Friend, Mentor, Hero

Friend, Mentor, Hero

Junior Vanessa Battista wins honor for being a 'big sister' to two girls

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Invoking the famous African folk saying "It takes a village to raise a child," the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has named junior Vanessa Battista as a "Village Hero" for her volunteer work with emotionally disturbed children.

Battista served as a "big sister" to two girls, ages 10 and 16, through the MSPCC and was formally honored along with 39 other "Village Heroes" at an event in Boston on Oct. 26. Among the other honorees was Carla Garcia, organizer of the Metro West Children's Champion Network, who is now pursuing a joint degree in law and social work at Boston College.

"Vanessa Battista has certainly served as a 'Village Hero' in the Boston community," said William Hunter, administrator for the Metro Region of the MSPCC. "Her efforts have greatly impacted the lives of children and families in the area. Not only do we view her as a true hero, but so do the children she serves."

A psychology major from Hazlet, NJ, Battista volunteered for the MSPCC last year through the PULSE Program. Under the organization's Project Connect, which serves children with emotional difficulties, she was assigned as a "big sister" to two girls, whom she took separately to BC hockey games, the New England Aquarium and Children's Museum, or to lunch for conversation and companionship. She and her 10-year-old "little sister" were featured in an episode of the WCVB-TV program "Chronicle" in September.

"It was a wonderful experience," said Battista, who keeps framed pictures of her two "little sisters" in her room in Ignacio Hall. "It's all worth it if you make one small difference to one child."

Vanessa Battista.
Battista also worked in a formal internship with the MSPCC, producing an annual summer camp directory and newsletter, and organizing the society's first "Family Day" at Boston College, an event this past July that drew some 50 children and their families to campus for a picnic.

Battista said small things like going out to eat were cherished events for her girls. "For the little one, the cafeteria was the biggest deal, because she could go get anything she wanted," Battista recalled. "The older girl and I would go someplace to eat and talk. She said she felt she could talk to me."

On one occasion, a scheduling problem prevented the older girl from staying for her regular visit. "She got out of the car and started to cry," Battista recalled. "She came up to me and hugged me. She let it all out and trusted me.

"Every small experience we had together reiterated this is what I want to do," said Battista, who hopes for a career in child psychology.

"I was very honored, and surprised in a way," Battista said of her "Village Hero" commendation. "I realized I was making a difference, but didn't feel it was such a big deal."

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