Written by Kristen Smith, Impact Services Coordinator
How does your Little Sister envision her future? Has she talked about the goals she has for herself? As her Big Sister, you may be wondering how you can help your Little Sister select and achieve her plans for the future. First, keep in mind that there are many paths to success. You may need to widen your ideas about career and life decisions to include trade schools, culinary schools, community colleges, parenting, among many others. It is important to take the lead from your Little Sister about how she envisions her future. If she already has an idea of what she would like to do for a career, help her break it down so that she understands all the steps she needs to take to get from where she is now to where she wants to be in the future. If she is unsure of a future career, help her explore her interests through volunteering, a job, or internships. This will help her get experience in a specific field and decide if it is an area that she would like to pursue.
To help her break down her goal into obtainable steps, it is helpful to start by discussing goal setting. Whether it is a long term goal – like her future career – or a short term goal – like wanting to make the basketball team – it is important to know how to set and achieve a goal. One helpful tool is to ensure tyou are setting goals that follow the S.M.A.R.T acronym: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. If you and your Little Sister are interested in exploring these topics, I encourage you to attend Dream Big! a Real Choices, Strong Voices workshop. This workshop will discuss how to create S.M.A.R.T. goals and how Big Sisters can support and encourage their Little Sisters in achieving their goals. You can contact your Match Support Specialist to find out when the workshop for your Little Sister’s age range is being held. Additionally, here are some tips and items to keep in mind when discussing setting goals with your Little Sister.
- Let your Little Sister take the lead around discussing her future plans. If she expresses an interest in talking about her goals, try to find fun ways to expose her to her options. For example, getting lunch or playing Frisbee on a college campus, or showing your Little Sister your office space. These are less overwhelming than taking a college tour or bringing her to work with you for a full day.
- Help her think through the steps she needs to take to reach her goals. For instance, if she wants to be a nurse, she’ll need to think about what training she’ll need to be certified. If you don’t know, look it up! This is a great activity to do together.
- You can sharpen your Little Sister’s decision making skills by asking questions not giving answers when she comes to you with a problem. For instance, if your Little Sister asks you if she should run for student council, ask her questions to help her think through the pros and cons so she comes to a decision that works for her.
- Expose her to new things and encourage her interests and skills. Using positive reinforcement and telling your Little Sister when you notice she is good at something is a wonderful way to help her see her potential. Let her know if there are career options that match her interests. For instance, if your Little Sister loves children, ask her if she has considered working in a daycare setting or teaching?
- Share your own experiences and how you made the choices you made. Particularly make note of the unexpected obstacles that you faced and how you navigated those challenges.
- Offer a range of perspective – For example, “Some people think it’s really important to go to college right away, which is why I did, because of x, y, z, but other people think it’s great to work and save money after you graduate from high school, while other people think it’s important to focus on doing volunteer work. What do you think?”
- Encourage your Little Sister to talk with her caregivers about what she wants her future to be. Suggest that she ask her family about how they reached their own goals.
Talk to your Match Support Specialist if you need more specific help or additional resources.
Upcoming Big Sister Events
Tuesday, March 19, 6:00pm-9:00pm
Saturday, April 13, 1:00pm-3:00pm
This is for Little Sisters age 14+. Learn about the college experience first hand from Simmons College students. You will receive a tour of the college, learn about the application process, see a dorm room, and more! Email Jen Perrone at firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot.
Real Choices, Strong Voices
For more information on the next Real Choices, Strong Voices workshop, email Margot Phelps at email@example.com.
Be sure to “like” our Facebook page to hear about ticket opportunities for you and your Little Sister. Past ticket opportunities include Patriots tickets, Red Sox tickets, museum tickets, and plays.
Recently in USA Today, there was an article about Malia Obama on how she is inspiring girls. She wasn’t inspiring them because of her interests or her dreams but rather because of what she was wearing and how her body looked. The article byline read “Is a fashion magazine in her future?” There is nothing wrong with teenage girls wanting to be fashionable but by focusing on Malia’s fashion sense and appearance rather than her ambitions, what are we inspiring girls to achieve?
It is important to recognize that kids look to their peers in the media as role models and want to emulate them based on what they wear or own. One study from the National Institute on Media and the Family found that at age 13, 53% of girls are unhappy with their bodies. This grows to 78% by the time girls reach 17. It is difficult to find positive role models in the media.
This is why it is important that the President’s daughters should be looked up to for their focus on academics, involvement in the community and talents, such as dance and basketball. Their ability to dress fashionably should not be the focus when it pales in comparison to their other achievements.
Seventeen fashion director Gina Kelly wrote, “That’s inspiring to girls,” Kelly says. “Especially when they’re that age, they’re not too confident in trying new trends or putting together clothes in a different way. Girls are really hungry for, ‘Gosh, how do I wear it?’ and I think she can show them that.”
While we can agree that girls do need more role models for dressing appropriately without the need for short-shorts and low cut tops; we need to emphasize that outward appearance does not determine value.
Girls are easily influenced by what society and the media deem important. As long as we place importance on the outward appearance of girls rather than their aspirations, where does their future lie?
