Big Sister wishes to congratulate the seven remarkable women who were honored on November 12, 2009, as our Big Sisters and Community Partner of the Year. Each woman has gone above and beyond in her commitment to girls and mentoring.
Community-Based Mentoring Big Sisters of the Year
Joy, who lives in Brighton and works at the Harvard School of Public Health, has been matched with her Little Sister Roseanne, 15, of Allston, since October 2005. Roseanne says she likes her Big Sister because “She’s smart, funny, easy to get along with, and always has good ideas for what to do…not to mention she understands that there is no such thing as too much frosting.” Joy and Roseanne often attend Big Sister-sponsored activities and are known for the unique costumes they create every year for the Big and Little Sister Halloween party. Most recently they dressed up as “self-rescuing” princesses. The costume serves as a testament to the confidence Joy has instilled in her Little Sister; confidence derived from the trusting relationship Joy formed with Roseanne. When asked what kinds of new experiences Joy has encouraged her Little Sister to try, Roseanne responded simply, “Where do I start?” Roseanne’s mother says that since being matched with Joy, her daughter has become more confident, more willing to try new activities, and more committed to those activities. Their match is supported by Big Sister social worker Jessica Mendenhall.
Susan, who lives in Milton and works at the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, has been matched with her Little Sister Tiarra, 16, of Stoughton, since October 2002. Susan has not only given Tiarra crucial one-on-one attention, she also engaged her in many activities that Tiarra’s mother is unable to. Susan’s consistent presence in her Little Sister’s life has resulted in several positive outcomes for Tiarra. “Since Tiarra has been matched with Susan, her self-esteem has improved, her academic abilities have improved and she has a better understanding about life and people,” says Tiarra’s mother. She adds that Susan’s involvement has not only benefited Tiarra, but also her entire family by giving Tiarra another adult she can turn to for support. Their match is supported by Big Sister social worker Emily Goldstein.
Shannon, who lives in Dorchester and works at Hemenway & Barnes, has been matched with her Little Sister Miranda, 14, of Mattapan, since November 2002. Shannon helps Miranda navigate adolescence by creating an open and honest relationship with her. Miranda often confides in her Big Sister and turns to her for advice. Miranda respects Shannon for the way she supports her in making positive, healthy decisions, but does not make them for her. “Shannon has helped me by letting me know my rights and showing me right from wrong,” says Miranda. Miranda’s grandmother, who is raising her, adds, “I have seen Miranda grow up to be a fine teenager with the help of Shannon.” Shannon is also a member of Big Sister’s Diversity Council, which aims to recruit more women of color to volunteer as Big Sisters. Their match is supported by Big Sister social worker Jessica Mendenhall.
School-Based Mentoring Big Sisters of the Year
Kathleen, who lives in Scituate, was matched with Kari, 11, at the Parker Elementary School in Quincy in April 2007. When Kari made the transition to Quincy’s Atlantic Middle School this year, she and Kathleen continued to meet weekly during Kari’s lunch time. While the two enjoy being silly and playing games when they get together (Kathleen has yet to beat Kari at cards!), they also take time to work on building Kari’s assertiveness. Though Kari was once very shy, she is now able to approach her peers with confidence on the playground. She and Kathleen even got up on stage and sang during lunch! Kari says the best part about having Kathleen as a Big Sister is that “She always listens to me when I have problems and makes me laugh a lot.” For Kathleen, the best part about being Kari’s Big Sister is “seeing Kari’s face light up when I come through the door every week.” Their match is supported by Big Sister social worker Meaghan Quinlan.
Kelly, who lives in Boston and works at Seaward Management, was matched with Joyce, 12, at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School in March 2006. Joyce is now in seventh grade at the Josiah Quincy Upper School and continues to meet with Kelly weekly. “I love seeing Joyce evolve and grow up. Life is tough and growing up is not easy. I hope that I help Joyce with this process by accepting her no matter what and always being there for her,” says Kelly. Kelly’s consistent presence in her Little Sister’s life has created a strong sense of trust in Joyce and helped to nurture Joyce’s strengths. “Kelly always comes up with activities to support Joyce’s needs, from more structured projects at the beginning, to more conversation-based interactions now that they have built a comfortable friendship,” says Ashley Jackson, the Big Sister social worker who supports the match and nominated Kelly.
Group Mentoring Big Sister of the Year
Rose, a student at Berklee College of Music, (pictured at the far left with her fellow Big Sisters) is currently in her second year as a Group Mentoring Big Sister. In 2008, Rose volunteered in the group held at the Central Middle School in Quincy. This year, Rose is a Big Sister at the Renaissance Charter School in Boston. Rose is deeply committed to her groups and even arranged to travel to Quincy with the group leader because she did not have transportation of her own. She builds strong relationships with the girls she mentors and her fellow Big Sisters. “When I was 13 I didn’t have someone in this kind of role,” says Rose. “It’s an amazing experience to be that person for a girl now.” She adds that she likes Group Mentoring because “the girls in the group get a cross-section of women to learn from. All the Big Sisters have something unique to offer.”
Community Partner of the Year
Linda Clarke, Vice Principal
William Blackstone Elementary School, South End, Boston
Linda has supported and fostered the growth of Big Sister’s School-Based Mentoring program at the Blackstone since 2002. She serves as a liaison between the school and our social workers who make and support the Big and Little Sister matches. Her support allowed us to serve 43 girls at the Blackstone during the 2008-2009 school year. Linda also serves as a resource to the Big and Little Sisters who meet at her school. She considers the Big Sister program to be an important part of the student support services available at the Blackstone, and takes time to refer girls to the program in addition to her other responsibilities as vice principal. Additionally, Linda secured a designated classroom space for Big and Little Sisters to meet in during their weekly visits, which allows for quality one-on-one time together.