Match Spotlight: Big Sister Kate and Little Sister Breanna

kate and bre 1Big Sister Kate and Little Sister Breanna were first matched less than a year ago in one of our site based programs.

Q: Tell me about your Little Sister, Breanna.

Big Sister Kate: I met Breanna this past Thanksgiving and instantly felt an easy connection with her. I am not sure if it was because we both share a healthy love of Dr. Pepper and Doritos, or that we are both obsessed with all animals-she has a cat, dog and hamster and I have 2 dogs and 2 cats-but it has been great getting to know Breanna for the last 8 months. She has a quick wit and once she has warmed up to you, it really shines. She is kind to everyone she meets and easy to laugh with. Every week she has a different nail polish color on and she keeps me up to date on all the new bands-though we do have a shared love for Nirvana

Q: What was your first time meeting like?

Kate: Breanna can be a little shy when you first meet her so I just told a bunch of funny stories about my family or my dogs until I got her to crack her first smile. After that first laugh, we were instant buds.

kate and bre 3Q: How have things changed since then?

Kate: I think we are both a lot more comfortable with each other and it feels like an easy friendship. She is much more confident in herself and I see that she isn’t as shy meeting strangers when we are together. She can voice her opinion a lot more freely and seems to be comfortable telling me about anything that is going on in her life.  Breanna is a special girl to spend time with – its always the highlight of my week when I see her.

Q: What positive changes have you seen in Breanna over the course of the match?

Kate: Breanna and I would both say her school work, I think. When we met, she was really struggling with math and science so we sat down and came up with a game plan for the next semester. We talked about what a realistic grade goal for each class would be and we brainstormed on little steps she could take to achieve those goals, for instance, maybe in math, she raises her hand a few more times each week in class or in science she would check in with her teacher once a week after class to get a little extra help. And her report card just before summer break really reflected her hard work! She surpassed all of the goals we set for her and I really couldn’t be more proud of her.

Kate and Bre 4Q: What is one of your favorite memories together?

Kate: I think it would have to be when we went to get pedicures. She had never had one and it had been WAY TOO LONG since I had one, so we made a little spa day out of it. We got lunch beforehand, then sat next to each other in the chairs. She picked out this neon green color for herself and she chose a great pink for me. It was funny watching her try not to laugh as they rubbed her feet. Just a great girly day out.

Q: What do you like about being a Big Sister?

Kate: It is, by far, the best thing I have ever volunteered for. Breanna is such a great girl and I feel lucky that we were matched up. We get asked by strangers if we are sisters and I think both Breanna and I get a good laugh from that.

Q: What, if any, challenges have you faced being a Big Sister and how have you overcome them?

Kate: I think the hardest thing has been learning how to talk through life’s challenges with Breanna. Some of it is typical “almost-in-high school” things but some of it is helping Breanna navigate the specific challenges she has faced since she was little. She is a brave girl and a heck of a lot smarter than she gives herself credit for and I just hope I am helping make the transition into young adulthood a little smoother for her.

kate and bre 2Q: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your friendship with Breanna?

Kate: I really can’t wait to see all that she accomplishes as she moves into high school. She is going to go far and I am just thankful I get to be a part of her life

Thank you, Kate, for being an amazing volunteer and dedicating your time to your friendship with Breanna. 

My Year as a Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassador of Mentoring: A Personal Essay

April AmeriCorps Image

When I first told my family and friends that I wanted to do an AmeriCorps year of service most of them either did not know what AmeriCorps was or were concerned I’d be giving up too much to “work a full time job that hardly pays anything”.

My explanation to them was always quite simple: Because it’ll be worth it.

I originally applied for an AmeriCorps NCCC position, was accepted and unfortunately had to turn down the opportunity as I had personal conflicts that would interfere with the start date. Little did I know that would not be the end of my experience with AmeriCorps. A few months later, I applied for a part time position with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/MetroWest (BBBS of CMMW). During my interview with the agency staff members, they had a proposition for me: perform an AmeriCorps year of service as a Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassador of Mentoring in conjunction with my part-time, 10 hour/week position with the agency. The AmeriCorps opportunity seemed to fall in my lap once again and I wasn’t going to turn it down this time.

