Category Archives: Little Sister

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.

Fun things to do with your Little Sister (July Edition)

2010 July 4th Fireworks Display by Flickr User Merritt Boyd

July 4th, 2010 Fireworks Display in Boston by Flickr User Merritt Boyd

Free Fridays!

Every Friday this summer, the Highland Street Foundation is providing free admission to various cultural attractions in Massachusetts for families and children. No registration or tickets are required. These are the participating locations and dates for July 2011!

July 1st – Museum of Fine Arts – Buttonwood Park Zoo – Edward Gorey House – Heritage Museums & Gardens

July 8th – Plimoth Plantation – Worcester Art Museum – Cape Cod Museum of Art – N.E. Historic Genealogical Society

July 15th – Museum of Science – Higgins Armory Museum – The Discovery Museums – Garden in the Woods

July 22nd – Franklin Park Zoo – The Sports Museum – Norman Rockwell Museum – Peabody Essex Museum

July 29th – Boston Children’s Museum – American Textile History Museum – New Bedford Whaling Museum – Shakespeare on the Common

Please visit for more information.

Fireworks Displays

Friday July 1st through Monday July 4th

Celebrate America’s Birthday with your Little Sister! There are many fireworks displays in the Greater Boston area. Visit to find a fireworks display in your hometown. Or go to the world famous Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular along the Charles River Esplanade in Boston, MA and enjoy a free concert! Please visit for more information about this event.

Redcoats on the Common

Boston, MA

Saturday, July 2, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

The British are coming! The British are coming ! See a reenactment of how British soldiers invaded our city after Paul Revere’s famous Midnight Ride. Historic British regiments will arrive at Long Wharf and march up State Street to the Boston Common. It is a great educational way to celebrate America’s independence from England with your Little Sister! This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. Please visit for more information about this event.

Frog Pond Crafts

Boston, MA

Saturday, July 9 and Saturday, July 23, 11:00 – 1:00 p.m.

Enjoy a Saturday full of excitement and learning at craft workshops at the Boston Frog Pond Spray Fountain. After you and your Little Sister create fun crafts, cool off in the Frog Pond Wading Pool. This event is sponsored by the Frog Pond in partnership with Art Street. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters ages 7-13. Please call (617) 244-3171 for more information about this event. The Boston Frog Pond is located in the Boston Common at 84 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02108.

Land and Sea Tour

Milton, MA

Sunday, July 10, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Bring your Little Sister to this land and sea adventure! First you will paddle a canoe down the Neoponset River, then head back to your starting point on a trolley tour discovering the rich history of the different communities you travel through. Paddling experience is required as no instruction will be given. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters ages 12 and up. Please call 617-542-7696 to register for this event and receive a meeting location.

Sand Castle Festival

Revere, MA

Friday, July 15th through Sunday July 17th 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Bring your Little Sister to view some amazing sand sculptures! There will be food and art vendors, live entertainment, Disney Radio, and more! This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. Please call 978-749-6700 for more information. This event is located on Revere Beach Blvd, Revere, MA.

Free Friday Flicks

Boston, MA

Friday July 15, 22, & 29 7:00 p.m.

Pack up a blanket, lawn chair, and picnic and head to the Hatch Memorial Shell for free movies! Here is the movie schedule for July: July 15th MEGAMIND, July 22nd Despicable Me, July 29th How to Train Your Dragon. These events are free and open to the public and are for Little Sisters of all ages. The Hatch Shell is located on Storrow Drive, Boston, MA. For more information or cancellation due to weather call 617-787-7200.

