SSYP Intergenerational Organizing Team takes State House by Storm

By: Valentina and Michelle (SSYP Teen Organizers)

On Tuesday, November 14th, 2017- the last day of the legislative session before Thanksgiving break- 20 parent and teen organizers from St. Stephen’s Youth Programs organized a lobby day at the Massachusetts State House to advocate for full funding for public education across the state.

PHOTO: Intergenerational Organizing team meeting with State Senator Sonia Chang Diaz, author of the Bill to Modernize the Foundation Budget for the 21st Century

PHOTO: Intergenerational Organizing team meeting with State Senator Sonia Chang Diaz, author of the Bill to Modernize the Foundation Budget for the 21st Century

We were advocating to get Senate Bill 223 out of committee. Senate Bill 223 is constructed by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz to modernize the “Foundation Budget” which is being used to “fund school districts across the Commonwealth, based on the circumstances and needs of each student”. Sadly it has not been updated since 1993 and is not adequately funding public education across the state as it should. Researchers have found that Massachusetts has a deficit of $1-2 billion each year for the cost of K-12 education. This results in particular deficits for schools with high concentrations of students from low income backgrounds, students with IEPs and English Language Learners.

As parents and students, we think this bill is important because everyone deserves high quality education. When schools are not able to provide the resources that young people need to succeed, each child is being deprived of a chance to gain knowledge that can help them in their future. Cutting the arts out of the curriculum can diminish a student's creativity and shrink their horizons, not having a full time school nurse is a threat to the health and safety of students, and rodent infestations are not conducive to healthy learning environments. These examples of the results of budget cuts are not up to the school. Because of the lack of funding, schools have to choose between vital resources, like ELL classes or Special Education classes, nurses or art teachers, infrastructure maintenance and improvement or guidance counselors. Our communities deserve schools that don’t have to choose between necessary elements of a high quality public education.

Parents, teens, and elementary-school-aged children came together and met with the offices of 19 legislators and delivered letters to the other 21 legislators who are either on the Education Committee or represent a part of Boston. The campaign is not over yet- people can get involved by calling their State Senators and Representatives in support of the bill and asking them to please approve and get the bill out of committee. Contact Sarah ( at St.Stephen’s Youth Program to get involved in this campaign or to organize a lobby day.

Read us next week for a special feature, “If State Legislators get to leave work at 5pm, why can’t we?”

To Art, or Not to Art…There is No Question


The creative arts were always a staple in my life. Growing up there were dance lessons, creative arts camps, musical instruments, and eventually performing arts high school. Given this, it has always been hard to wrap my mind around hearing youth who say that they hate art or aren’t good at it.  I noticed that when they say this...often what they mean is that they “can’t draw”.

Upon noting that there was a gap in the youth’s understanding of art, one of the first activities my Creative Arts students did was answer the intentionally broad question “what is art?”. The first round of answers yielded the more obvious suggestions like drawing, painting, and collage. But after more pressing they were able to open their minds to come up with things like gardening, rhythmic gymnastics, playing an instrument, and make-up. The point was to stress that art does not solely equate to drawing ability and to cut out the mentality that they weren’t good artists.  

The concept of art is nearly immeasurable and there are very few (if any) guidelines for what art can be. So whether or not they know it, everyone has the capacity to be an artist in some form. The disconnect between my students and art only showed me that they haven’t been exposed to enough of it in school or at home.


This trimester in Creative Arts the youth are learning about apparel design and transforming into fledgling fashion designers. The curriculum takes an art form that is not usually covered in school and encourages them to take their inspiration from concept to design with a focus on originality. This curriculum focuses on project-based learning, with each lesson giving them one component of a larger end result. The idea is to get away from the “craft-a-day” style of teaching and let them develop strong skills and understanding of one particular art form at a time.

With students ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade there is a lot of disparity in learning styles, attention span, and general interest in any topic. My classes tend to run most smoothly when the youth are actually doing something hands on that incorporates the kinesthetic and tactile style of learning into the classroom. This can be found in activities like playing a game to introduce a topic or learning about textiles by creating a weaving sample on a handmade loom. The end result is a classroom of kids being actively engaged, creative, and productively learning a new art concept.

Boston Public Schools has created the BPS Art Expansion effort to address the deficit and expand quality arts education in Boston’s public school system. They have reported, in 2017, that 95% of BPS students Pre-K - 8th grade are receiving weekly arts programming in schools (a 28% increase from 2009). There has also been a direct link between students who are engaged in art performing better academically, particularly in math and science. This being said, art education is still not seen as a priority in many schools and is usually the first programming to get cut when the budget gets tight. It is seen as non-essential compared to other subjects, but I believe that art should be at the core of education along with math, science, and reading.


In the future of St. Stephen’s Youth Programs, I hope to see an expansion of their creative arts curriculum.  I would love to see enough funding to allow for projects that delve into music technology, pottery/sculpture, woodworking, choreography, and full stage productions of plays written by our youth or community members. I hope to see the creative arts specialty move into a slot that is seen just as vital as literacy and STEM programming.

