Kathryn Wheeler, Ed.D.

Big Sister Boston is recognizing 70 individuals and groups throughout its 70th anniversary year for their enduring commitment to believing in girls. Among the honorees is Kathryn (Katie) A. Wheeler, Ed.D., a research associate at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST), an action program of the Wellesley Centers for Women.

“I’m honored and flattered to be recognized by Big Sister,” said Wheeler, whose expertise at NIOST is in programs that empower girls. “It’s an inspiring organization that pays attention to the unique needs of girls and connects them to a broad spectrum of women mentors.”

Wheeler has been a supporter and advocate of Big Sister since the 1990s. As founding director of the Girls’ Coalition of Greater Boston, which brought together researchers, funders, and practitioners at organizations focused on girls, Wheeler worked closely with Jerry Martinson, who was then the executive director of Big Sister and chaired the board of the Girls’ Coalition. The Girls’ Coalition often highlighted the mentoring work of Big Sister, and the organizations worked together on reports on the state of local girls and built relationships with Massachusetts legislators who could effect change.

In more recent years, Wheeler supported Big Sister in the early stages of the development of Our Big Futures, a program for currently enrolled Little Sisters, former Little Sisters, and High School Mentoring Big Sisters, ages 14-24, that provides coaching, support, and resources to achieve sustainable financial independence via career development and/or college success. Wheeler also worked with Big Sister on refining the evaluation tool for its Life Choices program, which helps middle and high school girls stay true to themselves and consider the consequences of important life decisions.

“What’s inspiring about Big Sister is that they take research on girls done by organizations like WCW and say, ‘What does this mean for girls’ needs, and how does it affect our programming?’ They work hard to ensure that the relationships between girls and their mentors are meaningful for both the girls and the women,” said Wheeler. “I strongly believe in their work, and as my parenting life evolves, I’m hoping to one day become a Big Sister myself.”

Wheeler will be celebrated, along with the other honorees, at Big in Boston, a virtual event to be held on October 7.

September 3, 2021

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