And I’m glad I didn’t.

Over the course of the year I have gained more than I could have imagined, but I will highlight the three most important things this opportunity has given me: a sense of confidence, an appreciation for teamwork, and an understanding of the importance of mentoring.

“You’re going to take on a recruitment role? But you hate talking to new people!”

Again, when I first introduced the position to my family and friends, they had their doubts. This time for a different reason. This particular position involved recruiting, marketing, and running programs. Anyone who knew me before I took on this role knew that I could be very reserved and generally reticent depending upon the situation. I took the position anyway, to challenge myself. It was a risk, but I overcame the apprehension of “talking to new people”. It took time but it started to become easy. I still have a lot of growing to do, but I have seen a major difference in myself over the past year. I have learned that without confidence, I’m limiting myself.

I would still be lacking the confidence I needed to be successful in this role if it weren’t for my supportive coworkers here at BBBS of CMMW or for the amazing people that make up the Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassadors of Mentoring. At the very first Corps meeting I attended we completed a work personality test. We were categorized as a North, South, East or West. After taking the test, I was clearly a South; a team player, non-confrontational, sensitive, helpful. I took the test back to my host site at BBBS of CMMW and had my coworkers complete it as well. It was no wonder we all worked so well together. To my North was Katherine, an assertive, confident and natural leader to keep me on track and push me to do my best. I had Stephanie to my West, who is a creative, innovative, free-spirit to help me not worry about the little things and provide us all with a consistent positive attitude. And to my East I had Dawne, a natural planner, and focused, quality centered woman to provide me with support along the way and a focus on what’s important. Together we completed the compass. Through this, I have come to appreciate and now put high value on working with a team.

The final, and quite possibly, most significant thing I will take from this experience is an understanding of the importance of mentoring. Growing up I wouldn’t have said that I had a mentor but now that I have seen firsthand how a mentoring relationship works and the impact it can have on both the mentor and the mentee, I realize I was mistaken. Between my sisters, parents, family members and teachers, I had (and still have) more than I can count. I’m fortunate to have so many positive, caring and supportive relationships in my life. Through this experience I have learned that, all too often, children do not have the same fortune I did growing up. Some kids don’t have someone to tell them they did great on that test or that everything will be ok when hardship surfaces. It is because of programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the countless other mentoring organizations across the United States that kids are given the opportunity to have a piece of the fortune I had as a child.

As my experience as a Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassador of Mentoring comes to a close, I have a bittersweet feeling swirling in my stomach. I am feeling proud and accomplished for completing a year of service and dedicating my time to an organization that does amazing work. I am feeling enlightened after serving with such a diverse, unique and talented Corps of people I can now call friends. I am feeling grateful for the opportunity I have been given to learn, grow and truly experience what it’s like to work in the nonprofit field. And I am feeling saddened by the idea that this experience is ending.

Thank you to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass / MetroWest staff, the Mass Mentoring Partnership staff, the Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassadors of Mentoring, and especially my family and friends for the tremendous support along the way.

It was worth it.

AOM Group Photo

Staff Spotlight: Junior Belisea

staff spotlight junior annual meetingJunior Belisea is a charismatic part of our team here at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/MetroWest. You may have seen him snapping photos at one of our events or heard him singing in the hallways of our office. You may even be lucky enough to have Junior as your Interview & Match Support Specialist.

