The beginning of a new school year often brings exciting new opportunities and challenges. For Big Sister Isabella and Little Sister Nevaeh the past four years have meant resuming their special friendship in Big Sister Boston’s High School Mentoring Academy. “Nevaeh and I were matched my freshman year of high school, and since then we spent four years building our bond,” reflects Isabella, who is now a freshman at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.
In the High School Mentoring Academy program teen students from Boston Latin Academy mentor Little Sisters at the Trotter Innovation School during their after-school time. The teen Big Sisters also receive mentoring from Big Sister’s staff and women volunteers from Comcast, which helps them to be effective mentors and sets them on a path to academic success through activities that foster leadership and college preparation. When Isabella and Nevaeh were first matched in the program, they got to know each other through simple activities like craft projects. However, as time went on, the most important thing they would craft in their time together was their unique relationship.
“My time with Nevaeh has made a big impact on me,” said Isabella. “When I make decisions, I always ask myself, ‘If Nevaeh were here, would I be setting a good example?’”
And Isabella has set a good example. By giving Nevaeh an outlet to open up about everything from body positivity to future goals, Nevaeh has found the power to create her own definition of confidence. “You shouldn’t worry about what others think of you,” said Nevaeh. “When I feel most confident, I’m focusing on how I feel, not what others think.”
While a new school year presents plenty of opportunity for new experiences, it also exposes students to the opinions of peers, which can be both positive and negative. In order to help students in every stage of their school career adopt the mindfulness and confidence Isabella and Nevaeh have helped to foster in one another, they’re recommending the below “back to school” essentials to make the most of the year:
Big Sister Isabella and Little Sister Nevaeh’s Back to School Survival Guide
- Use the buddy system: Having someone there to talk to about your day, eat lunch with or walk to class with has the potential to transform your outlook for the better. “I admire that when I feel sad, Isabella knows how to make me happy.” By simply being present for Nevaeh, Isabella has shown her that there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel. So, next time you see someone sitting by themselves in the cafeteria, offer to keep them company. It could be the turning point in their day.
- Don’t let the stereotypes define you: School isn’t just about defining words – it’s also about figuring out how you’d like to define yourself. It can be easy to fall into stereotyped definitions when deciphering this, especially for young girls. For example, “feminine,” a standard that has been set for women and girls, is formally defined as “having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness.” Nevaeh has decided that there’s nothing “delicate” about the confidence she’s grown. “’Feminine’ is when you’re able to show how you truly feel – it shouldn’t be about what you look like on the outside. It’s what’s on the inside that matters.” Remember that just because stereotypes exist, doesn’t mean that they can’t be broken.
- Dream big: “I want to be a baker, chef, or karate teacher when I get older,” said Nevaeh. The future holds endless possibilities, and school provides an environment to explore each and every one. Nevaeh isn’t limiting herself in her career aspirations, and both her classes and her Big Sister Isabella are largely to thank for that. Through her education and relationship with Nevaeh, Isabella learned that she wanted to pursue a path dedicated to the wellbeing of children. She began a major in early childhood education at the University of Massachusetts Lowell this fall. “I want to be a Pre-K teacher,” said Isabella. “Maybe then I’ll go on to be a juvenile lawyer.” “Oh yeah, I want to try that, too!” added Nevaeh, following the example of Isabella’s “the sky is the limit” mentality.
While Isabella and Nevaeh have now “graduated” from the High School Mentoring Academy, the lasting impact of their four-year friendship has equipped them both for the school year ahead.