The Seniors and the Youth

Our bus pulled into the community around 10:30 in the morning filled with children from the ages of six to twelve. As we disembarked from our bus, we were greeted by a special group of people who sang the old christian song ”When the Saints Go Marching In.” The group of people who greeted us were some of the most joyous and hospitable people you will ever find; they also happen to be much older than anyone getting off that bus. The incredible people we met that day were the saintly people of the “Linden Pond Retirement community.”

The seniors of Linden pond organized a morning filled with great activities for the kids, including a parachute, dancing and singing, and a a videographer to capture it all. We were then escorted downstairs to a lunch for the ages. We ate hot dogs, hamburgers, and salad. We also had macaroni and cheese and watermelon. They fed us like kings and queens. We were then brought outside to the ice cream truck that the seniors had rented out for us. The kids had bomb pops, popsicles, fudge-sickles, and more. Just when I thought that the seniors could not do anymore, they outdid themselves. They had an ambulance, police car, and army truck brought for the children to play in. There was even a real life police officer there as well. Wow!! I heard many kids say that “this was the best day ever!!”  

As the day came to a close, the incredible people of linden ponds had one last treat up their sleeves. They gave each child three books, a miniature globe, and a wristband. We were entertained, fed, and educated by these incredible people. The seniors at linden ponds made an indelible impression of many kids that day. It truly was “one of the best days of our lives.”    

By Bruckner Knight, Site Manager at Church of the Holy Spirit

Bruckner was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. He currently lives in Milton with his wife and three daughters. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in government from Northeastern University, and earned a master’s degree in business management from Emmanuel College. He worked as a fund manager for JP Morgan Chase and Reuters. After 17 years in corporate America, he decided he wanted to work with urban youth, so he pursued a new career in education. He has worked in the Boston Public Schools for the last five years as a history teacher. He is a fierce believer in education as the way out of poverty for urban youth.

For the past four years, he has run an overnight camp in Maine with over 200 campers from around New England and Canada. Additionally, he has run the pre-teen ministry for his church for the last five years. He has a passion for the urban youth in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan, and prides himself on being an example they can follow. When not fighting for the youth of Boston, he enjoys traveling, reading, playing basketball, and bolstering his Spanish-speaking skills.

Epiphany JCITs keep rockin' it!

Hey y’all,

It’s Melody Abraham and Ashley German, Epiphany JCITs here! It’s only day eight of B-SAFE but a third of the learning has already taken place and we’ve done quite a lot as JCITs. So far we’ve gained leadership and professional development skills and experience and have gone on many different field trips.

One awesome part of being a JCIT is getting to work with the elementary program, LEARN. We help counselors to keep kids safe and focused throughout the day and run Fun at Home Days. This week we taught LEARN about the importance of community engagement. We asked LEARN about what they love most about their communities and together brainstormed ways to make our communities even more beautiful. We enjoyed painting rocks and bird houses with them to help spread positivity and creativity in our neighborhood.

When we are not working with the elementary kids we have fun growing together as JCITs. This week visited the Isabella Gardner Museum and last week we toured Fitchburg State University and took a ferry to Thompson Island where we climbed a 62 foot tower (many of us reaching the top!) When we are not out of the building we participate in B-PROUD, the JCIT curriculum. During B-PROUD we reflect in our journals about social justice issues that we feel passionate about such as gentrification, racism, redlining, homelessness, cultural appropriation, LGBTQ rights, police brutality, and segregation in Boston. During B-PROUD we have the opportunity to share our opinions and to support each other on these matters. Be sure to check out our JCIT assistant coordinator Sahlu Loulsegend’s video about Segregation in Boston. Sahlu is our assistant program coordinator and is going into his freshman year at Northeastern University. We are very proud about his accomplishments and we wish and expect the best from him!

Stay tuned to learn more about the JCITs... Melody and Ashley signing off now because we're on our way to make kid packs at Cradles to Crayons!

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Fun at Home!

As one might guess from the title, Fun at Home Days are a highlight during the week!  On Tuesday afternoons, an artist, photographer, and cook come to St Mary’s and run programming with the participants!  Fun at Home are the days B-SAFE stays on site in the afternoon. Instead of going on a field trip, the fun comes to our site!