As an Interview & Match Support Specialist, Junior oversees four of our site based programs in Worcester in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Clubs in Plumley Village and Great Brook Valley, the YMCA, and Flagg St. School. Junior is responsible for recruiting volunteer Bigs from Holy Cross, Assumption College and Becker College. Once he recruits, screens and interviews the volunteers, he then identifies and interviews children in need of mentors. He then trains and carefully matches the children (Littles) with the volunteers (Bigs). Over the course of the year, Junior works hard to supervise the match to make sure he is offering quality match support for the success and long term relationship of the match.

staff spotlight junior rodman rideBefore joining our team three years ago, Junior worked for another nonprofit agency, Morgan Memorial Goodwill. Prior to that, he worked as a Social Program Coordinator and the Head of Interpreters for a nonprofit hospital that served poor communities in the Dominican Republic, which is where he was born and raised. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Business from Universidad Dominicana O&M and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from Worcester State University.

staff spotlight junior familyJunior met his wife, Sarah, a former Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central MA/MW employee, in the Dominican Republic and they have two beautiful children together; Jeremiah who is 2 and Jamilah who is 9 months. During his free time, and when he isn’t cooking (and eating!) he likes to play softball, basketball and baseball.

He also plays the trumpet in a merengue band, Revelacion Maranatha.

Assumption Field Day GroupIt is safe to say that Junior is passionate about the work he does. When asked what his favorite memory working for the agency was he struggled to pick just one but settled for the time he made his very first match in 2012.

It was very rewarding and I felt very happy and blessed to be part of the process of matching a child.  Right after she came to me and said “Mr. Junior thanks so much for getting me my Big Sister, it’s a dream come true!”  I will never forget those words it really meant a lot to me personally.

     ~Junior Belisea, Interview & Match Support Specialist

staff spotlight junior staff appreciation day

Anyone who knows Junior, knows that he brings a light and refreshing attitude to our organization and makes everyone laugh and feel welcome with his infectious personality. Junior is an incredibly hard worker and we cannot thank him enough for his time, effort and dedication to our mission and agency.

Tie-Dye Fun!

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Last week, eight of our matches had a blast getting creative with tie-dye (some even tie-dyed their socks!), enjoying pizza and having their pictures drawn by a caricaturist, all thanks to Big Sister Yvonne Perez.

For the second year in a row, Yvonne graciously offered her home, time, and support to throw a tie-dye party for our community based matches and it was a hit!

“It was a simple, laid back and great Tuesday night event for our matches. The kids loved being able to get messy and Yvonne made everyone feel welcome”.

-Katherine Ott, Customer Relations/Match Support

The party even ended with a viewing of Disney’s Frozen. 

A BIG thank you goes to Yvonne for throwing this event and being dedicated to her Little Sister, Melina for the past two years!

Check out all the great photos below!

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2015 KELLY Award Winner: Little Sister Tynnetta

Tynnetta Red SoxThe annual KELLY Award (Keep Encouraging Lifelong Learning for Youth) is an educational award supported by Mass Mentoring, the Kelly Family Foundation and Liberty Mutual. The award was established and named in 2007 in honor of Debbie and Ted Kelly to provide educational support to mentees of any age who have overcome adversity. Each year the educational gift is awarded to a mentee, nominated by his or her mentor, who has overcome and persevered through adversity.

Stephanie and Tynnetta Accepting AwardWe are proud to announce that the recipient of this year’s KELLY Award was none other than a mentee from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest, Tynnetta! Tynnetta was nominated for this award by her long-time Big Sister, Stephanie Twine-Haig. Tynnetta and Stephanie’s relationship began ten years ago in one of our site-based programs. In 2009, the match moved to our community based program. They have been changing each other’s lives for the better ever since.

Stephanie and Tynnetta OfficeAlmost ten years ago, we created a bond that has developed into a strong, lasting relationship. We have built trust, companionship and love. I have been there for Tynnetta and in turn she has been there for me.

-Big Sister Stephanie Twine-Haig

Here at BBBSCMMW we are very proud of Tynnetta and what she has accomplished over the years.

Tynnetta SpeechWe have had the pleasure of watching Tynnetta transition from a young child to a young adult. Stephanie and Tynnetta have attended many of our events throughout the years and it has been wonderful to watch them grow. Tynnetta has found the strength to overcome adversity. She has turned to her mentor for advice, support and help.

-Gail Melgren, Interview & Match Support Specialist

The following are excerpts are taken directly from Sonja Kelly’s speech at the Champions of Mentoring Breakfast at Fenway Park where Tynnetta received the award.

