Blog Archives

Spotlight: Big Sister of the Year, Lisa Ewing

BFAD Lisa Ewing LS Jessica Gallo

Lisa Ewing was honored as Big Sister of the Year in our Big For a Day program. Big For a Day (BFAD) is a program where women are matched with a girl on our wait list for a one-time Big Sister activity such as bowling, a dance class, a martial arts workshop, or a trip to the Aquarium. Big For a Day activities occur once a month on a Saturday. You can volunteer as little as twice a year or as often as once a month.

Guest Post by Marketing Intern, Molly Decker

Initially, what made you want to get involved with Big Sister?

I got involved in a program for mentoring middle school students for their science projects, in preparation for the local and state science fairs.  I enjoyed the program and began thinking I could do more.  I was working full time and going to school at night, so I wasn’t sure if I would have the time to be involved.  Then l learned about the Big For a Day program, and it seemed like a great fit.

How do you approach making connections with the new Little Sisters you get paired with at each event?

There’s often a lot of activities at the events, so if there are multiple games or arts and crafts projects, I just ask my Little Sister where they want to start.  If they’re still holding back a bit, I’ll  suggest we start at a particular activity and go from there.  I’m usually pretty excited to be doing any activity, and they usually pick up on my excitement.

What’s a favorite activity you’ve done with Big Sister and what makes it so memorable?

That’s hard to say – Big Sister always has such fun events.  The Halloween parties are a lot of fun – everyone dresses up in great costumes!  Especially the home-made theme costumes where matches create something together.  The Winter Wonderland party is a lot of fun – being in Faneuil Hall with the decorations and getting to decorate cookies. The sporting events at colleges are also a lot of fun.  As I said – it’s so hard to pick just one!

What’s something you’ve learned about yourself or about the world since becoming a part of Big For a Day?

I now understand that even if you don’t get to spend a tremendous amount of time with a girl, you can still make a difference in her life.

What would you say to women who are on the fence about applying to Big For a Day—any words of encouragement or advice?

I would say find a way to become involved.  Just call the office or search the website for opportunities.  It is a great experience, and you get back so much in return.  It means so much to the girls.  Just think back to when you were young. If you were lucky, you had a big sister or someone you could talk to about whatever was on your mind.  If not, wouldn’t you have liked to have that someone?  You can be that someone for a young girl.

If you’re interested in the Big For a Day program, check out the Big Sister website.

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Guest Post by Marketing Intern, Molly Decker

Winter is here, and it’s definitely brought with it flurries, blizzards, and below freezing temperatures. If you’re at a loss for fun things to do with your Little Sister that won’t leave you more frozen than the Boston Common Frog Pond, look no further! Here’s a list of some fun winter activities around Boston.

Frog Pond

Boston Common Frog Pond

If you’re bundled up properly and the temperature is in the positives, it’s not such a bad idea to venture outside and try your hand at ice skating. For Little Sisters 13 and under, admission is free, and for the rest of us (who are still kids, just on the inside) it’s only $5. The pond is open to the public daily from 10am until 9pm or 10pm, depending on the day of the week, and skating with your Little Sister (or trying not to fall with your Little Sister!) is always a fun choice. For more information or to check if it’s open, check out bostonfrogpond.com.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

For Big and Little Sisters alike who are interested in history, the JFK Museum is an amazing place to spend the day. Open 7 days a week, this museum features films, recreated settings like JFK’s personalized Oval Office, and a special exhibit that gives insight into Jackie Kennedy, first lady and strong female role model. Admission pricing is as follows: $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (62 and over) and students (with valid college ID), $9 for 13-17 year olds, and free for children 12 and under. For more information, check out the museum’s website.

food projectWinter “Grow Well, Eat Well” Workshops

Since 1991, The Food Project has built a national model of engaging young people in personal and social change through sustainable agriculture. What better way to engage young people than to participate in a workshop with your Little Sister! The “Eat Well” Workshops take place at The Food Project Kitchen in Dorchester, and the “Grow Well” Workshops take place at the Dudley Greenhouse in Roxbury. Advanced registration is required for most of the classes, but it’s worth checking out. If you’re interested, check out this flier and see what’s cooking!

