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.
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.
“So what’s the name of our cooking show?” Big Sister Jessica Sedaca asks as low-calorie chocolate cookies bake in the oven of her Brighton apartment.
“Cooking with Jess and Lex,” Little Sister Alexis giggles.
Jessica and Alexis, or Jess and Lexie as they prefer to be called, were matched last July in a move that Lexie calls destiny. Jess joked that she is an older version of her Little Sister as they have so much in common, including a love of theater, musicals, movies, and food.
“I remember meeting [Jess],” says10-year old Lexie. “I was so excited. [Our Big Sister staff social worker] Mikki came into my house and said ‘Your Big Sister is outside’. I felt like I wanted to scream and I think I did.”
“I remember walking to her house and there were kids outside playing everywhere and all of a sudden someone is dashing towards me,” says Jess. “She gave me a big hug immediately and I said to myself ‘I can get along with this girl.’”
The cooking show idea began very simply. Jess loves to bake and recalls enjoying the time she spent in the kitchen with her older relatives as a child. She thought it would be a great way for the pair to bond. After their first recipe, a lush coffee cake, the two decided they should have theme nights. They would watch “Bend it Like Beckham” and make chicken curry or “Ratatouille” and prepare the eponymous dish.
Through their exploration of different foods and activities, Jess discovered Lexie’s fearlessness when it comes to new experiences. ”I love trying new things!” proclaims Lexie. With her Big Sister, she has found that she loves quinoa which is “yummy,” “The Princess Bride” and art museums, to name a few. They chat about the future, learning new languages and world travel. Jess turned Lexie on to the idea of visiting Europe one day. Lexie is particularly fascinated by Greece “because of the mythology.”
Over the course of their relationship, Jess has been amazed at how her Little Sister embraces life every day. Lexie relishes the simple things and reminds Jess to slow down and appreciate everyday pleasures.
“I’ve never seen anyone eat a Klondike bar with such abandon and joy… But she’s also taught me compassion.”
In her spare time, Little Sister Lexie raises money to create gift baskets for veterans at the VA Hospital where her mother works. She fills them with small gifts and homemade cards. She then delivers her creations with the openness and joy with which she greets life in general. The recipients are sometimes speechless, sometimes moved to tears, but always happy for the random act of kindness.
“She’s a great role model,” Jess says of her Little Sister. “You could be 26, 56, or 86 and learn so much from her.”
After giving her Big Sister a hug in appreciation at these words, Lexie counters that Jess has taught her how to be a better person. She also advises women thinking about becoming a Big Sister to do it:
“It’s so wonderful getting to find your perfect match.”
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!
Admittedly it’s been a long time since I was in the seventh grade. I grew up in Roslindale and attended a local K-8 school. Now, as the head of a girl-serving organization, I was curious to find out what was on the minds of adolescent girls growing up in Boston today. I also wanted to actually experience our Group Mentoring program and how it “worked.” Well, I heard what was on the minds of young girls and I know first-hand why our Group mentoring program is successful. But, I learned a whole lot more than that.
Being a Big Sister is about being in the moment; it’s being totally real, authentic, and present to whatever is said or whatever you are feeling. If you truly want to connect with adolescent girls, then you must be ready to give and to receive; you must have an open mind and, an open heart.
There were nine girls sitting around a table the first day I walked into the room. They were all chatting, talking over each other, laughing loudly; the sound was high-pitched and loud. There was one girl who sat by herself putting her hair in a pony tail. I sat down quietly in the available chair and then it hit me: I was nervous. As the CEO of Big Sister, I often tell women who are thinking of becoming a Big Sister that you don’t need special skills, that age is irrelevant and that just being there to listen, encourage and support girls is all that matters. Yet there I was silently telling myself that I was too old, that I didn’t know what music they listened to, what TV shows they watched, what books or movies they liked; and, the message that bothered me the most: the girls didn’t look like me. How will I connect with them? How could I, a successful, confident woman who champions diversity and inclusion feel that ethnicity, race, or age could get in the way of a connection between me and a young girl? I was creating a barrier before I even had the chance to talk to the girls. I felt unsettled.