While we have academic rotations on site every morning, these activities are extra special.  Outside experts come to engage the students in new activities that build on the previous week’s lesson.  Each site has different Fun at Home Day activities and St. Mary’s activities include photography, visual art, and cooking.  In addition to exposing the participants to new and exciting activities, Fun at Home Days focus on the process instead if the product.  In Snapshots of Joy, our photography activity, the kids snap images with their own disposable camera.  They are not fretting about having a certain portfolio at the end, they are exploring their daily surroundings through the lens of a camera.

After our first Fun at Home Day, the staff and students alike could not stop talking about their new self portraits!  Our art specialists shared the abstract portrait work of Pablo Picasso and the students made their own with collage material.  Check it out in the picture below!  

By Maureen Burns, Site Director at St. Mary's

Maureen has worn a number of hats in her years working at SSYP and is very excited to be the Site Manager at St. Mary's this summer! She first came to SSYP to work in the after-school program and now spends the school year overseeing the partnerships SSYP holds with neighboring schools. In this role, Maureen most enjoys working in the Blackstone Innovation School Library. Outside of work, Maureen enjoys reading, painting, and running.

Making Our Voices Heard

The teen organizers are group of local students, ages 15-18, who are busy this summer helping others, building community, making their voices heard, and talking about how our lives are shaped by systems of oppression and violence connected to race, class, gender, and religion.

Working out of the Church of Saint Augustine and Saint Martin in Lower Roxbury, the teens have uncomplainingly picked up and disposed of broken glass bottles, nasty garbage, and other trash in the area, thus making Lenox Street safer and more welcoming for the young children attending summer program downstairs from us.

The teens also have taken trips to Spectacle Island, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the museums at Harvard University, and a law firm on State Street in Downtown Boston. Each time, they met new people, learned new things, and accomplished a special skill-building mission assigned to them.

Most recently, the teen organizers prepared statements on gun violence in preparation for a hearing at Massachusetts State House. Next week, we'll be putting their testimony on video. Many of the teens have suffered heart-wrenching personal loss though gun violence, and they've shown tremendous bravery and maturity in composing and presenting their stories.

My primary role in St. Stephen's Youth Programs these past four years has been as a teaching specialist instructing grades K – 8 throughout the year. This is my first summer organizing a cohort of adolescents, and I'm very fortunate to have been teamed up with Tahnaree Evans, a bright and talented SSYP mainstay (and now a 19 year-old student at Bunker Hill Community College) who worked with the teens last year.

Tahnaree's great, the teen organizers are great, and I'm grateful to be working with and learning from them this summer. 

By John Dwyer

John joined St. Stephen's Youth Programs in summer 2014 and, since then, has enjoyed teaching social studies afterschool. This summer, he's coaching the teen organizers as they prepare for a hearing on gun violence at the State House.

Fun with LEARNing!

The B-SAFE program has already entered its second week and the week has been filled with nothing short of fun, exciting and educational activities. Although I teach Humanities at Epiphany YLC, I have had the opportunity to participate in activities with the LEARN campers at my site. Their eagerness to try new things and the fun spin they place on learning has reminded me of the reasons why I enjoy learning and has formed within me a growing appreciation for the work SSYP has done in Boston for the past 18 years. From assisting my fellow Academic intern in her Health and Wellness rotations to sitting in on dance classes and acting silly together, I have witnessed the campers in various LEARN groups participate in those activities with great joy and express a refreshing attitude toward the learning process. My favorite moment this week was witnessing the LEARN campers in one rotation speak with enthusiasm and confidence about the major food groups that comprise the food pyramid. Their knowledge of which foods go in each food group and their ability to personalize their own healthy foods rainbows served as a reminder to me to always have fun while LEARNing. I am definitely looking forward to gaining other insights from these campers in the upcoming weeks.

By Kezia Otinkorang

Kezia is a sophomore at Princeton University concentrating in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs with certificates in African Studies, Spanish and the History and Practice of Diplomacy. She is the Treasurer of the Princeton African Students’ Association, Secretary of the Princeton University Gospel Ensemble and a Board Member of the Princeton University Mentorship Program. In addition, she works as an office assistant at the Office of the Council of Ivy League Presidents and is a building coordinator for the Lewis Center of the Arts Complex. After graduating from Princeton, Kezia is interested in participating in an education-related fellowship and in pursuing a dual JD MBA degree. In her free time, Kezia loves to cook, read, watch basketball and sing.