Public Open Night at the BU Observatory

Look up at the stars through Boston University’s telescopes and while you’re at it, learn a thing or two about the night sky! Every winter Wednesday starting at 7:30pm, you’ll get a chance to use these telescopes and see what’s out there. The telescopes are outside so you’ll have to dress warmly, but seeing the sky with BU’s astronomy department is worth it. Weather conditions such as extreme cold and clouds can’t be helped, but check the BU Observatory’s Twitter or call them 2 hours before the event to see if it’s been canceled. Check the website to learn more.

bostonbowl1Boston Bowl

Go ahead and be Alley Cats for a day and have fun bowling with your Little Sister! Boston Bowl is located in Dorchester just off of I-93, and features Tenpin and Candlepin bowling, as well as games, food and pool tables once you’ve had your fill of bowling. Daytime bowling during the week is at a discounted price, so go after school until 6pm and have a ball!

Museum of African American History

With February comes Black History Month, and that makes this museum a great stop for those with a thirst for knowledge. It’s full of great exhibits including one through the end of February highlighting Martin Luther King Jr. and other prominent figures of the Civil Rights Movement. The exhibits are housed in the Abiel Smith School, the first public school in the nation to serve black children. It’s open from 10am to 4pm Monday through Saturday, and children 12 and under get in for free. Check out their website to plan a visit!

paintbox1Boston Paintbox Tour

In an effort to lessen the vandalism of public utility boxes, Mayor Menino decided that promoting public art was the best solution. We now have, all over Boston and its surrounding communities, a series of painted utility boxes, painted by artists in their local area to make those necessary boxes beautiful. Here’s a further explanation of the project, and here’s a map of where around Boston you can find all of the boxes. They’re outside, but with the map, you can plan your trip around and not do too much excess walking. Plus, finding all of them is sort of like an art mystery, so you can show Sherlock Holmes how we girls do it.

Made By Me

For Big and Little Sisters who would rather make the art than go around looking for it, Made by Me pottery painting studio is a relaxed, fun atmosphere to do it in. You can work on a piece together, or you can choose you own individual pieces and paint side by side. The cost is the price of your pottery piece (they range from $3-$40, usually depending on size) and then $4 per half-hour per painter. It may seem on the expensive side, but on the plus side, you get to bring your kiln-fired piece home with you when it’s done! Check out their website for more info.

children's museumBoston Children’s Museum

Everybody loves to be a kid sometimes, and the Boston Children’s Museum is exactly where anyone can be one. It’s full of interactive exhibits and chances are you’ll be having so much fun, you’ll forget that you’re actually learning a lot. Admission is a bit pricey most days, but on Friday nights from 5pm-9pm, everyone gets in for $1, courtesy of Target, so take advantage of that. If you’re interested, you can see more at their website.

Open Art Thursdays at Roxbury BPL

For people who love art but aren’t so jazzed about pottery painting, there’s always the Boston Public Library. The Parker Hill Branch in Roxbury boasts Open Art Thursdays, which are open to all ages from 3pm-7pm every Thursday. They ask that you call ahead if you plan to come with a group, but they’ll always have fun, creative art projects for you there! It’s also always worth checking out the Master Calendar of Events for all the BPL branches, because they always have workshops and other fun things to do.

So what are you waiting for? Go out and have fun in the winter wonderland of Boston with your Little Sister!

Sheryl Sandberg Helps Women “Lean In”

Sheryl Sandberg

Guest Post by Marketing Intern, Molly Decker

It is essential for girls growing up today to have competent, caring, strong women to look up to and model themselves after. But for those girls interested in taking the business world by storm, we find ourselves with few women running the show, and even fewer who get recognized for their hard work in mainstream media. With all the women we have in our families, in our workplaces and schools, and in our day to day lives who do great things, we have to wonder why the representation of women in high-power positions is still so small. Where are our women leaders?

An article in last week’s New York Times suggests that Sheryl Sandberg, current Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, might have an answer.