Tynnetta has dealt with a difficult home life from the time she and Stephanie were matched. She faced significant challenges that strained relationships with her parents, and could have become a barrier to her success. Through perseverance and the support from Stephanie and her mentoring program and others she has overcome these obstacles and has achieved many of her goals.

Tynnetta is in advanced placement classes for art, psychology and science. She took a dual enrollment class last year at Worcester State University to get a sense of college work and got an A. She has also excelled in sports and has been a three sport student athlete since her sophomore year, serving as the captain of the girls’ basketball and volleyball teams. She is on the yearbook committee and has volunteered at Abbey’s House, a Worcester organization assisting homeless and battered women, for five years.

Stephanie and Tynnetta GraduationTynnetta recently graduated from Doherty High School and is planning to attend Salem State University in the Fall to major in Psychology and minor in Criminal Justice. A BIG thank you goes to Stephanie for her 10 year commitment to Tynnetta and BBBSCMMW! Your devotion and dedication truly defines the meaning of mentoring!

We would also like to thank Sonja Kelly and Mass Mentoring Partnership for choosing Tynnetta for this wonderful award to help her pursue her educational goals!

Staff Spotlight: Dawne Dragonetti

Dawne Ben Bailey

Dawne with Ben Bailey, host of The BIG Show! Dawne played a major role in the success of this event.

Many of you may already know this wonderful, hard-working, and upbeat woman, but for those of you who haven’t been lucky enough to hear her proudly speak about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest, witness her make instant connections with those around her, or try her delicious baked goods, meet Dawne Dragonetti.

Dawne splits her time here with BBBSCMMW as the Development Associate & the Interview/Match Support Specialist for several of our site-based mentoring programs in Metrowest. Dawne has kindly answered the following questions so you all can get to know her better!

Dawne with sons Greg and Bryan in London cruising the River Thames.

Dawne with sons Greg and Bryan in London cruising the River Thames.

Q: What was life like before becoming part of the BBBSCMMW family?

A: I grew up in Fair Haven, New Jersey. I spent my summers at the beach in SeaBright with NBC anchor Brian Williams, shared a beverage with Clarence Clemons when he and Bruce Springsteen used to play at the area restaurants and bars and changed the diapers of Fox News Channels’ Brett Baier. I met my husband, Mark, while we were in college in New Jersey 32 years ago. I have two sons-Greg, 27, and Bryan, 23. My Mom lives on the Cape in Eastham and Mark’s family is back in NJ. I retired last year after 20 years as a Special Education Teacher at Center School in Stow where I also live.

Dawne with one of our Littles participating in The Discovery Museums' Traveling Science Workshop

Dawne with one of our Littles participating in The Discovery Museums’ Traveling Science Workshop

Q: How did you get started here at BBBSCMMW?

A: I don’t think I really understood the whole retirement thing…..it only lasted 7 days and then I was back to work! I started as a volunteer with the Director of Development, John Slattery, helping with The BIG Celebration held in Stow. I enjoyed working with him and the rest of the staff. As I learned more about BBBS I knew I wanted to be a part of it. The most rewarding part of teaching was seeing how you could make a difference in a student’s life and now, being a part of BBBS, I can continue to do that.

Q: What do you enjoy about working here?

A: Everything! I love working with such a young, creative and caring staff and also meeting all the friends that BBBSCMMW has. I am amazed by their dedication and their energy. I learn something new everyday….who knew you could teach an old dog new tricks!?

Matches painted pumpkins at the Fall Orchard Event

Matches painted pumpkins at the Fall Orchard Event

Q: What is one of your favorite memories working at BBBSCMMW?

A: It is hard to pick just one and I continue to make new ones everyday. One of my first and favorite was the Fall Apple Picking Event. It was wonderful to see all the matches, the kids on the waiting list, and the staff having a great time eating cider donuts, painting pumpkins and running around laughing and having a blast. I saw the dedication of our volunteers and staff. It was also great to see the kids trying to figure out what apple picking is all about.

Q: When you’re not working, what do you like to do?