Big Sister Summer Picnic

Quincy, MA

Saturday, July 16, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Big Sister is proud to announce this year’s summer picnic! Bring your Little Sister out for a day of picnicking fun at Camp Harborview. Activities will include both indoor and outdoor games such as relay races, a balloon toss, and various crafts. A BBQ lunch will be provided. For dessert, the b.good ice cream truck will be dishing out milkshakes! This is a great way to ring in the summer and to meet other matches! This event will take place at Camp Harborview. Transportation will be provided for matches from a designated location and will be T accessible on either the red or blue lines. For more information or to register for this event, please contact Jennifer Gentile at

Food For Thought

Mattapan, MA

Saturday, July 16, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Help Support Youth in Crisis by attending their “Hoops and Scoops” event. There will be free food, ice cream, basketball games and trophies on the court. All proceeds raised will go to Youth in Crisis. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. This event will be held at the Mildred Community Center, 5 Mildred Ave, Mattapan, MA 02126. Please see for more information about this event.

Woodworking Workshop

Jamaica Plain, MA

Saturday, July 31, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

During this workshop you and your Little Sister will work together sanding, measuring, sawing, hammering, and carving to build a “memory box.” This event is free and for Little Sisters ages 11-14 and is open to 15 matches. Please contact Jennifer Gentile at to sign up for this event. The event will be located at the Eliot School at 24 Eliot St, Jamaica Plain, MA.

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 or (617) 236-8366.

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

Little Sisters Get a Taste for Small Business on Lemonade Day

Little Sister Lulu with the Babson College mascot at her Jamaica Pond Lemonade Stand

Little Sister Lulu and the Babson College Mascot at her well-placed lemonade stand on Jamaica Pond.  Update: Lulu won the Mayor Menino’s Healthiest Lemonade Contest.

On May 1st 2011, Little Sisters accompanied by their Big Sisters set up lemonade stands all over Boston as part of Lemonade Day, a national event dedicated to inspiring young children to be entrepreneurs by teaching them how to operate their own small business.

Big Sister Association of Greater Boston pairs girls ages seven to fifteen with a caring and supportive mentor who can help them realize their full potential. During the course of their mentoring relationship and friendship, a Big Sister will introduce her Little Sister to many new ideas and possibilities for her life and career that she might not have otherwise considered. Big Sister Association is actively seeking partnerships and opportunities that provide enriching experiences for the girls we serve. It was with this in mind that we partnered with Babson College, along with Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, Friends of the Children – Boston, and Boston Centers for Youth & Families to bring Lemonade Day to Boston for the first time.

With the help of a mentor, the young entrepreneurs were shown how to establish their business, including setting goals, and creating and executing a plan. Most importantly, the exercise tries to teach the participants basic financial management and includes a component of philanthropy. The children are encouraged — after covering their expenses and paying back their investors — to open a youth savings account so they may save a little, spend a little and give a little, donating a portion of their profits to a local charity of their choice.

Big Sister Stefanie Magner reports, “Mariana and I had a wonderful day, and can’t wait to participate in Lemonade Day again next year. My favorite part was watching her learn, and really begin to put things together and understand all of the pieces involved in running a business. I also think community involvement is very important, as it was so wonderful to see how excited she got every time someone came up to purchase, especially one of her teachers at her school who drove over because of a flyer she gave to him. It was like watching her realize that she is important.”

Mariana selected Children’s Hospital Boston as her charity of choice. “We are planning on going [Friday] to bring the money in person, because I want her to experience giving in person,” says Magner.

Little Sister Patricia similarly enjoyed learning the different steps of running a business. She plans to donate her $91 profits to help her Big Sister Amanda’s brothers who are racing in the annual Pan Mass Challenge.

Littlle Sister Nailea on LemonadeDayLittle Sister Nailea plans to take her mom to a special lunch with the profits from her next lemonade stand.

After 4 hours of selling to happy customers, Little Sister Nailea didn’t want the day to end.  Her Big Sister Erin Mahoney reports “She kept convincing me to make a little more lemonade for a few more customers. Not only did we have a great time together, but I was really proud of Nailea for grasping the concept of “spend, save, give.” She found self confidence in being able to buy a new outift for herself, gifts for her family, and still having money to save. We plan to hold a summertime lemonade stand when school is out.  Nailea wants to use the money she earns to take her mom out for a special lunch.”