Facebook is a social media company well-known and loved by just about anyone who’s over 13 and has access to a computer. With all the daily attention Facebook gets simply by being an open tab in most internet browsers for “study breaks”, and with the Facebook movie, The Social Network, showcasing of Mark Zuckerberg’s determination and sheer genius, one wonders why few know that the person right behind Zuckerberg in the chain of command is a strong, independent woman.

The article discusses Sandberg’s book, Lean In, which is due to be published later in 2013. In the book, she writes that while “chauvinism and corporate obstacles” definitely present an issue for women taking charge in the business market, women are too often socially conditioned to settle for what is given and in doing so, effectively hold themselves back.

Sandberg says, “We internalize the negative messages we get throughout our lives, the messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men. We lower our own expectations of what we can achieve.”

This is something young girls can take to heart instead of the “negative messages”: just like having an emotion is not only for females, having a strong opinion is not only for males. We should use our strong voices and stand by our beliefs when we see changes that need to be made. We must share our ideas in group projects and in meetings. We need to let ourselves be heard.

ForbesWoman did a study in 2012 of America’s top 500 companies, and found that “there are now 20 female CEOs…[and] that paltry number (4%) is actually a record.” Why is that, when we are capable of achieving more? As women, if we continue to dream small or let the negatives messages affect us, we may never see a world where there are just as many women working as CEOs as there are men. So, we can’t be afraid of dreaming big. And more importantly, we must be assertive, and let ourselves turn those dreams into a reality.

What can you do to be more assertive? How can you support your friends when they speak up? What can you do to promote positive change in the way girls approach business? Leave a comment below.

The Power of a Woman’s Vote

Guest Blog Post by Nikki White, Executive Projects Coordinator

One of my closest female friends recently told me, “I don’t vote, there are no issues that really affect me personally.” As a spirited feminist, I was upset because I believe women have a stake in everything. They control household budgets and advocate for the education of their children. They are property owners, activists, philanthropists, and they just happen to be the most sought-after voters in the upcoming election.

Women comprise 51% of the United States population. They make up 53% of the electorate and often vote more than men. They also can be the deciding factor in a race as close as this one.

“In a very close election, with almost ten million more women voting than men, the gender gap can make a difference in the outcome of the election,” said Debbie Walsh of Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics. It is important for women to cast their vote in order to influence the bills passed concerning the issues that directly affect them. These issues might include:

  • Affordability of healthcare for women and children
  • Prenatal care for women
  • Equal pay in the workplace
  • Job loss for women
  • Accessibility to childcare

In addition to being a powerful voting majority, women are becoming political figures as well. However, they are often criticized by the media for the way they look, how they speak, and how they carry themselves. Nancy Pelosi has been portrayed as a “cackling witch” in attack advertisements. Michele Bachmann, during the primaries, was on the cover of Newsweek with a photo and the title, “The Queen of Rage.” Hillary Clinton, is consistently criticized for not being feminine, while Sarah Palin was judged for the opposite, she was too feminine.

A woman’s voice is critical, and with a majority voice women can have an influence on the issues that are most important. As you look at the issues facing women today, remember the women from history that fought for future generations to vote. Be a part of history tomorrow by exercising your right to vote.

A Story of a Fourteen Year Friendship Onboard “Tupelo Honey”

Guest Blog Post By: Erica Brien, Enrollment & Matching Specialist

Big Sister Marisa and Little Sister Susanne matched for fourteen years.

On Sunday, September 15, I had the chance to join five Big and Little Sister matches at Big Sister’s “Come Sail Away” event, the final sailing event of the season. We met at Pier 6 in Charlestown before boarding “Tupelo Honey,” a boat owned by Legal Seafoods’ Director of Communication Ann Flannery and her beau, Captain Don.

“This is the happy bell,” Capt. Don informed us as we boarded Tupelo Honey. “Every time we hear a happy word, we’ll ring the happy bell.”

As the matches got comfortable on the boat, they went around in a circle to introduce themselves. One match explained that they’d been together for 16 months, another match for just about a year. The next two matches had been together since the beginning of 2012.

