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Boston College Junior Earns Big Sister of the Year Honors

Caroline Kohler (Photo by Caitlin Cunningham)

By Rosanne Pellegrini | Chronicle Staff

Published: Dec. 13, 2012

The Big Sister Association of Greater Boston has chosen junior Caroline Kohler as a 2013 Big Sister of the Year, one of only five selected by the association.

Kohler has been a participant in the Volunteer and Service Learning Center’s (VSLC) “BC BIGS Program” since her sophomore year. Through the Dorchester-based program, youths are brought to campus twice a month on Saturdays to participate in activities and have one-on-one time with their “Bigs” [see accompanying story].  

”Caroline has been a consistent, quiet leader, and is a wonderful mentor to her little sister, Nadege,” says Daniel Ponsetto, Welles R. Crowther Director of the VSLC. “She has emerged as a student leader for our program this year, and is currently working on putting a resource closet together for all of our big brothers and sister on campus.”

“I consider myself extremely blessed to have been chosen out of so many wonderful mentors in the Boston area for this honor,” says Kohler, who will be recognized at an appreciation event next month. “It is significant to me because my little sister and her family were the ones who nominated me. Every other week I meet with her and participate in events and chat about life; to think that she and her family see me as someone that deserves this honor has left me truly humbled.”  

Adds Big Sister Association match support specialist Erin Hynes, “Caroline has been a consistent, positive and supportive big sister and as a result of her commitment to Nadege, she has helped Nadege become more vocal and confident.”

Kohler has helped her little sister choose a high school, explore subjects that interest her and — according to 14-year-old Nadege — always encourages her to be herself.

Among other criteria for the Big Sister of the Year award, volunteer mentors must demonstrate exemplary performance, commitment, perseverance and impact — embracing the Big Sister Association’s mission of helping each girl reach her full potential.  

An English and psychology major from Park Ridge, Ill., Kohler values the award “because it has really given me perspective on what it means to give back. I have had so many wonderful opportunities and mentors in my life. Looking at the relationship that I have built with my ‘Little,’ I want nothing more than to help her realize her goals and be the person that helps her achieve them.”

Kohler considers her Big Sister experience to be “one of the most rewarding of my life. I look forward to my meetings with my little sister; she never ceases to amaze me with her determination, compassion and wonderful sense of humor.  

“The Franklin Field Program is guided by some truly inspiring leaders, and I consider myself lucky to have found such an amazing group of people among the staff at Big Sisters, Big Brothers, the VSLC and the other ‘Bigs’ and ‘Littles.’”

The program, she explains, is “founded on the idea that it is important to expose the ‘Littles’ to a college atmosphere, with the hope that it will inspire them to attend college.”

Kohler and Nadege have participated in a variety of activities together: rock climbing, ice skating, swimming and scavenger hunts around BC; they also took a BC Police Department self-defense class, and attended a BC basketball game.

“I never really thought about how our relationship enriches my ‘Little’s’ life, until the end of last school year. When I reflected on our match, I looked at it from my perspective — but at the end-of-the-year party, I saw it from hers. She was crying because she would not be able to see me for three months while I was home for the summer.

“It was at that moment that it hit me: I was so much more than a mentor to her, I was a friend. Someone she could count on to listen to her, give advice, and offer a different perspective. I realized that I am a real presence in her life and she is a real presence in mine.”