At the beginning of this trimester, I had so many collective groans and sighs from students about being stuck in art class for 45 minutes. However, over the the past month or so I have been able to turn a lot of those groans and sighs into excited students practically falling over each other to show me what they created that day. One of the most unique traits of childhood is limitless imagination and I have seen evidence of this on a daily basis in my classes. But this imagination and creativity is like a muscle, that weakens over time without the effort to exercise it. It would be a disservice to our youth and our future not to help it to grow.

Sources and Further Reading

  1. “BPS Arts Expansion Overview.” BPS Arts, 2017.

  2. National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, "Re-Investing in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools." The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Accessed October 21, 2017.

  3. "Lessons from PISA for the United States, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education", OECD Publishing, 2011. Web Accessed October 23, 2017.

By Victoria Ajene, Arts Specialist


Victoria Ajene is a 26-year old fashion designer and alumni of the B-SAFE Program. She grew up in the arts, attending Boston Arts Academy for Instrumental Music and Lasell College to receive her B.A. in Fashion Design and Production. After college she freelanced as a designer for PUMA and J.Jill and later went on to teach at Lasell College as an adjunct professor. What she hopes to bring to the program is a sense of community and an outlet that encourages kids to explore their creative sides.

Starting with PULSE

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Our afterschool year started on September 18th when all of our kids either returned to our site or started afterschool for the first time with us. However, I like to think that we do not officially begin until our PULSE students join our team. 

PULSE is a year long class in Boston College where students study a combination of theology and philosophy. This class has a service component where students have to complete 8 hours a week in a community program. This year, we are fortunate enough to welcome 16 students to our team of volunteers without whom we could not make our program happen. Each student is assigned a group either in LEARN (elementary school) or YLC (middle school) to assist the lead counselor and to form connections with the youth. 


So far, our 16 students have familiarized themselves with the youth in their groups and some have even taken the initiative to run activities with the kids. It is so nice to see how our kids quickly accept the PULSErs, as we call them, and welcome them into their world, while at the same time seeing the PULSErs quickly warm up to the kids. 

By Sandy Quispe, Site manager at St. Stephen's LEARN

Sandy, born in Peru, has lived in Dorchester since the age of 5. She grew up in the Boston Public school system graduating from Boston Arts Academy. 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.

Family fitness and fun!

It's 3:55 p.m. and B-SAFE is swarming with the organized chaos of pickup. Counselors sign students out to their parents, teens hand out grapes and goldfish, and Sandy returns clothes and water bottles to their owners. But unbeknownst to many, B-SAFE is not over for the day. 

In a few minutes, parents begin filing in, laughing and greeting one another. It's time for Zumba class! On Tuesdays we have yoga for parents and on Thursdays we have Zumba. These biweekly classes offer parents a fun and relaxing respite from their daily routine. They're an opportunity to connect with one another and to get moving. In fact, we chose to do yoga and Zumba because our parent group voted for them!

We pump up the music, hit songs like "Despacito" echoing off the walls of the church basement. Our teacher, Hannah, dance-steps to the side and kicks her leg high in the air with the beat. Everyone else misses the kick and starts laughing. Soon we're all sweating, getting into the music. Some of the kids run in from childcare and join us for a song or two. A particularly excited 5-year-old begs Hannah to let her lead a dance, so after we're done Hannah lets her put on her requested song, Justin Bieber's "Sorry" and she leads us all in a baffling but energetic dance. 

After we're done, we bring out trays of fresh pineapple, mango, melon and berries. Everyone is chatting, discussing the best places to go swimming this summer. A mom asks who wants the bike her kids have outgrown. It's nearly 6 p.m. and I'm late for another meeting, so I let the parents know they can turn the lights out and shut the door when they're done. Clari smiles at me: "No te preocupes, estamos en nuestra casa," she says. "Don't worry, we're at home here."

Ariel Branz, Lead Parent Organizer

Ariel organizes parents at St. Stephen's Youth Programs and is excited about all the fun family engagement this summer. She likes hiking, cats, sweet potatoes, and summertime.

Five-year-old Carmen leads us in Justin Bieber's "Sorry"

Five-year-old Carmen leads us in Justin Bieber's "Sorry"

Parents relax with Yoga classes.

Parents relax with Yoga classes.

B-SAFE does BCH. Ending with a BOOM.

Last week at B-SAFE for the middle-schooler’s was just slightly different from the previous four. For starters, instead of field trips to Carson Beach or the Institute for Contemporary Art, we found ourselves swimming in Otter Lake and painting canvases of the trees and nature around us. We said goodbye to Dorchester and found ourselves at home in New Hampshire at the Barbara C. Harris camp for four nights and five days.

Campers were able to experience new levels of freedom here in New Hampshire. Each one chose two different activities from an extensive list of progression activities that they would participate in every morning, which allowed them to break off from their assigned cabins and surround themselves with new peers who shared similar interests. I taught the swimming progressions and really enjoyed working with young people who were enthusiastic about improving their swimming abilities.