“We’ve been together for 14 years,” Marisa, the final Big Sister said.

Jaws dropped. Sounds of the happy bell rang in the air. “Fourteen years!” the entire boat exclaimed simultaneously.

“We were matched when Susanne was six years old, and she is turning twenty at the end of this month,” said Marisa as she turned to Susanne and smiled. “So this will be our final Big Sister event.”

Marisa and Susanne have been together since Marisa was in college, and now Susanne is a sophomore in college herself. They have experienced a number of milestones together: Marisa’s college graduation, wedding and the start of her family. They have been matched through Susanne’s most formative years, elementary school, middle school, and high school, and Marisa has even been able to celebrate Susanne’s acceptance to Boston College.

She put her arms around her Little Sister. “And just because we won’t technically be Big Sister and Little Sister,” she smiled at Susanne, “we’ll still be good friends.”

The winds were steady and strong, blowing us out to Castle Island. On our return into the harbor, Jaelin, the youngest Little Sister onboard Tupelo Honey, grabbed the helm of the ship and guided us as we made our way back towards the dock. Confident, Jaelin shared stories as she moved the wheel back and forth.

Little Sister Jaelin takes the helm.

Each of us had the chance to sit on the bow of the boat and stare into the city. We watched as an orange butterfly skimmed the water, and we chatted about whatever subjects came to mind. We disembark Tupelo Honey feeling optimistic about the morning and what the rest of our Sunday may have had to offer. We became inspired by a story of a positive, trusting relationship built through years of dedication and commitment, inspired by the power of human connection and the possibilities of establishing life-long friendships with a Big or Little Sister.

Little Sister Sequoia’s First Red Sox Game

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On Friday, May 25, 100 Big and Little Sisters attended the Red Sox game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park, thanks to a ticket donation from Highland Street Foundation. Because of Highland Street’s generosity, all 50 matches received t-shirts, hats, water bottles, The Red Sox Century books, and food vouchers, along with tickets to the game. The donation enabled many Little Sisters to attend their first ever professional baseball game, including Little Sister Sequoia, who visited Fenway Park for the first time last Friday.

Big Sister Rebecca and Little Sister Sequoia have been matched for nearly one year, and in that time they have gotten to know each other really well. They’re comfortable being themselves around one another and enjoy spending time together just talking. They’ve also participated in many interesting activities, including bicycling in the Arnold Arboretum and making Valentines and cookies for Sequoia’s class. “Sequoia and I are both a mix of artistic, crafty, and outdoorsy, which is great,” said Big Sister Rebecca. Little Sister Sequoia’s favorite outing prior to Friday’s Sox game was when she and Rebecca visited the indoor trampoline park, SkyZone. Sequoia said, “We did crazy flips! Even off the wall!”

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Rebecca and Sequoia were thrilled to be able to attend the May 25 baseball game. Sequoia got very excited, especially when she and Rebecca walked into the park and she saw Fenway for the first time. “The game was really cool and we were in really cool seats,” said Sequoia. “I could see the bullpen!”

Rebecca and Sequoia loved being able to share this experience with one another. “My Little Sister thought it was a fun activity to do together because I know a lot about baseball and could tell her about it,” Rebecca said. “I especially liked to see how excited she got about the baseball she received from Tampa Bay Ray Fernando Rodney. Sequoia also made friends with another Little Sister, which made the event even more fun!”

Big Sister Association would like to thank Highland Street Foundation for their generous donation!

Guest Post: Little Sister Molly – The Celtics “Ball Kid”

Big Sister Alex and Little Sister Molly

Little Sister Molly:

It all started on April 12, 2012 when I got the phone call from my Big Sister Alex. She told me that she had BIG news, very big news! She said that we were going to the Boston Celtics game on April 24 and I was going to be a ball kid. I would also get to sit on the court, get a free tee shirt, meet some of the players, and get a signed ball! I was so excited! It was the best news I’ve ever heard. I told all of my friends and they were so happy for me. I couldn’t wait to go to the game, I was counting down the days! But then all the waiting was over and the day finally came.