I met with my group at a middle school in Roxbury every week on Thursday afternoons for 90 minutes. After the girls ate their lunch, we began our activities with a check-in. Each girl would tell the group how they felt by giving a number from 1-10.
“I’m a 5 today because I had a fight with my mother.”
“I’m a 9 because I’m going to the movies with my friend this weekend.”
“I’m a 2 because…”
After the check-in, the social worker leading the group initiated games that were fun for the girls but also unveiled the issues they may be dealing with: body image, relationships, conflict resolution, self-esteem, and puberty. These activities were certainly informative and helped the girls to make healthy choices in their lives. But, what struck me the most were the questions that they asked me directly.
The questions weren’t asked in rapid-fire succession, but over the course of our time together. They were simple and telling.
“Deb, do you get paid to come here every week?”
“No” I responded.
“Why do you come here?”
“To be with you.”
Another girl responded “Wow, that’s cool. You are coming here to hang out with us!”
“Where do you live?” one girl asked.
“You mean near here? You live near here?”
There were other questions about the choices I made in my life, the fact that I was married yet didn’t have children, the fact that I paid someone to put the “yellow stripes” in my hair or that I went to college and now work full time. We were equally curious about each other and more questions led to more dialogue between us.
“I wish I was smart” a girl named LaToya said under her breath one day. I didn’t know what to say. How trite would it sound if I said “You are smart, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not.” I said nothing. The following week, she was on my team. Our goal was to build the tallest structure that could stand on its own using just straws. The four of us began making the building by connecting the straws, but realized that we didn’t know how to make it stand on its own. Then LaToya said, “I know, I’ll make a drawing first.” She took a piece of paper and drew a building that had four corners and was strengthened by straws across each square. We used her drawing to build not only the tallest building, but also the strongest. I looked at her and said “You made this possible. You took the initiative to create the drawing and worked as part of the team to make your concept a reality. Only a smart person can do that.” She beamed.
Our Group is over for now. I know that these girls will hold our time together in their heads and in their hearts. I know that they now think differently about themselves. I now have a purple string around my wrist. LaToya tied my string, and I tied hers. We made a pact to not forget each other or all that we learned from each other.
I know that I think differently about myself now. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words often ring in my ears and today, this is what I am hearing: Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
My journey with Big Sister Association of Greater Boston began six years ago when I became Migleila’s Big Sister. I will never forget that first time we met, she was the cutest seven year old, and she greeted me with a couple of key chains she had made. One said “Little Sis” and the other one said “Big Sis.” We have a scrapbook, and I keep that key chain in it to this day, along with other memories and pictures from the past six years of our relationship. After returning from our interview at NECN last week, we went over our scrapbook and enjoyed every memory cherished all over again…the moment was priceless!
When I first heard of the Big Sister program my initial impulse was to apply so I could make a difference in a little girl’s life. The blessings I have enjoyed throughout my life have been countless, and I felt like it was time for me to pay it forward. I am privileged to have a wonderful family that provided endless support and positive role models, and where education was always a priority. It was my intention to provide the same type of guidance and support to a Latina girl that shared my same background and heritage.
As a Big Sister and a member of Big Sister’s Diversity Council, which aims to increase the number of women of color who become Big Sisters in order to reflect the diversity of the girls they serve, I am aware of the amazing benefits of sharing a “Big-Little” relationship with a girl of the same cultural heritage. In my relationship with Migleila, we can relate to each other with more ease and understanding of our experiences and upbringing. It is a very enriching relationship, and I am inspired every day because I see how she aspires to become a productive member of society when she grows up. Children learn by example, and our relationship is providing positive examples for her to follow in her own life.
If you are a woman of color and are thinking about making a difference in the life of a girl in our community, I would strongly encourage you to apply to become a Big Sister. I also want to hear from you. What is your experience mentoring a girl from a similar ethnic or cultural background? Why do you think it’s important and how can Big Sister Association encourage more women of color to become mentors?
Click here to watch Eneida’s interview on BNN’s El Show de Fernandito about the importance of more women of color becoming Big Sisters.