Big Sister’s 1st Podcast: Meet Little Sister Zaire and Big Sister Katie

Little Sister Zaire and Big Sister Katie.

Meet Little Sister Zaire and Big Sister Katie (Download the mp3, 3minutes 40 seconds)

Big Sister is trying something new to celebrate our 60th anniversary of mentoring  Greater Boston’s girls. We’re launching a new podcast series called a “Perfect Match” where you get to hear directly from our Big and Little Sisters.  Our first podcast features Little Sister Zaire, a fifth grader at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School, and her School-Based Big Sister Katie Abarr who have been matched since March 2010.

From our 2010 Annual Report:

The first thing you notice when you meet Little Sister Zaire is her self-confidence. She is a smart and bold fifth grader at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School. She knows what she likes and doesn’t like and isn’t afraid to tell you. This quality often so rare in girls her age who are struggling with self-esteem and who are starting to exchange “I want” with “whatever you want”, often gets her into hot water. In her own words, it has also gotten her mistakenly labeled as a “trouble kid”.

In describing why she wanted a Big Sister, Zaire wrote that she wanted to be able to share life stories with her, to be able to socialize, to practice her multiplication tables and to be able to tell her the important things that were going on in her life. The subtext is also that she wanted someone who would understand her and who could see through her impatience and occasional brashness to the real her. She wanted “her Big Sister to know that she’s a good kid, [and that she’s] really fun and a jokester.”

Twenty-four year old Big Sister Katie Abarr has been matched with Zaire in our School-Based Mentoring program for a little over a year now. She wanted to be a Big Sister because she remembered the women in her life who had made an effort to spend time with her as a child and how much it had meant to her.

“I will always remember the people who went out of their way to take care of me or mentor me or just make me laugh,” says Katie. “That made a big impact on me and I’d like to do that for someone else.”

According to their match support social worker Sara Pizzute, Katie turned out to be the perfect mentor for friendly and thoughtful Zaire. A coordinator at the Westin Boston Waterfront, Katie remembers being equally opinionated at Zaire’s age. She would also get reprimanded for testing and trying to bend rules that didn’t make sense to her, such as not chewing gum or the requirement to keep her uniform shirt tucked in at all times. As a mentor, she is very understanding of Zaire’s temperament, but sets firm limits and helps her become more patient and positive in her overall attitude towards teachers and her fellow students. Zaire is grateful to know that she isn’t alone. She is also happy to have guidance on how to constructively deal with her feelings of frustration and to have a cool adult she can laugh with and be goofy.

Zaire recalls that the pair got along immediately when they first met with “no awkward moments”. They had a lot in common. They liked yoga, were self-proclaimed girly-girls, and both had a good sense of humor. Zaire also approved of Katie’s fashion sense. “She knows how to dress. Like me.”

On Friday afternoons when they are together, they often do homework and talk about their New Year’s Resolutions — Zaire’s are to get good grades, have a more positive attitude and stop biting her nails. Katie’s resolution is to talk to her mother more often. Sometimes though, they don’t need to say a word and can just sit in comfortable silence and color. They understand each other.

And then there are those multiplications tables. According to Zaire, Katie “really likes math”. Big Sister Katie has increased Zaire’s appreciation of math and has helped her recognize her skills in the subject. “She’s actually really good at math. She just thinks that she isn’t. … She’s really smart.”

When asked about her experience as a Big Sister, Katie answers that it has taught her to stop and make time for the things that are more important in life, the things that are more heartfelt, “which is how I feel about hanging out with Zaire.”

Celebrity Chef 2011: Former Little Sister Jesse Kwan on the impact of her Big Sister Jackie Church

Celebrity Chef 2011: Jesse Kwan, Deb Re and Jeanne Yozell

Former Little Sister Jesse Kwan, Big Sister CEO Deborah Re, and Former Big Sister Executive Director Jeanne Yozell at the 12th Annual Celebrity Chef at Radius. Photo: Jacob Thomas Drouin. View more photos of the event on Facebook.