A camper presenting her take on the rainbow after completing an activity on the foods in a "healthy rainbow".

A camper presenting her take on the rainbow after completing an activity on the foods in a "healthy rainbow".

18 Years of B-SAFE

This summer, we have site assistants who weren't born when I started the program eighteen summers ago.  Hard for me to believe in one way, but also a source of great joy in another.  In fact, forty percent of the staff on our senior leadership team for B-SAFE 2017 are former program participants.  This kind of continuity is valuable to any program, and also shows the impact the program has had on participants over the years: they want to come back and provide a high quality, educational and fun summer experience to others.  

Though I never could have imagined all those years ago that we would someday serve 700 young people in B-SAFE at six locations, I'm absolutely delighted by the scope and depth of the program.  A team of students from Princeton and Wellesley College has planned a curriculum that integrates math, English language arts and civics and woven it with our field trips and specialty days.  Another team planned more than 110 off-site excursions to places as diverse as Northeastern's Marine Science Center and the Institute of Contemporary Art.  Hundreds of volunteers from dozens of churches and other organizations are providing lunches, workshops, Friday field trips and other educational experiences.  

I also never would have imagined the incredible diversity of the B-SAFE community in 2017.  Among our participants and staff, many languages are spoken, countries represented and cultures celebrated.  We come together around our shared goal of learning and growing over the course of the summer, and somehow it all works.  We are stopping the summer learning slide, offering young people new experiences, and providing more than 150 teens with high quality employment opportunities.  We can't measure the number of hours of television that aren't being watched this summer, or hours of video games that aren't being played, or other potentially negative experiences an unstructured summer might contain that aren't happening because 700 young people are actively engaged in B-SAFE, but studies consistently show that programs like our make a real difference in the lives of young people.  And every day I witness the learning, the growing, the community building, the positive interactions, the smiles, the healthy meals, and I know that B-SAFE is contributing in many ways to a better summer in the city.  

I'm grateful to the staff working so hard to make the summer great, and to all of those who support B-SAFE in so many ways.  The B-SAFE community is very special - a unique effort that continues to grow.      

By Tim Crellin, Executive Director

The Rev. Timothy Crellin has been Vicar of St. Stephen’s Church in Boston since 1999, and is the founder of St. Stephen’s Youth Programs. Previously he was Associate Rector of the Church of the Redeemer in Chestnut Hill. He graduated from Brown University and Harvard Divinity School.Tim rides his bike to the South End every day from Jamaica Plain, where he lives with his wife, Jenny Sazama, the Executive Director of Youth on Board, and their son, Adam, a student at Boston Latin School. Tim is an avid runner, cyclist, reader, and Red Sox fan. 

At B-SAFE it is safe to say that we love learning

Working at various educational non-profits over the past 7 years, one of the most significant lessons I've learned is that regardless of where the school is located, all students yearn to learn and can learn with the right motivation, proper attention, and adequate resources.

We’ve all heard the research on urban schools and summer slide. It goes a little something like this: summer slide is when students, especially those from urban school districts, lose some of the progress they made during the previous school year.

This an especially regressive process to go through for students when some of their schools can be below the grade level standards and they are expected to know new concepts entering school in the fall.

At B-SAFE, we recognize this opportunity to provide students with an academic but playful platform to encourage them to reach their true academic potential.

Three of the main concepts that we instate in our summer camps are community, learning, and fun. After four weeks of intense preparation and research, the Academic-Team has come up with curriculum that speaks to the theme of the summer, based of one of Michelle Obama’s famous quotes on community: “When they go low, we go high.” Our curriculum incorporates fun academics through project based learning.

