9 notable, Boston-area women share advice from their mothers

"You can be anyone you want to be in life."

A mom’s good advice can make a lasting impact, as several well-known Boston women can attest.

As Mother’s Day approaches, we asked nine notable city women — from the next superintendent of Boston Public Schools to a Boston police officer who captured the nation with her singing — for the best advice their moms ever gave them.

Maria Stephanos, right, with her mother, Lois Nionakis, and sister Nicole Kieser. —Courtesy of Maria Stephanos

Maria Stephanos, WCVB news anchor
“The best advice my mother, Lois Nionakis, ever gave to my sister Nicole and me [was], ‘Always be kind to people because you never know what they are going through.’ It’s something I think about every single day.”

Kim Tavares as a child with her mother, Leslie Tavares Dorsett. —Courtesy of Kim Tavares
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Singer and Boston police officer Kim Tavares
“I remember her always saying, ‘Kimmie, you can be anything you want to be in life. You can be anyone you want to be in life. Don’t let anyone tell you different!'”

Candy O’Terry holding a photo of herself as a child with her mother, Marjorie Low. —Courtesy of Candy O'Terry

Candy O’Terry, a podcast host and president and co-founder of Boston Women in Media & Entertainment
“My mother, Marjorie, was way ahead of her time as a career woman. In fact, she was the only mom on our street who worked full-time.  I remember asking her why, and she gave me this advice: ‘Always stand on your own two feet. Be and do what you do best.'”

Brenda Cassellius
Brenda Cassellius with her mother, Mary Ann Hjort. —Courtesy of Brenda Cassellius

Brenda Cassellius, the next superintendent of Boston Public Schools
“My mom told us never to take more than what we needed when something was free because when we were little we were poor, but so was everyone else around us.”

Christine Koh with her mother, Rachel Koh.
Christine Koh with her mother, Rachel Koh. —Courtesy of Christine Koh

Christine Koh, founder and editor of Boston Mamas
“When I was a young adult seriously freaking out about money — especially student loans — my mom told me, ‘Life is debt.’ She wasn’t suggesting that I go crazy with credit cards; rather, that there are times in your life when you need to invest and take on debt in order to serve your final goal — and that you’ll be able to resolve the debt eventually if you plan smartly. This completely changed my thinking about money and helped me go on to complete my PhD and then, after I left academia, build and grow five different businesses. And my mom was right; I paid off those student loans ages ago!”

Kim McLarin with her mother, Ethelene McLarin. —Courtesy of Kim McLarin
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Kim McLarin, Emerson College associate professor and author of “Womanish: A Grown Black Woman Speaks on Love and Life”
“The best advice my mother ever gave me was: ‘Don’t ever have that first nervous breakdown.'”

Yuri Asawasittikit
Yuri Asawasittikit with her mother, Nantiya Asawasittikit. —Courtesy of Yuri Asawasittikit

Yuri Asawasittikit, chef and co-owner at Cambridge’s Mae Asian Eatery
“My mom has always told me that life is made up of many different journeys, and while on these journeys, she has taught me to never be ungrateful and never forget the people who have helped me along the way. Five months ago I opened my first restaurant, my latest journey, and I simply cannot repay those that have supported me enough and will forever be grateful!”

Karyn Polito
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito with her mother, Judy Polito. —Courtesy Karyn Polito

Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito
“My mom told me from an early age that I could be anything I wanted to be. She would constantly whisper encouraging words of support in my ear, building my confidence to try and to not be afraid to fail. Along my journey, I found myself in unlikely places, and with her support, found myself saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities. Everyone needs a champion, and I’m grateful for my mom – my No. 1 champion.”

Christine Hurley
Christine Hurley with her mother, Patricia McNamara. —Courtesy of Christine Hurley

Christine Hurley, comedian
“Get up each day with a smile and a purpose and be nice to people.”

Responses have been edited for clarity and grammar.