On the exciting day of April 24, we arrived in Boston to see the Celtics game, but first we got dinner at Halftime Pizza. The place had great food, a mural of famous Boston sports players, and overall a fun atmosphere. Then it was time. We headed over to The Celtics office, which was very well decorated. We saw championship trophies and we took tons of pictures. We met the Community Relationships Coordinator, Ashley. She escorted us to the world famous TD Garden and we took a secret entrance into the building. When we finally saw the court I was AMAZED, I couldn’t believe it! I saw the banners, the Jumbotron, and then I saw the best 3-point shooter in NBA history: Ray Allen! Then Ashley introduced me to the Ball Kid Staff, and I started practicing with the team. I was passing and getting rebounds off of Rajon Rondo! It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done! I met #51 Dooling, and he was my favorite player that I met. Then it was game time. The teams we were playing, the Miami Heat was ready to play. During the first half, the Celtics were down, but not out. I got to sit on the court and the camera was on me the whole time! I got to be on TV! During halftime I got to practice with the Miami Heat! It was another important highlight of the night. When the second quarter started, the Celtics made an unexpected comeback and ended up winning by 12 points! It was such a fun night I loved every minute of it.  I feel so lucky to have been a ball kid for a night and go to a Celtics game with my Big Sister!

Big Sister Alex:

When I got the news that Molly was going to have an opportunity to be a ball kid, I was so thrilled for her!  It reminded me of when I was her age and had the opportunity to go to a UConn game. I really looked up to players like Jenn Rizzoti and Kara Walters.  Going to get my basketball signed by them was a highlight of my childhood years and I felt lucky be able to share an experience like this with my Little Sister.  She did such a wonderful job being the ball kid!  She hustled to get rebounds and pass the balls to the players.  She made me so proud out there!  The entire experience was wonderful to have and something I can truly say neither one of us will forget.

We’d like to thank the Celtics Ticket Exchange for giving Little Sister Molly a chance to have this wonderful experience.  If you are a company or individual who would like to make a ticket donation, please contact our Program Events Coordinator, Jen Gentile at jgentile@bigsister.org or (617) 236-8366.

Big Sister Association Diversity Council Event Encourages Women and Girls to Rethink Social Media

On March 14th, 50 women and teen girls attended Big Sister Association’s Diversity Council Conversations Among Women event, T.M.I.: How Much is Too Much, Protecting Your Online Reputation. This was the second in a four-part series, which was created to start a dialogue in the city around issues that are important to women and girls of color, with the goal of increasing the organization’s visibility to inspire more women to become Big Sisters.

Neva Grice, from the Boston Police Department, and Simmons College professor Ulli Ryder, PhD, started an informative conversation on the dangers of social media in forming an online identity and concrete strategies on how to protect yourself. There were compelling discussions from both women and teen girls about the differences and similarities of how both age groups use social networking sites and the negative and positive impacts.

The group shared their own positive and negative experiences using social media.

The event closed with the evening’s facilitator, Kameelah Benjamin-Fuller from Global Novations, asking the audience to share their plans for navigating social media in the future. One teen girl said she plans to be more aware of what she writes on Facebook, and will make sure she is writing more positive comments about people than negative. One woman said that she will reevaluate her different social media accounts to make sure that each really represents how she wants to be portrayed.

Small groups discussed their personal action steps for managing their social media in the future.

This event could not have been successful without our sponsor Boston Scientific’s Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Achievement; our host, Simmons Institute for Leadership and Change; and our speakers, Neva Grice, Ulli Ryder, PhD, and Kameelah Benjamin-Fuller.

Pictured from left to right are: Mia Roberts, Vice President of Recruitment and Community Partnerships, Big Sister Association; Ulli Ryder, PhD, Simmons College; Deb Re, Chief Executive Officer, Big Sister Association; Neva Grice, Boston Police Department

Stay tuned for part three of the series on June 13th!

