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Spotlight: Big Sister of the Year, Caroline Kohler

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Big Sister Caroline Kohler has been matched with her Little Sister Nadege for over a year through the Boston College/Franklin Field Program. Caroline recently accepted the Big Sister of the Year award. Pictured above are Caroline and Nadege at Boston College during one of their weekly visits.

Guest Post by Marketing Intern, Molly Decker

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

A: I was looking for a way to get involved in an organization I really cared about on campus. I had looked at a couple of different organizations, but none of them really seemed to emphasize service through the development of strong relationships. When I came across Big Sister and learned I would be able to build and develop a relationship with a girl within the context of such an amazing, empowering institution I was ecstatic and immediately jumped at the opportunity to get involved.

Q: What is the most rewarding part about being a Big Sister?

A: The most rewarding part about being a Big Sister is really watching the relationship that I  have with Nadege grow and develop with each passing week. While I see myself as Nadege’s mentor, I first and foremost see myself as her friend. We share our struggles, hopes, and dreams with each other and constantly encourage one another to do our very best. Having only known each other for a year and a half, the mutual respect and admiration that we have for each other is astounding, and I consider myself so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful relationship.

Q: What is something you’ve learned about yourself or about the world since becoming a Big Sister?

A: I have learned that “sister” means so many more things than simply someone you are related to and the role of a sister does not have to be filled by a biological relation. “Sister” means mentor, confidant, teacher, student, listener, helper, and friend.

Q: Who were some of your female role models growing up? What made them such positive role models for you?

A: My main female role model growing up is my grandma. She is an amazing person. An immigrant from Ireland, she came to America by herself at 18. She has taught me what it means to be a strong, independent, and pragmatic woman, and I could not thank her enough for that. She is the strongest, most resilient woman I know. I look at her and am so proud and in awe of her spirit.

Q: What is something your Little Sister has taught you since you’ve been matched?

A: Nadege has taught me what it is like to be a kid again. Something I noticed near the end of my freshman year was that often times I would get so wrapped up in exams, papers, commitments, and meaningless drama that I forgot what it was like to splash around in the pool or play Monopoly for hours or just hang out and paint nails. Over the last year and a half with Nadege, I have learned once again that sometimes it is not about how stressful the week before was or decisions looming on the horizon. Sometimes the only thing that matters is the good company you are in and who owns Park Place.

Stay Connected Through Big Sister’s Alumnae Association!

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

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

 Rachel Russell

Alumnae Association Board Member

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

Stay connected through the Alumnae Association!

Boston’s College Students: A Resource to Organizations

One of Boston’s biggest assets is its variety of higher education opportunities, which attract thousands of students from all over the world. There are 52 institutions of higher education here, with the enrollment ranging from 100 students to more than 30,000. This surplus of smart, talented, ambitious young people is not only beneficial in making Boston a hub of innovation, it is also a significant resource to organizations like Big Sister Association. 

On February 1, Linda Matchan wrote an article for the Boston Globe entitled “Volunteering Spirit Catches Fire” (read here). The article is an account of the rise in volunteerism among Millennials (people under 30) in the Boston area. According to the Globe article:

“Where their boomer parents may have been inclined to put their idealism and energy into protest and rebellion, today’s young men and women are civic-minded, less determined to change the social order, and more inclined to make the world a better place…” 

Among our Big Sister volunteers, women under 25 account for approximately 35%. That number has stayed fairly constant over the past few years, and is proportionately in line with the population of the City, which is said to rise 1/3 during the school months.

These students clearly have an intense desire to volunteer, but may need opportunities that require flexibility around class schedules and school vacations. Many college women in our area take advantage of Big Sister’s more flexible volunteer opportunities, which fit with their lifestyle and allow them to have a big impact on a girl.

Our School-Based Mentoring program matches a Big Sister in a one-to-one mentoring relationship with a Little Sister at the girl’s elementary school. This is a great opportunity for college students (and even corporate women working in the city) to spend time with a girl right in her own backyard during her lunch break.  These Big and Little Sisters meet during the Little Sister’s lunch time throughout the academic year, and are encouraged to keep in touch via letters or e-mails over the summer months. For more information on our School-Based Mentoring, or to apply, visit http://www.bigsister.org/

We also offer a monthly volunteer opportunity that will fit even the busiest student’s schedule.  Big for a Day (BFAD) allows girls on our waiting list (more than 300!) to participate in Big Sister-sponsored events interact with women mentors while they wait to be match with their own Big Sister. Activities range from dance and yoga classes, to ice skating, crafting, or museum visits. To volunteer as a Big for a Day women must be at least 20 years old and complete a one-hour screening process. The BFAD events are one Saturday each month, take place during the day, and usually last for 2-4 hours. If you are interested in volunteering or hosting a BFAD please contact Jennifer at jgentile@bigsister.com. We are thrilled to have so many wonderful Bigs and the prospect for even more talented mentors for our Little Sisters!

“How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment, we can start now, start slowly changing the world.  How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make their contribution…how we can always, always give something, even if it is only kindness” – Anne Frank

Big Sister goes back to school!

Have you ever thought about becoming a Big Sister, but didn’t think you had the time to make the commitment?  Did you know that Big Sister Association offers the opportunity to volunteer on your lunch break during the week?  Our School-Based Mentoring program offers the opportunity for women with busy schedules to mentor a girl at various Boston schools near where they work.  Now that schools are back in session, we’re looking for more women to become School-Based Big Sisters!

Instead of eating lunch at your desk or grabbing a quick bite from the fast food place around the corner, you could spend 45 minutes to an hour, one day a week throughout the school year, making a difference in the life of an elementary school age girl.  School-Based Big and Little Sisters meet at the girl’s school during her lunch time and do everything from playing board games and reading books, to arts and crafts, shooting hoops, or just talking about what’s going on in the Little Sister’s life.

It may seem simple, but the impact that your attention, support, and consistency have on your Little Sister is big.  “I think the Big Sister program is great for the girls in my room…I know all the girls really look forward to the days their Big Sisters visit and always come back feeling really great.  It is also important that these girls, who are often shy in class, have a time where they don’t have to hold back or feel nervous, but can be the center of attention,” said Joanna Pfister, a fourth grade teacher at the Hurley Elementary School in the South End. 

Additionally, according to our Program Outcome Evaluations, which are completed by the girl’s teacher:

  • 79% of School-Based Little Sisters demonstrated improved trust toward others
  • 79% of School-Based Little Sisters also showed improved class participation
  • 75% of School-Based Little Sisters showed an improved ability to use school resources

According to a study published in March 2009 by Dr. Jean Rhodes of UMass Boston, which examines the impact of mentoring with regard to gender, girls who have a School-Based Big Sister show greater academic gains.  Girls with School-Based Big Sisters also demonstrate improved peer relationships and lower stress levels (The Role of Gender in Mentoring: A Three-Part Study, Rhodes and Litchfield, March 2009).

Now is the time to make a difference. Big Sister offers our School-Based Mentoring program at schools right near your office!  If you are interested in learning more about becoming a School-Based Big Sister, click here.