice “smiling with my eyes” and my fierce walk for next year’s show!

 To check out more pictures, visit our FACEBOOK

Stay Connected Through Big Sister’s Alumnae Association!

Guest blogger Rachel Russell, Alumnae Association Board Member, talks about her experience with Big Sister Association and how to remain involved after being a Big or Little Sister. 

Big Sister Association of Greater Boston
If you have found yourself out of touch with Big Sister, there are so many ways to get back involved.  There are plenty of girls looking to be matched in both School and Community Based Mentoring.  Big for a Day always needs volunteers one Saturday per month, and we can always use YOUR help to recruit new Big Sisters.  No matter what situation you find yourself in, we hope that you will stop by our Alumnae events to say hello!  We love getting the opportunity to speak with such inspiring women.  Whether you’re a current Big, a former Big or a Little you’ll always have a place at Big Sister.
Five years ago I found myself moving to Boston, ready to begin a new chapter in my life, post college.  As a New Hampshire native, the thought of living in a city was new and exciting, but at the same time a little daunting.  I was eager to meet new people, begin my career and become active in my community. Although I was certain of my career goals, I wasn’t too sure how I wanted to get involved in my neighborhood.  After remembering a friend’s experience back in college being a Big Sister, I decided it would be a place to start.  I was matched with my little sister for three years before closing our match two years ago.  It was a wonderful experience and I’m so thankful I did it. 
I was probably out of touch with the Big Sister Association for a year when I got an email about an opportunity to join the Big Sister Alumnae Association Board.  I jumped at the chance to get reconnected with an organization I truly believed could make a difference in girls lives.  Serving as an Alumnae Board member allows me to participate in a new capacity.  As we begin our first year as a board, we have hopes to eventually hold quarterly events.  Our goal is to hold an annual appreciation event in January, a networking evening, a homecoming gathering in September and perhaps host a match or Big for a Day activity. We are all very excited to recruit Alums to assist us with these lofty goals!
Yours truly,

 Rachel Russell

Alumnae Association Board Member

To learn more about becoming involved with the Big Sister Alumnae Association contact Brenna Downing at bdowning@bigsister.org or click here to join.

Stay connected through the Alumnae Association!

Exploring Art Outside Boston: Match Activity at the Decordova

deCordova Museum in Lincoln, MA

Guestblogger Big Sister Brenna Downing weighs in on her recent adventure out of the City for a match activity.

I’ve lived in Boston for almost four years, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I still haven’t explored a lot of the area’s landmarks and museums.  So I was excited when I heard about last month’s match activity at the deCordova Museum in Lincoln.

My Little Sister, Amaia, and I will have been matched for 2 years in June.  Like most 10-year-olds, she’s creative and imaginative, so I thought the Rachel Perry Welty exhibit at the deCordova would fascinate her.  I was also excited to do something outside of the city, since the vast majority of our time (together and separate) is spent in Boston.

The exhibit focused on making art out of the things we’re surrounded with in everyday life, so the theme was interesting and accessible to even the littlest Little Sisters.  There were large photographs where the artist was covered in things like twist ties, Styrofoam take-out containers, and price stickers.  Amaia especially liked the row of iPhones that showed constantly updating Facebook posts from a day that Welty updated her status every minute for the entire day!  It was a perfect exhibit for us to go to together – it was engaging, interactive, and made you think, without being stuffy.  

Amaia loves meeting other Little Sisters, so we go to a lot of Big Sister’s planned match activities.  When the group sat down for an art project after the exhibit, she bonded with another Little Sister over a shared love of dogs and got into a pretty opinionated debate over which was better – bacon or mac and cheese?  Hmm, tough call.

Before we had even left, Amaia was already planning her collection of twist ties and our next visit to the deCordova.

For more information on the deCordova Museum in Lincoln, MA please visit: www.decordova.org

 For more information on how to volunteer visit us at www.bigsister.org or call 617.236.8060

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley on the Power of Mentoring Girls

 
Guest blogger, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, weighs in on the power of mentoring girls.

City Councilor Ayanna Pressley & her Little Sister Arianna

National Mentoring Month has come to a close.

But I’m not paying any attention to that.

For me, recruiting new Big Sisters and mentors is a year-round activity. The need is greater than ever. Shouldn’t our efforts reflect that urgency?

As Big Sisters, as witnesses to the power of mentoring, it is our responsibility to make recruiting mentors a year-round priority. We can speak firsthand about the impact we’ve had on our Littles Sister’s lives and the impact they have had on our lives. We understand potential mentors’ apprehensions about becoming a Big Sister because at some point we probably had those same questions and concerns.

I’ve launched ABC- Ayanna’s BIG Challenge, a year-long initiative to recruit Big Sisters and mentors for young people living in the Boston neighborhoods with the longest waiting lists for adult mentors. I attended a Big Sister Association event at the Bromley-Heath Housing Development last year and met parents whose daughters were Little Sister. Through joyful tears, these parents spoke about the impact the Big Sisters had on their daughters’ lives.