During my first week at B-SAFE, I was nothing less than overjoyed to see yearning for learning take place in my classroom. I found that students were ready and excited to be learning about new topics. Being a STEM specialist/teacher and making an engaging math/science curriculum can be tricky due to the stereotypes that it is difficult. However, kids were so excited and ready to learn about new topics this week. When I announced the final projects to them they all seemed to be excited to create their 3D cities and their aquarium diagrams. In class, students were actively participating and were happy to share what they knew about climate change, pollution, and sea animals. We make learning fun here and at B-SAFE and want to give students the opportunity to both learn and be prepared for the fall.

By Christina Okezie, Academic Team

Christina Okezie joins the B-SAFE program as a Lumpkin Institute Fellow from Wellesley College and will be making the summer curriculum as part of the Academic-Team. Christina is a junior from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (about 20 miles north of Detroit) and is majoring in Political Science and Education Studies. For as long as she can remember, she has always been interested in teaching and finding ways to stimulate learning through a more hands-on and interactive curriculum. Her first experience in tutoring started in 6th grade when she was dually enrolled in middle school and high school and was tutoring high school students in math. Christina is passionate about helping students reach their full potential and seeks to discover curriculums, resources, and policies that help with that effort.

Opening Ceremony

We started off our week with loud voices, energy, and excitement for these next few weeks. During our Opening Ceremony, we split up the youth into their groups and  came up with their group names: the Dragons, the eagles, the Huskies, and the Tigers, which are all based off of college mascots. They worked hard and thought a lot about our theme this year, a quote that Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high”. They did great work to reflect on what this means to them as individuals, in our communities, and in the world. In addition, we are so grateful for all of our church partners for providing us with meals and snacks to get us through the day. Thank you to all for making this summer possible for our youth!!

By Madelon Morin, Site Manager at St. Augustine & St. Martin

Madelon Morin served as the site director at the year round after school program, B-READY, at St. A&M this past academic year. She lived and worked in the Dominican Republic for nearly three years after graduating from Regis University in Denver, CO. She is originally from Minnetonka, MN and can really emphasize the accent if you need a quick laugh. She loved working with youth and is looking forward to making this summer an amazing one!

Putting the A in B-SAFE

The B-SAFE (Bishop’s Summer Academic and Enrichment) Program strives to provide young people with not only fun field trips and other recreational activities during the summer months, but also academic rotations where students get to review and expand upon what they learned during the school year. Students split their time in a variety of academic rotations where they learn about topics including health and wellness, art, numbers/STEM, and word/humanities. For Health and Wellness at our St. Augustine and St. Martin’s site, our young people were introduced to the fun they will be having in the coming weeks and the cumulative project for the summer: a healthy habits book full of reminders of ways they can help their health go high! After fun teambuilding exercises, everyone enjoyed free time outside to play and be active. Inside, everyone learned about the components of a story in Word/Humanities, climate change in Art, and arithmetic in Numbers/STEM. It’s only the first week of program, but these young people are already putting the A(cademic) in their B-SAFE experience!

By Rachel Gonzalez, Academic Team

Rachel is joining SSYP as a member of the Academic Team for B-SAFE through the Princeton Internships in Civic Service program. She is rising junior at Princeton working to earn her bachelor's degree in Public and International Affairs with a focus in Health and Well-being Policy. Rachel is from Los Angeles, California, and loves to swim, hike, and bake in her free time. Having served in a variety of mentoring and tutoring roles for students of elementary to high school age since 6th grade, she loves working with youth and ensuring that they have the support and care they need to succeed.

Having fun during Health and Wellness at St. A&M!

Having fun during Health and Wellness at St. A&M!

Two of our young people taking their CIT captive.

Two of our young people taking their CIT captive.

Having fun during Health and Wellness at St. A&M!

Having fun during Health and Wellness at St. A&M!

B-SAFE is Back! Michelle Obama, Soccer, and More

Summer 2017 has started! It's our 18th summer of B-SAFE programming in the South End. On Wednesday morning St. Stephen's welcomed close to 120 young people in for yet another great summer of learning and fun. In our elementary program we have made a new addition to our site by adding a 5th group of elementary aged kids which means we were able to accept 15 more youth this year! In our short first week we have already been able to go to local parks, the sprinklers, soccer training, and even a fun field trip day in the outskirts of Boston. We have created group names, chants, and our new and improved Excellence Pacts, which encourage youth to set their own guidelines to follow this summer. Following this summer's Michelle Obama "When they go low, we go high" theme, youth have also  learned about the life of Michelle and put this quote into perspective in their own lives. We are learning how to be the bigger person in different situations we may encounter. 

