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.

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.

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!

A Strong Female Role Model For Every Girl

Washington based writer Gabrielle Nomura recounts meeting her role model, journalist Jenni Hogan, and the importance of a good female role model for every girl…

Gabrielle Nomura

Her role model, Jenni Hogan, KIRO 7 TV anchor

“What hit me then was the importance of role models.

Every girl, whether she wants to be a journalist, a professional athlete or a full-time world traveler should have a woman role model they can emulate, see a bit of themselves in, and be inspired by.

All girls should get an experience like I did at least once in their lives, to be able to sit down at a table with their own version of Jenni Hogan.

It’s not always easy to find a role model, as our society’s way of choosing which women to pay attention to is often skewed. As Faizon Love put it, why is it that Kim Kardashian makes the news, while masses of women who are actually doing newsworthy things, female doctors, researchers, teachers, activists, scholars, business owners and mothers, go unnoticed?”

For more of Gabrielle’s piece on Strong Female Mentors: CLICK HERE

To your Little Sister, you are her role model. Thank you Big Sisters, for being that influential woman in a young girl’s life.

If you are (or know) a girl between 7-15 who would like a women mentor call us at 617-23-8060, email us at bigsister@bigsister.org or visit us on the web at www.bigsister.org

Calling all Fashionistas: Come to a Fashion Show benefiting Big Sister Tues 03/29!

Denise Hajjar Fashion Show
to benefit Big Sister Association
of Greater Boston
 
Tired of winter layers? Excited for spring fashion? So are we!
Big Sister will be participating in an upcoming Fashion Show debuting the Spring Line from local designer Denise Hajjar!
Some familiar faces will grace the catwalk in Denise’s designs, including our own Shannon Felton and Bernice Osborne, Board member Jane Deery, Young Professional Board member Maria Fernandes, and more!
DATE: Tuesday, March 29, 2011
TIME: 6:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Denise Hajjar Boutique
Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel
138 St. James Ave.
Boston, MA 02116
Tickets are $50.
Click here to purchase online.
 
Make it a Girl’s Night Out!
 

Thank you to Denise Hajjar for supporting Big Sister’s work and mission!

Boston born and raised, Denise Hajjar inherited her design interest and talent from her grandmother who was also a designer in Damascus, Syria and her grandfather who was a patternmaker and dress factory owner from Beirut, Lebanon.After graduating from The School of Fashion Design, Denise decided to stay close to her Boston roots and start a business here. With almost 30 years in her own design business, Denise has established herself as a top designer, having sold her creations nationally to department stores, specialty boutiques, and individual clients worldwide.

Looking for a Good Read? Big Sister Recommends

Big Sister Recommends

Chances are, you’re still spending most of your free time inside. While you’re waiting for the weather to get warmer, not why head to the library or check out Amazon for these titles about the power of mentoring:

Stand by Me: The Risks and Rewards of Mentoring Today’s Youth by Jean E. Rhodes.

From Booklist:

Rhodes, a psychology professor, examines the popularity of mentoring programs and their effectiveness in improving the prospects of disadvantaged youth. She particularly focuses on research involving the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America, the best-known youth-mentoring organization, showing that at-risk youth who are mentored through structured programs are more likely to succeed.

The Person Who Changed My Life: Prominent People Recall Their Mentors by Matilda Raffa Cuomo, Editor with foreword by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Amazon Description:

At some point in the odyssey of our lives, most of us have been affected by caring adults who made a difference: their advice, their guidance, their example led us to encounter the world. The Person Who Changed My Life is a collection of essays in which individuals who have distinguished themselves in their fields write about the men and women who served as their mentors. Among the contributors are Walter Cronkite, Larry King, Dr. Arthur Caliandro, Elie Wiesel, Marian Wright Edelman, Julia Child, Gloria Estefan, and Dina Merrill.

Because You Believed in Me: Mentors and Protégés Who Shaped Our World by Marcia McMullen and Patricia Miller.

From the Publisher:

Because You Believed in Me uses stories of real people—Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Claude Monet and Eugene Boudin, Ulysses S.Grant and Abraham Lincoln—to demonstrate the powerful benefits of mentoring. The relationships of these and other historical pairs are explored throughout this book to illuminate the inherent value of mentoring. What if Eugene Boudin had not encouraged Monet to paint in the out of doors? Could anyone else have inspired him to abandon studio painting and venture into the beauty of landscapes? As with this case, mentors open worlds of possibilities for their proteges. Even brilliant people need heroes.

Or check out a couple new books from the New York Times bestseller list that are focused on women and girls:

Read them already? Comment below and tell us what you think! What other books would you like to suggest for a good read?

“One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

A convention center of one’s own–by guest blogger Judy Neufeld

I remember my very first time at the Massachusetts Conference for Women. It was December of 2005.  I was a recent college graduate in need of a job and sorely missing the support network of being a student. I was unsure what the conference would be like and what the day would bring, but as I walked into the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center that early and chilly Thursday morning, I felt optimistic that I may get some leads on job opportunities and was excited to attend the workshops and panels. What I actually got that day was so much more than just some business cards.