On May 5th 2012, eight Little Sisters (along with their Big Sisters) participated in Lemonade Day, a national event that inspires children to learn how to operate their own small business by setting up a lemonade stand. By participating in this annual event, children develop leadership and problem solving skills, as well as gain experience in economics. Big Sister was happy to partner with Babson College for the second year in a row to introduce Little Sisters to entrepreneurship as a possible future career option.
This is the reason why Little Sister Dakaja participated this year with the encouragement of her Big Sister Kristen. Dakaja already knows that when she graduates from college she wants to start her own small business. Through Lemonade Day, she had her first taste of this career. Newbury Streetwas a prime location for Dakaja’s many thirsty visitors, including Lisa Donovan from Kiss 108, Suzanne Picher City Director of Lemonade Day at Babson College, and fire fighters from the Boston Fire Department. Dakaja’s favorite customer, Johnny Earle, owner of Johnny Cupcakes, stopped by to applaud Dakaja’s entrepreneurial skills and answered her questions about starting her own business. Dakaja hopes to put the money raised towards new fun match activities with her Big Sister Kristen.
Little Sister Jazmine’s Lemonade Stand on Boylston Street was also a hot spot. She attracted many Red Sox fans with her catchy marketing jingle and dance. One customer even received car window service when she pulled up to Jazmine’s stand. Jazmine plans to add her earnings to her savings and buy something special for her sister in the future.
Lemonade Day creates an opportunity for budding Little Sister entrepreneurs to learn how to develop a business through goal setting and creating and executing a business strategy. Big Sister Kristen said, “This was a fantastic learning opportunity for both of us – we learned what it takes to be an entrepreneur and all the details that need to be considered. I think it helped Dakaja have a better understanding for how to budget, how to prioritize, and what not to sacrifice.”
Birding Belle Isle
East Boston, MA
Saturday, April 14, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Bring your Little Sister to Belle Isle Marsh. This is a hot spot for bird sightings! Join a DCR Ranger and look for spring migrants in and around Belle Isle, and also enjoy a leisurely hike. Please bring binoculars. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. Meet at Belle Isle Marsh main parking area, off Bennington St, East Boston, MA. For more information about this event please visit http://www.mass.gov/dcr/events.htm.
Terrific Tree Treasure Hunt
Friday, April 20, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. & 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Visit Breakheart Reservation for a fun treasure hunt with your Little Sister during her school vacation week! You will learn about trees and Asian Long Horned beetles while searching for hidden treasure! Drop in anytime during the allotted time periods for the 45 minute hunt. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters ages 8-14. Meet at Christopher P. Dunne Vistor Center, Breakheart Reservation, 177 Forest St, Saugus, MA. For more information about this event please visit http://www.mass.gov/dcr/events.htm.
Teen Matches Give Back
Saturday, April 21, 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Earth Day Recycling
175 N Harvard St.
Saturday, April 21, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Science of Sports
Madison Park High School
Sunday, April 22, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Inspiring Minds: Meet Women in Science
Museum of Science
Sunday, April 28, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
What are the opportunities and obstacles for women in science? Hear from inspiring women who are taking on challenges in science and technology. Meet these extraordinary scientists and entrepreneurs and learn how you can start your own career in a scientific field. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters ages 14 plus. This event is located at the Museum of Science Blue Wing Level 1. For more information about this event please visit http://cambridgesciencefestival.org/Home.aspx.
Arnold Arboretum Drop-In Activities
Sunday, April 29, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
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.
Evelyn Reyes of Boston Latino TV writes about being a cancer survivor and her choice to become a Big Sister
Evelyn Reyes, Boston Latino TV host, writes about how being a cancer survivor changed her perspective on her life and pushed her to prioritize volunteerism. In 2011, she will become a Big Sister.
Cancer is a six letter word that can wreak havoc in your life. It also changes you as a person. Most of the cancer survivors I know all say the same thing: “Cancer changed me.” I am going to have to agree on this. I have always tried to be helpful in my community and to help other people; however, cancer gave me that extra motivation to go forward with my desires and put them into action.
When the year 2011 came around, it found me reflective and thoughtful. Reflective about what I was doing with my life and who were the people in my life who truly meant something to me and were really supportive of me. Thoughtful about what direction I wanted my life to go in and where it was right now.
I found myself thinking that I wanted to do things that had a lasting impression in the hearts and minds of people. I’ve been refocusing my efforts to find what those things could be.
I know that girls these days can use as much guidance as they can get. After having been an influential presence in the lives of my nieces (Kathyria, Yasirya and Yerika) I thought it would be a fulfilling activity for me to be a big sister to a young girl. I have already had my interview with the Big Sister Social worker. Soon I will take a two day orientation and then I wait for a match. Once I am matched, then I get to meet my Little Sister and her family and see if we all like each other. I can’t wait to share my love of laughter, arts, music, food, dance, reading and traveling with my little sister. I am sure we will be a positive influence on each other.
In celebration of National Volunteer Week, we would like to thank our Big Sisters who collectively volunteered over 170,000 hours to mentor 2567 girls last year!
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
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!
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!