By Sandy Quispe, Site Manager at St. Stephen's

Sandy, born in Peru, has lived in Dorchester since the age of 5. She attended Boston Arts Academy where, during a job fair, she came across St. Stephens Youth Programs. She worked as a teen for an academic year and two summers before taking on the role of lead counselor for St. Stephen's summer enrichment program, B-SAFE. She attained her bachelor's in psychology from University of Massachusetts Amherst. Working with children has always been one of her passions. She loves to see how children grow and develop from early childhood to adolescence.

Breaking the Girl Code

To fit in as a high school girl you have to "dress well," "not be too fat or too skinny," "not be too white or too ghetto," "be sweet and lady-like," "please others," "wear heavy make up," and "be fake." Phew. These are some of the "rules of high school" the girls shared with me one Mondayafternoon in Girls Group. 

Being an adolescent girl is obviously no joke, as many of us can remember. Day to day these girls are trying to navigate more than the pressures of school and work, but incredible social pressures too, in both physical and virtual realities. This is why I looked forward to every Monday at 5 pm at St. Stephens. And from what the girls tell me, it's why they did too. Throughout this past school year, Girls Group has been the time when the female CITs at St. Stephens got to step away from their roles as "counselor," or "mentor," or "student" or "daughter," and be with each other, as themselves. For those fifty minutes they got to just be teenage girls. 

As part of St. Stephen's Social Emotional Support team (and a counseling intern with Trinity Boston Counseling Center), I facilitated this Girls Group weekly. We covered topics like relationships, body image, social life and stress relief. The girls were a bit hesitant at first. They didn't know me and barely knew one another. There was lots of talking but not a whole lot of sharing. They stayed safely within the boundaries of the invisible "girl code," talking about school and fashion, Justin Bieber, and the latest bachata hits. But they kept showing up. Maybe for the food and the laughter, or maybe for more. Either way, as the year progressed, the girls slowly began to open up to one another. The "girl code" started to disintegrate and Girls Group became a space where they could risk being truly themselves. The girls revealed personal struggles, shared in the collective struggles of being a teenage girl, and showed each other kindness and empathy through it all. 

One theme that ran through much of our time together was a focus on self-care and self-love. Whether we were doing basic yoga or meditation exercises, talking about the ingredients in the foods we eat, or getting fired up about the sexualized images of women in the media, my goal was to help each girl find a way to feel empowered and to stay in touch with her own voice, despite a society that will often encourage her to do otherwise. 

This week will be our final week of Girls Group. We'll take a trip to get ice cream and likely end with the perfect mixture of laughter, hugs, and tears. I'll walk away feeling sad for our ending but hopeful for the future. Over the past eight months these girls, these young women, proved that they don't want to follow any societal code or anybody else's rules, but want to fully embrace their strength, their sensitivity, their beauty and their intellect. They want to be unapologetically themselves everywhere they go. I have faith that they've tapped into an inner compass that will navigate them through the remainder of their adolescent years and beyond.

I end my time at St. Stephen's with much love and gratitude to these young women, who trusted in me and filled my Monday afternoons with life. 

By Jody Grimm, TBCC intern

Namaste

Throughout this year, every Thursday, we have had yoga classes with Yogi extraordinaire, Jenny. She was an amazing gift to us at B-READY at St. Augustine and St. Martin’s and really helped our young people learn new coping mechanisms and ways to release their energy. They connected with their minds and bodies through the art of yoga! Indeed, there is a growing trend in schools and after-school programs to replace more punitive forms of behavior management with yoga and meditation.

Because of Jenny’s time, patience, and love, our kids were able to center themselves on a weekly basis. We love you, Jenny! You are always welcome here! Namaste!

By Madelon Morin, Site Manager at St. Augustine and St. Martin

College and Career at St. Stephen's: Age 5 through 25

College Access is a phrase that you are probably familiar with. Access to higher education has been a part of the national conversation for a better part of a decade, but how that plays out within different organizations and communities can vary greatly. Here at St. Stephen’s, we have made a commitment to expanding our programming related to college and career access and success. Our commitment lines up with our broader mission, to serve students age 5-25, and continue to support them and their families as they create a path towards a successful adulthood.