I remember walking in to the Convention Center and being surrounded by thousands of other women. These were women who were eager to learn and grow personally and professionally; women who were eager to mentor and support the younger generation in the crowd; women who wanted to reach out and connect with others. What I got that day at the first Conference was a new network beyond my friends from college; I got a network of other women who wanted to see me succeed, to help me grow personally and professionally.

Now in its fifth year, the Massachusetts Conference for Women remains a space where women gather to connect with each other, motivate and inspire others, and build their personal and professional skills. It is a space where over 4,500 women gather annually to hear from speakers like Suze Orman, personal finance expert and bestselling author; Ruth Simmons, president of Brown University; and Susan Taylor, editor emerita of Essence magazine and founder of the National Cares Mentoring Movement.

Every year, I look forward to the Massachusetts Conference for Women. I always leave the Convention Center feeling refreshed, energized, and inspired to do more. Women need more opportunities to connect with each other and we all need to ensure that we are taking responsibility for mentoring the next generation of young women leaders. In fact, Big Sister Association of Greater Boston has a booth at the conference where women attendees can learn about our mentoring opportunities to ensure that we are all doing our part to encourage, inspire, and support the next generation of young women.  I’m excited that for the third year in a row I will be attending the Conference as a representative of Big Sister Association!

But why should we wait until the Massachusetts Conference of Women to encourage, inspire, and support another woman? Why does it take a space exclusively dedicated to women to help us reflect on our personal and professional goals? What if every day you felt supported and empowered, and in turn helped to instill confidence in a younger woman or girl? Isn’t that what being a mentor is all about?

I hope you’ll leave your comments on this and also join me and Big Sister Association at the Massachusetts Conference for Women on December 10!

All That Jazz: Grace Kelly to Perform at Big in Boston

Grace Kelly performs National Anthem at 2009 NBA Playoff Game between the World Champion Boston Celtics and The Orlando Magic.

“Grace Kelly plays with intelligence, wit and feeling.  She has a great amount of natural ability and the ability to adapt that is the hallmark of a first-class jazz musician.” -Wynton Marsalis

She’s recorded more albums than Miley Cyrus.  She plays more instruments than Taylor Swift.  She’s performed with more legends in her musical genre than Britney Spears, but she won’t be starring in the next Disney movie, appearing on lunch boxes, or lending her name to the latest department store clothing line.  She’s Grace Kelly, and she is amazing.

On November 12, Grace, the Brookline-based jazz sensation, will be performing at Big Sister Association’s signature event, Big in Boston, held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.  Not only will she fill the room with musical talent well beyond her years, she will also represent what is at the core of Big Sister’s mission:  when someone is there to believe in you and support you, there is no limit to what you can do, become, or achieve.

Grace first picked up a saxophone at the age of 10, and hasn’t put it down since.  She became the youngest student ever to complete the four-year Jazz Studies Certificate Program at New England Conservatory Prep School.  At age 15, Grace was offered a full scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music. She finished her high school requirements and entered Berklee College at age sixteen.  She is currently in her sophomore year.

Says Grace of the musical mentors that have helped her on a path to success:  I have been very lucky throughout my career in music to have many wonderful mentors.  Jazz greats such as Lee Konitz, Frank Morgan, Phil Woods and Wynton Marsalis have taken me under their wing and had me perform with them.  However, when I first started in music there was one person in particular who was a significant mentor to me.  My elementary music teacher Ken Berman was the first one to discover my talent and help nurture it.  When I was in kindergarten he heard me sing and immediately recognized it as real talent.  Ken is also a great jazz pianist and wonderful musician.  He was the one who stayed after school to work on songs with me, encouraged me to do my first solo performance at school, and later emboldened me to record my first CD at age 12.  We all know it’s important to have support from your family and friends, and that of course means a lot, but to have a professional musician who mentors you is irreplaceable.  Mr. Berman challenged me, supported me, and believed in me so much.  He watched me grow musically and was there throughout the years to help me out.  He helped me find my passion and for that I will be forever thankful.

Now just seventeen, Grace has already recorded and performed with many notable musicians including Dave Brubeck, Hank Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr., Lee Konitz, Phil Woods, Kenny Barron, Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland, Dianne Reeves, James Cotton, and the Boston Pops, among others.  She has recorded five CDs and performed around the world.

What makes her a great role model for the girls we serve—and girls everywhere—who want to have a career in music is that she has not had a meteoric rise to fame, though she could have gone that route.  Today’s girls are inundated with images of instant fame:  the tween set who become their own brand before they’re even old enough to drive, the American Idol hopefuls who need only endure Simon Cowell’s grueling remarks to make it into the national spotlight.  Instead, she is taking her time to arrive at the stardom for which she is destined.  While Grace’s reputation as an extraordinary musician is growing, she continues to study her craft and to explore new areas of music.  Not only is she an accomplished saxophonist, she is also a singer, songwriter, composer, and arranger.  She plays the alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, piano, clarinet, flute, drums, and bass. In addition to jazz, she embraces blues, funk, rock and contemporary styles.

We look forward to not only hearing Grace’s inspiring music on November, 12, but also her thoughts on the power of mentoring in helping girls follow their dreams.

Click here to learn more about Grace and Big in Boston.