Dawne's beautiful garden at home.

Dawne’s beautiful garden at home.

A: I like to keep busy. My favorite things to do are work in my gardens (veggie and perennial gardens), try new recipes out on the BBBS staff and anything craft related. Lately I have been trying my hand at making jewelry.

Q: What is one fun fact about yourself that you’d like to share?

A: I went to Norway for 10 days with my family and met relatives that I had been hearing about since I was little. We hiked fjords, climbed mountains, and ate some incredible food!

We are grateful to have Dawne as part of our BBBSCMMW family. We would like to thank Dawne for all of her hard work and dedication to this organization and our mission!

Dawne Intel

Dawne with co-workers Stephanie and Katherine at our STEM event at Intel!

Dawne TJX Marlborough

Dawne created a new program with ten new matches at the TJX Companies in Marlborough!


Worcester Area College Mentor Program: Field Days

Assumption Field Day Group

Field Day at Assumption College

Winter is finally over, spring is here and summer is just around the corner! Colleges and Universities have brought their academic years to a close and for our nearly 700 matches in our Worcester Area College Mentor Program, which recently celebrated its 15th anniversary!,  this signifies the end of our mentoring program year. Some matches have said, “See you in the fall!” while others will spend time together over the summer after transitioning to our community based program and a few have unfortunately said goodbye as the Bigs are graduating.

Holy Cross Field Day girl match

A match at the College of the Holy Cross Field Day

Holy Cross Field Day 1 match

A match at the College of the Holy Cross Field Day

To celebrate these mentors, mentees and the relationships they have created over the past year, we hold events or activities at each college campus called Field Days. Over the past month, we have held Field Days at The College of the Holy Cross, Assumption College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).

Field Day is important for a few reasons, it’s an environment which is new and exciting for the Littles and it is completely different from the routine of the match, both Big and Little get to blow off steam and just enjoy the time. I think the event also provides some closure for matches that are either ending for the summer or permanently because either the Big or Little is graduating.

                -Katie Roy, Match Support Specialist

Assumption Field Day 2 matches

Matches at the Assumption College Field Day

Assumption Field Day one match

A match at the Assumption College Field Day

The Littles got to spend extra time with their Bigs playing sports, doing arts & crafts and playing a variety of games. Of course, there were lots of snacks, drinks and pizza for all the matches to enjoy! The Bigs were also able to give their Littles a tour of their school. Because our programs are usually held at the school or site of our Littles, this gives our Bigs the opportunity to show off where they go to school, provides plenty of room for special activities and allows the Littles to see what life is like in a college setting.

I love to see the kids get off the bus and run into the Bigs’ arms. I like to hear how much fun they had on campus and how the kids talk about going to that school once they leave campus. They can see a future right in their home town.

                -Melanie Perreault, VP of Programs

The Clark University Brothers and Sisters (CUBS) celebrated in a different way by renting out a movie theater for our matches to see Home, a heartwarming movie about an unlikely friendship between a young girl and an alien from another planet.

 Field days, or end of the year trips in our case, are important because it gives us a chance to wrap up the year with energy and enthusiasm. Our movie trip provided us with a space in which we could celebrate the progress our Bigs and Littles made this year. It also gave us the opportunity to recognize our Bigs who were about to graduate and our Littles moving up to the sixth grade. Field days are a great space to celebrate the year!

                -Jackie Lyon, Match Support Specialist

CUBS Match

A CUBS Match

Field days serve as a way for our matches to end the school year with a special memory. We would like to extend a BIG thank you to all of the colleges in our Worcester Area College Mentor Program and congratulate all of our mentors who graduated this year!

We would also like to thank Polar Beverages for donating all of the soda and water to our events, and Tech Pizza and Big Y for the discounted food items.

STEMPlay: The Discovery Museums Traveling Science Workshop

Discovery Nariely, Jamie and EvanAs part of our STEM Initiative, we partnered with The Discovery Museums to bring one of their many Traveling Science Workshops to our program at The Framingham Boys and Girls Club where Littles who attend the Club are matched with Bigs from Framingham High School.