With that in mind, we have expanded our programming to include opportunities to expose elementary, middle school and high school students to the variety of different post-high school options that exist. Over the past three weeks, we have done activities specific to students in each of these age groups.

For our elementary students, we ran College and Career Fun Fridays at both our St. Stephen’s and St. A&M sites. These days focused on exposure to information through fun activities and games. Students played college and career jeopardy and bingo, had college-based relay races, designed their own schools and logos, and even learned how to Step with the Blackout Step Team from Tufts University. Students also participated in a photo project where they expressed their dreams for their future.

Our middle school students have a college and career day coming up, and also have gone on college visits with the intent of learning which options are available for them. On May 5th, the YLC travelled to Boston College, where they participated in a tour lead by the BC Pulse students who have been volunteering with our program all year.

With the addition of Bella Vidana, the Mass Promise Fellow running the Jr. Counselor in Training (JCIT) 9th grade program, College and Career continues to be a focus of their programming. Throughout this year the students have travelled to Tufts, Lesley and Northeastern, and have engaged in a variety of conversations related to their own goals. In addition to conversations around college, the JCITs have also thought about how their long-term goals relate to the choices they make in high school. By connecting long-term dreams with short-term goals, we help our 9th graders think about the importance of succeeding in high school starting the first day of freshman year.

Our 10th, 11th and 12th grade students continue to represent the heart of our College and Career program. Over the past couple of months, students have travelled to Salem State, U-Mass Dartmouth, Lesley University, St. John’s College and New York University. These college visits have served as an opportunity for our students to see the variety of different schools that exist within Massachusetts, New England and beyond. In addition, this past Monday was the last day of an 8-week SAT Prep class that juniors participated in through a partnership with Wellesley College. Our mentoring program continues to provide students with individualized support throughout this process in partnership with SSYP staff, including me, the Sr. Manager of College Access & Success. In addition to all of these programs, it is also my role to make sure that all our our seniors are graduating high school with a clear plan for their next step. To us, this plan must be a good financial, academic, and social and emotional fit. That is our definition of success, and what we believe will help all students graduate with the framework for life-long success.

Finally, St. Stephen’s is committed to expanding the way in which we support our alumni. One way in which we are doing this is through our new First Friday Alumni series, which aims to create a consistent space for alumni to come back and reconnect with staff as well as form community with one another and our current teens. In addition, St. Stephen’s is hoping to connect alumni with young professionals in the field they are hoping to pursue through a new networking program that is rolling out this spring.

Overall, St. Stephen’s has built our program so that we can make a commitment to all our young people and their families that we are here to work and support them through not only elementary, middle and high school, but their post-high school journeys as well. We believe not only in college access but also in college success, and remain dedicated to the idea that early exposure and experience will prepare students to make the best decisions for both themselves and their families.

By: Jeremy Kazanjian-Amory, Sr. Manager of College Access & Success

An Author, Illustrator, and DJ Walk into Second Grade…

The entire room was chanting his name as we walked in. For the second grade at the Blackstone Innovation School, Jef Czekaj is a celebrity. Jef, an author, illustrator, and DJ, spent his day with the all five second grade classes at the Blackstone. His visit to the Blackstone, along with book donations to the school library, the second grade classrooms, and each second grade student, was made possible by Wondermore, an organization dedicated to bringing authors into schools. Wondermore partnered with the Blackstone Library, the school’s library managed by St. Stephen’s Youth Programs and staffed largely by volunteers.

The energy in the classroom was high during the entirely of Jef’s visit. The whole class was singing along to the hip hop Jef played as he set up. From there, the Blackstone Library coordinator, Tricia, introduced Jef. The class had lots of questions about being an author and illustrator. The good news, according to Jef, is that the job is fun and he can work almost anywhere, but Diesel Cafe in Davis Square is his favorite. The class was excited to learn that authors can even work in their pajamas!  The bad news is that being an author is hard work! Jef explained that he has to put a lot of work into developing his ideas and only a number of his ideas get picked up. With input from the class, Jef had a brainstorming session to develop a cartoon. They first wrote down nouns, then verbs, and finally adjectives before turning the idea into a drawing! In the picture below, check out the dog- cat- giraffe- lion- shark hybrid as he sings, jumps, and dances!  Jef told the class he carries a notebook to draw and explore his ideas. He also shared drawings he had done as a child to match idioms his teachers wrote for him.