Ayanna Pressley: Boston’s Voice for Women’s Issues

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, Big Sister would like to conclude the month’s celebration by highlighting a contemporary woman of influence and purpose who is making her mark on the Boston landscape. City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley immediately comes to mind, not only for her political triumph but also for her advocacy for women’s issues.

City Councilor At-Large Pressley is the first woman of color to be elected (in 2009) to serve on the governing board in the council’s 100-year history. In addition, she was the only woman in a field of 15 candidates to have earned one of four “At-Large” spots on the city’s 13- member council, garnering nearly 42,000 votes.

In keeping with her historic win, Councilor At-Large Pressley set out to support those whom she saw as undeserved and thus formed and chaired a new committee, the Committee on Women & Healthy Communities. The committee is dedicated to the causes that are close to her heart: stabilizing families and communities, reducing and preventing violence and trauma, and combating poverty. With a particular emphasis on girls and women, the committee focuses on adequate delivery of city services and programming for youth, families, seniors, and new Bostonians. The committee does not shy away from tackling the tougher issues ranging from domestic and sexual violence, child abuse and neglect, bullying, substance abuse to mentoring, poverty, and homelessness.

Councilor At-Large Pressley goes beyond government work to hold leadership positions with community organizations such as the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus and the Young Professionals Preventing Child Abuse of the Children’s Trust Fund. She also serves on the Boards of UMass Boston Community Development, Inc., and the Young Black Women’s Society.

What makes Big Sister most proud of City Councilor Pressley’s advocacy for women is the special role she plays with our organization. Despite her busy schedule, she has found the time to join Big Sister Association of Greater Boston by becoming an active Big Sister mentor. Not only is she proud of her mentoring role, but she is just as proud to be considered a part of her Little Sister’s family. As an advocate for mentoring, Councilor At-Large Pressley recently spoke at Big Sister’s Rise & Inspire event in which she concluded, “I’m a Big Sister who happens to be a City Councilor.” Councilor At-Large Pressley launched a personal campaign, which she called ABC – Ayanna’s BIG Challenge – a yearlong initiative to recruit mentors for children living in the Boston neighborhoods with the longest waiting for Big Sisters. Now, that’s walking the talk.

Recruiting More Big Sisters: We Need Your Help!

Big Sister Laurel and  Little Sister Barbara want you to become A Big Sister.

Big Sister Laurel & Little Sister Barbara help recruit Big Sisters.

YOU can help the 279 girls currently waiting to be matched with a Big Sister!  As a Big Sister, you know firsthand that mentoring has a powerful, positive impact on a girl’s life. We need your help to bring this experience to more of Boston’s girls.

Did you know that people are more likely to volunteer with Big Sister Association if asked by someone they know? Please help us spread the word. One of your friends, co-workers, sisters, cousins, or neighbors may become a Big Sister to a girl on our wait list just because she hears your story. By using any (or all!) of the easy suggestions below, you can enable us to match girls in Boston with a wonderful new Big Sister!

  • Promote us on Facebook & Twitter.
    Tweet while hanging out with your Little SisterLike the Big Sister Association Facebook page. These are great ways to spread the word to one friend, which turns into two friends, which turns into four, etc.
  • Help us set up an information session at your job.
    Just make the connection! Introduce us to an office manager or staff in your employer’s human resources department and we’ll do the rest. Making that first connection is often the biggest challenge when recruiting potential Big Sisters.
  • Tell us about events where we can table. We’ll do the heavy lifting! Let us know of any community, organization, or neighborhood events where we can hand out materials about becoming a Big Sister.
  • Connect us to college alumni groups/sororities/women’s groups/professional groups. Help us connect to these already established groups. You may be surprised who always wanted to be a Big Sister, but just needed a little nudge.
  • Write a post for our blog. You don’t have to be Maya Angelou; just write about your experience. Hearing from you what it’s like to be a Big Sister can help potential volunteers overcome common misconceptions and concerns.
  • Host a house party. Summer is a great time to get together with friends and family! Why not turn it into something that gives back to the community by allowing a Big Sister representative to speak to the group while everyone enjoys food and drinks?
Email Sheena Collier at scollier@bigsister.org if you would like more information on any of these options.