The Bromley-Heath parents I met were good people. They were working hard to provide for their families and give their children a better and brighter future. But these are difficult economic times and many of the parents were working multiple jobs. They worked long hours out of necessity, sacrificing precious time with their children in order to pay for the essentials. Knowing their daughters had Big Sisters gave these parents peace of mind that their little girls were getting the guidance, support and inspiration they needed to be successful and safe in their own lives.

Peace of mind is a powerful and precious thing for any parent. Let’s work in 2011 to ease more parents’ minds. Let’s commit ourselves to recruit more Big Sisters and mentors and make 2011 the year when there were no waiting lists.

We know the difference mentoring can make. We may have turned the page on January but we shouldn’t turn our backs on the girls and families in need of a Big Sister. Thank you.

Ayanna Pressley, Boston City Council Member

For more info on how to become a Big Sister–even just one day a month in the Big for a Day program–click here!

The “Little” things, by guest blogger Big Sister Jillena Furr

Jillena and Ja

Big Sister Association of Greater Boston is open to all girls, no matter their situation, and my Little Sister hadn’t really faced many hardships before we met.  Ja’Najia comes from a single-parent home, but for the most part, she is a very happy, smart and well-rounded young lady who lives in a loving and stable household.  Besides her mother, I don’t think Ja’Najia has had many older, strong females to look up to or relate to, and I feel I’ve been key in providing that for her.  The biggest benefit for me is knowing that I’m making a difference in at least one person’s life.  She is someone whom I sought out and chose to be in her life, someone who is not in my family, or circle of friends, but a young person who was once a stranger and now feels as close to me as family. To know that I’m actively teaching her life lessons and as a result, she will be a stronger, better person due to our relationship is rewarding in itself.  The best part is that doing this has not been a difficult journey and we’re just having fun!  I can only hope that she’s learned to be confident and caring, and that she values the person she is and the person she can become as she grows up.  In the two years since we were matched, I’ve already seen Ja’Najia transform from a bit of a shy tomboy into a confident pre-teen.  She’s learned leadership skills and she accepts all people, no matter what their background.  These are things I try to instill in her through our chats and activities.

Currently, our favorite activities include sleepovers, watching movies, and being outdoors.  We also love to swim.  Our activities haven’t changed too much over the past couple years, but I feel they will as she becomes a teenage.  We’ve said that we will remain friends, or “sisters” forever.  We’ve joked that when I get married and have kids, that she will be at the wedding, and will babysit my kids when my husband and I go out.  I honestly do see us always being in each other’s lives.  It is what I hope for.

It’s hard to imagine not knowing Ja’Najia before we met.  I became a Big Sister because I wanted to give back and participate in something that would help make someone else’s life better.  Never did I imagine that it would also make my life a lot more worthwhile.  That is the gift I receive every time we are together.

She is truly my “little sister” and I truly love her!

Volunteering with your Little Sister by guest blogger, Elysabeth Reichman

Madisyn and I making "welcome baby" baskets in Dorchester

A few weeks ago, my Little Sister, Madisyn and I were reminiscing about all of the things we’ve done together in the year that we have been matched.  We talked about seeing Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in 3D, getting free tickets to see The Color Purple at the Wang, making dozens of S’mores cookies, playing countless games of Iron Chef on the Wii, and the hours of talking and laughing and listening to music.  She smiled at me over her Pad Thai lunch (her first time using chopsticks!) and said, “And I loved when we volunteered together.”

This past spring, I signed up Madisyn and myself for a special volunteer morning at the Family Nurturing Center in Dorchester.  Our task would be to assemble “welcome baby” baskets for new moms.  I was excited about the opportunity. I have volunteered since I was about 12–Madisyn’s age–and I wanted to show her how much fun and how worthwhile volunteering can be.  She was not as excited about the prospect.  When I mentioned that I had signed us up to do it, she was worried that it wouldn’t be fun, and she was quiet during the car ride there.  I assured her that we would have a great time, and she smiled. I hoped that we really would.

When we got to the Family Nurturing Center, we got instructions on how to make our baskets.  Each basket was to contain a blanket, an outfit, a toy, a book, a tiny hat and other small items.  The leader asked us to go through the boxes and bins of donations and pick our favorite items to include in the baskets.  Madisyn “oohed” and “ahhed” over the beautiful handmade blankets and hats and tried to match them perfectly with the baby clothes that people donated.  We both had a hard time wrapping our baskets in pastel-colored tulle, but we worked well as a team to get the job done.  Along with another Big and Little Sister, we made forty baskets in just a couple hours.  Madisyn beamed with pride as we stocked the store room of the Family Nurturing Center. 

I keep a picture at my desk of the two of us on that day, posing with our baby baskets.  I’m so proud that I was able to introduce my Little Sister to volunteering, and I’m so glad that she realized how important it is to give back to other people.  I hope that I’ve opened her up to interests she may not have considered before, and that she and I can find more ways to get involved in our community.  I would encourage other Big Sisters to look for service opportunities like this—it’s a great way to spend a day with your Little Sister and she may just find her own passion for volunteering.

Click here to check out Big Sister’s latest newsletter and read about another Big and Little Sister who recently gave back by participating in the Walk for Hunger!