In each of the three classroom visits, Jef engaged the class with one of his many books, including OINK-A-DOODLE-MOO, a barnyard telephone game, YES, YES, YAUL!, a story featuring a rapping turtle and rabbit named Hip and Hop, and Cat Secrets, a goofy cartoon chronicling a conflict between cats and a mouse. To conclude his visits, Jef encouraged the students to create and explore the creative process and team up with friends to see what they can make when they combine their strengths.

To learn more about events at the Blackstone and the Blackstone Library, the partnership between St. Stephen’s Youth Programs and the Blackstone, or to get involved as a volunteer, contact Maureen, the School Partnership Organizer.  

"My Soul Has Grown Deep Like the Rivers"

The past month, April, was National Poetry Month and the SSYP-run Library at the Blackstone Innovation School celebrated. Activities included poetry-in-your-pocket and poetry read-alouds. With one fifth grade class, a visit to the library started with a book of poetry by Langston Hughes. The students were excited to share what they knew about Hughes because they had been studying about him in class the previous week! Just one great example among many of how the Blackstone Library volunteers, led by SSYP's Library Coordinator Tricia Harvey, are helping to expand the learning and love of books of students at the Blackstone!  There are now 21 Blackstone classrooms that visit the library on a weekly basis; volunteers recruited and trained by SSYP also support students in nine classes in their own rooms. Come join us!

If you would like to learn more about being on one of these teams or to sign up right now to be a volunteer during the school day, contact tricia@ssypboston.org (for the library) or maureen@ssypboston.org (for classroom work). 

By Liz Steinhauser, Senior Director of Youth Programs

Still Organizing for Teen Employment

Every February, the SSYP Teen Organizers are part of the annual Youth Jobs Rally to demand full state funding for youth jobs. This winter, we joined hundreds of youth and supporters from across the state in marching through the streets to bring attention to this critical issue and to ask our elected leaders to invest in young people by providing them economic opportunities. In Boston, these jobs are administered by the Department of Youth Engagement and Employment.

Following the animated Youth Jobs Rally and fired up by the dedication of other youth workers, we considered what to do next. Boston is about to be in the hiring season of summer jobs for teens. So, our organizing team of teens and adults decided to meet with DYEE to make sure things were on track for the 3,200 young people who would be in their employment this summer. We went in with high hopes.

We arrived at the Tobin Community Center for our appointed time.  We found the Chief of Health and Human Resources Felix Arroyo, BCYF Commissoner William Morales and DYEE Executive Director Rashad Cope staff were in another meeting. As the clock hand ticked on, we considered leaving. After about thirty minutes, we were led to a larger conference room and began the conversation.  Our team broached the disturbing fact that in Summer 2016 there was funding for 3,200 jobs but only 2,600 spots were filled. This was largely due to challenges with new technology for hiring and the infrastructure for communicating with teens.  The good news is that DYEE has expanded the staffing for their office so that there are more people to support teens through the hiring process. The remaining challenge is that only half of these new positions are filled and DYEE may not be fully staffed until the end of May. 

In addition, we asked where the funds for the unfilled 600 teen jobs in 2016 had gone as it was almost million dollars. We found that some of it had been invested in 140 school year jobs; but the math we did in advance showed that there might still be remaining funding available. If correct, this would mean even more teens could have jobs for summer 2017. DYEE and HHS pledged to investigate.

We also shared concerns about the timing of check processing and the accuracy of checks. Again, we received commitments from city officials to improve and correct these past problems. 

Most importantly, we talked about how we could work together to have the most successful summer, one that would benefit all teens and community-based organizations. We left feeling an increased sense of partnership and better communication. We invited Chief Arroyo, Commissioner Morales, and Executive Director Cope to visit B-SAFE and join the Organizing Team for a day this summer. And, we took this nice photo. By establishing these direct relationships, we feel that teens can now hold our public officials accountable and be partners in the effort to make our city agencies more effective. And that is just what we plan to do. Stay tuned!