This workshop was all about sound. Tuning forks, ping pong balls and wrenches were just a few of the items used to demonstrate that sound is vibration. The instructor started off each of the different experiments by explaining the tools she was using and having a couple of the Littles demonstrate. She then engaged the rest of the group by asking them why they thought what happened did. Next it was the matches’ turn to explore on their own! Discovery Cassie, Luis, Ashton and Josh Discovery Camila, Ashley, Sam, Jennifer

Our Bigs and Littles were able to learn and experiment with several hands-on activities, including creating their own mini instruments out of paper cups, string, a paper clip, and a wet paper towel. The matches even got to take home and show off everything that they made!

Discovery Olivia and ArianeDiscovery Erika and Carly

Our matches had a blast creating, experimenting with, and learning about Sound. A BIG thank you goes to The Discovery Museums for this wonderful opportunity to bring STEMPlay into our programs.

For more photos, click here.

CUBS Visit the Boston Children’s Museum!

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Clark University Brothers and Sisters (CUBS) with Bigs from Clark and Littles from Woodland Academy and Goddard School of Science and Technology took an adventure all the way to Boston last Saturday to visit the Boston Children’s Museum. The Bigs and Littles had a great time exploring the museum, seeing all of the fun and educational exhibits and spending some quality time together outside of the usual site-based programs. Going to the museum was a great learning opportunity for our matches! We love that our matches were able to combine education and fun all in one trip. 

CUBS Photo 1CUBS is not only a network of dedicated volunteers, it is also a club at Clark with a dedicated Executive Board who meet regularly to plan field trips and activities for our matches in addition to ensuring our site-based programs are fully supplied with the games and materials that keep our matches engaged. To the left is a photo of CUBS President Conner Daube, a senior at Clark, with his Little Brother, Prince. They have been matched at Goddard for nearly three years!

CUBS Photo 4CUBS Photo 5Clark Bigs and Littles had a great time at the Boston Children’s Museum! The agency truly values the extra time our site-based mentors put in to make these trips possible. We look forward to many more exciting trips to come!

THE BIG SHOW: March 29th, 2015

Big Show FB Event PageBig Show Blog 1 Big Show Blog 2Keep your calendars open on March 29 because Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central MA/MW will be hosting an exciting fundraiser at The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts-The Big Show! Ben Bailey, comedian and host of the television show “Cash Cab,” will perform along with acts from local area colleges including The Clark Bars, The 13th Key and David’s Angels (Clark University); Sons of Pitches, Rhythm Nation Steppaz, Fools on the Hill and Holy Cross Cheer Squad (The College of the Holy Cross); African Percussion Ensemble and The Rockets Dance Team (Worcester Polytechnic Institute); Worcester State University Dance Team; and Becker College Dance Team.

Big Show Blog 3 Big show post 5The BIG Show is a fundraiser to celebrate 15 years of BBBS of CMMW’s Worcester Area College Mentor Program, which pairs college students with children in a one-to-one mentoring relationship which can last four, or more, years. The program, which originated at The College of the Holy Cross and now includes six other schools, has impacted more than 6,000 lives and is believed to be the largest of its kind in the country.

Big Show Post 4 Big Show Blog Post 8“Nearly 700 college students in the Greater Worcester area give their time each week to mentor a child facing adversity,” said Jeffrey Chin, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest. “We know it benefits the kids, but the college mentors report that the experience has a profoundly positive effect on them as well.”

Big Show Blog Post 7Big Show Blog 6“The BIG Show” takes place Sunday, March 29, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. at The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts in Worcester. Full price tickets are $25 and $50 depending on seating location. Discounted tickets are available for $5 with college student ID. A limited number of VIP tickets, which include a catered pre-show reception at noon, are available for $100 or $75 (for two or more). For more information visit www.thehanovertheatre.org or call the box office at 877-571-7469.

“The BIG Show” is supported in part by The Hanover Theatre, Worcester Chamber of Commerce, Worcester Business Journal and WCCATV.
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