At the 12th annual Celebrity Chef event that occurred last night at Radius, former Little Sister Jesse Kwan shared her story of emigrating to the US from Hong Kong as a little girl and the life-changing impact her relationship with her Big Sister Jackie Church had on her life. Here are her words.

Good evening. Not in a million years would I imagine that I would be standing in front of you today to talk about my journey as a Little Sister in a language that was once foreign to me, a language that my mother often referred to as chicken intestines, because that’s what written English looked like to her.

Yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of my immigrating to Boston with my mother. We came in the spring of 1989 to reunite with my father who was already here. In just shy of a year of our arrival when I was 10, my father passed away. My mother and I were devastated. We were left with virtually no family, speaking no English, and knowing little about American Culture. We were very fortunate to have been surrounded by good people and a counselor suggested that I get a mentor through Big Sister Association of Greater Boston. Little did I know then the enormous affect this organization would have on me for the rest of my life.

I still remember that hot summer day extending my neck to the window, peaking out to wait for Helen, my then social worker and Jackie, my new Big Sister, to show up. I remember practicing over and over again in my head how I had to enunciate my imperfect English in hopes that she wouldn’t laugh at me. I don’t think I uttered more than a mere hello that day. This woman who had the biggest smile had no idea the amount of headache and heartache I was about to put her through in the next 20 years, the amount of gray hair I was about to give her, the amount of love that she was going to teach me.

At first, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with Jackie or what I was going to say to her because there was oh, a slight language barrier. I started out in bilingual education in school here then, but there were still challenges in communication AND I was extremely shy. But thank goodness for dictionaries and the international language of using our hands.

In every sense of the word, Jackie broadened my horizons. She brought me to my first Halloween party, me dressing up as a robot, her as a pirate. She brought me to my first sleepover at the Museum of Science. Now that was cool for an 11 year old girl! She persuaded my mom to let her only daughter study abroad in France for 3 months while in high school. When I was 20, Jackie surprised me with a trip to Paris to celebrate the Millennium.

Navigating through the educational system with a mom who did not speak English was not easy. Jackie was phenomenal in helping my mom and I review our options of taking entrance exams to the top Boston Public Schools and applying for scholarships to private schools. She helped me with practice tests, especially vocabulary and comprehension, my constant struggle. When I got my acceptance into Boston Latin I remember picking up that phone and calling Jackie at work. “I got in! I got in!” I screamed. “As if I didn’t know that already” was her response.

Jackie encouraged me to try so many different things. She challenged me to challenge myself, to be my own person, to grow out of my shell. When I found one of my true passions in high school, volleyball, she challenged me to look at colleges with volleyball programs that I could compete in. I ended up being recruited to play NCAA Division 3 Volleyball.

To the woman who taught me the importance of wearing socks and gloves in the Boston winter time, who taught me how to slurp my first oyster in Paris, who showed me to stand up for myself, who taught me to take smart risks, who taught me everything good that is in me, that if I work hard enough in life, that I might just accomplish my feats and defeat my innermost insecurities. If it weren’t for her, I would never summon enough courage to talk to you today.

I want you to know what a special place Big Sister holds in my heart, the good that it does for young girls for now and generations. Your donation is not just a small gesture but a profound one that impacts and shapes little girls’ lives, as it had mine, that it gives us the mentoring a little girl needs, so that we can acquire the skills to take on the world on our own, one bite at a time.

Little Sister Jesse Kwan and Big Sister Jackie Church in the 80's and 90's

Little Sister Jesse Kwan and Big Sister Jackie Church in the 80's and 90's.

Little Sister Jesse Kwan and Big Sister Jackie Church today

Little Sister Jesse Kwan and Big Sister Jackie Church today.

Inspire a Girl. Transform our Community. Become a Big Sister.