By Kesanet Tesfazion and Teen Organizing Team

Spring Festivities

On Thursday, April 14, Christ Church of Cambridge, a fabulous partner with SSYP, executed a carefully thought-out and well-planned Easter Party for all of the youth at St. Stephen's. The afternoon started off with a pizza party and presentation of Imagination Stations!  The kids all ate, while their peers got up in groups to present some of the cool activities they had been doing over a four-week period. The Imagination Stations were physics of paper, dance, oragami, and the science of cookies.

They then broke off into their respective groups and were able to enjoy a variety of festive activities. Christ Church of Cambridge brought a number of volunteers who ran activities such as spring baskets, paper plate sheep, and coffee filter butterflies. The youth also participating in foot-washing and learned the meaning behind it. It turned out to be a great afternoon!

By Sandy Quispe, St. Stephen's Site Manager

B-READY at St. Augustine & St. Martin's LOVES College Volunteers!

Young people at B-READY St. Augustine & St. Martin celebrated all the volunteers from Lasell College and Northeastern University who have been serving as literacy volunteers during the afterschool program this year. Volunteers helped to make this year full of love--for books, for literacy, and for each other. THANKS to everyone who served at B-READY for the past 10 months!

I Am Because We Are

Throughout this school year, the JCITs have created a community of love, support and collaboration. They have learned that although it only takes one person to spark positive change, it takes a village to act on it and make those changes. Every day at our program, the JCITs are demonstrating the idea of Ubuntu: I am because we are. We feed off of each other’s ideas, energies and emotions. This creates chaos, love, frustration, and inspiration between us, some days better than others. But it is all in the name of Ubuntu: coming together as individuals to form a community and fight for positive change.

When we were presented with the idea to create an art project centered around the idea of Ubuntu, we owned it. With the help of Harvard Divinity School Graduate student Peter and Wheelock College senior Kira, the JCITs were asked to challenge their thoughts and think about how they perceive the idea of Ubuntu in their lives, community and world. Inspired by the Black Eyed Peas 2016 version of #WHEREISTHELOVE, the JCITs expressed their ideas through art, collage, song and poetry. They were given the chance to showcase their artwork in Towne Gallery at Wheelock College among many other youth groups in the Greater Boston Area.

JCIT Mara (BCLA, 9th), braved the opportunity to read aloud a poem she had written in front of all of those who attended the showcase. She powerfully presented these words that spoke of the harsh reality of our society and how it portrays and treats people of color.

“Don’t you see the root of this situation,
We cannot be divided but united.
You’ve been misguided and provided
With bias information.
It’s time to reconsider how we raise this generation.

We see children being taught the wrong
And about the color of our faces
But we need to embrace it.”


If you would like to witness the process of our art work, check out this video featuring all those involved in the artwork, as well as the artwork itself!

By Bella Vidaña, JCIT Coordinator

Senior Internship with SSYP

At Fenway High School, seniors have the opportunity to complete a six-week internship at any location they choose. Typically, these internships are supposed to help students better understand real-world jobs and the careers that seniors are interested in. This year, three Fenway seniors, including myself, have chosen to complete their six-week internships at St. Stephen’s Youth Programs. I am Dayaeliz, and  Elvis and Yaraluz are here with me on this journey. After graduating high school, we all plan to attend college. I will be attending Broward College in Florida to study aviation. Elvis will be attending Wentworth University to study computer science. Yaraluz will be attending Bridgewater State University to study psychology.  

Although we are all studying something different in college, we still wanted to get the exposure of working in an environment that is children based and community oriented. We all chose St. Stephen’s Youth Programs because we wanted to gain more knowledge and experience with children. Personally, I hope to gain more of an understanding of children and their emotions. I also hope to gain a lot of good memories and relationships here at St. Stephen’s. Elvis hopes to gain more experience with youth, and familiarize himself in a professional environment. Yaraluz would like to improve her communication skills with children and adults. She would also like to improve on her leadership skills. All three of us share the hope that this internship at St. Stephen's teaches us the skills we need for the near future.

By Dayaeliz Torres