In the afternoons, campers rotated through a variety of different activities including basketball, gaga ball, gimp, and more. The evenings were especially fun because the whole camp got together for evening activities like dance parties, camp fires and talents shows. Campers enjoyed all of the above, despite the frequent but unavoidable encounters with insects.

The last week of camp was a blast. The middle schoolers have been beyond fun to work with, and I hope their memories of BCH are as fond as mine. And overall, working with SSYP for the past 10 weeks as an intern and as a lead has been an eye opening experience to say the least. To work with a program that is so proactive in providing opportunities for young people is an honor and wherever I may work down the road will be held to high standards! 

By Sarah Schrading, A-TEAM and Lead Counselor

Sarah Schrading is a rising senior at Rutgers University studying Linguistics, Spanish and Psychology. She was born and raised in the city of Philadelphia. Sarah has been a part of service abroad trips in both El Salvador and Zimbabwe. Her hopes for the future involve pursuing a career in public service, specifically education policy. She enjoys world traveling, trying new things and Italian food.

Going high by building up our city

The theme of program this summer was “When they go low, we go high”. There are many ways that this theme can be interpreted. The youth at B-SAFE San Lucas took this theme to heart as they worked on their final projects in Humanities. They looked at their community and thought of ways that they could make it better. They worked in teams, thought of components that were missing in Chelsea, and then got to work.

They drafted and designed plans for a proposed construction project. They used recycled materials to build their models. For days they gathered materials from our site and brought recycled materials from home. They looked at an empty box of cereal and saw a lot more than that. Or an empty egg carton and their imagination let loose on the beauty that they could create from it. Things began to progress on their models with the sounds of gluing, duck taping, cutting cardboard, and even hammering being heard upstairs at San Lucas.

We then had the opportunity go on a field trip to MIT and enter their urban planning lab where we saw real life advanced technology versions of what they had been working on all summer. They saw models of the Kendall square using real life data from the everyday technology used by people in the community. They were amazed, impressed, but most of all inspired.

Back we went for the last week of program, and with the inspiration from their field trip, work began on finalizing and modifications. Though making models out of recycled materials sounds challenging, it was not as hard as writing a proposal letter to the City Manager. Each group had the opportunity to write a letter to the City of Chelsea in which they explained their proposal and expressed why it would be good for the community. They applied their knowledge of using the written language learned this summer in class and go to work. The letters that wrote were inspirational with many taking encouragement from the words of the Disney Family in creating a place “where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn – together”. Their letters were just as inspiring.

That is how “we go high”. We give our youth a voice in which they know that they can make their communities better. We spark their imagination to create wonderful things. We give them the opportunity to be examples and create selfless things because at the end all they want is for everyone to feel the same childlike joy they feel in their hearts by going high.

By Mauryn Perkins, Site Manager at San Lucas

Mauryn Perkins has been with the B-SAFE program in Chelsea for eight summers. During the school year she is a 7th grade Spanish teacher at a charter school in Malden. She loves teaching children and loves all things Disney. In her spare time, you will find her organizing and planning her family adventures, especially to Disney Parks.

YLC youth from st. Luke's at the urban development media lab at MIT. 

YLC youth from st. Luke's at the urban development media lab at MIT. 

Dragons present their development proposal to the City Manager of a Chelsea.

Dragons present their development proposal to the City Manager of a Chelsea.

Social Justice through Art

After witnessing how my childhood neighborhood, Dorchester, has been impacted by forms of structural violence like sparse access to healthy foods due to income and resources, unfair treatment by police, and sub-par health care, I searched in the greater Boston area for ways to take action that either directly and subtly combat these injustices. 

I discovered the B-SAFE program, whose cores values of making participants “Feel Safe, Feel Big, and Feel Connected” are something that I feel proud to stand behind. 

This summer, my role as the Arts Specialist at two of six sites at which the program operates has allowed me to work with young people of various age groups in grades 1-8.

The Arts curriculum has a social justice theme every year and this year, I chose topics that I felt were particularly relevant to 2017 – climate change and diverse media representation. 

Each week, we discussed an aspect of these complex issues of concern and then employed different art mediums to craft projects about them. My hope was to get students thinking about how they can combine their creativity and passion for making the world a better place.

During Week 3 of the program, the younger students in the LEARN program created posters about climate change in efforts to raise more awareness in their communities about the effects of climate injustice. We previously examined how animals and their environments are transforming as well as how fall leave colors are being affected by changing temperatures. We sketched, painted, and crafted portraits of these natural communities and leaves. In the final weeks of the YLC program, the middle schoolers designed comic strips which centered characters that looked like them, with a focus on seeing justice in areas where injustice was present. One student chose to center her comic strip on LGBT discrimination; her main character fought injustices with an open mind and heart. We then used a silk screen printing technique to make t-shirts for our characters’ costumes. Her t-shirt was bright and full of color. 

As programming comes to an end, students are walking away better prepared to return to school in the fall, having faced both old and new experiences, all while finding joy and support in the lasting relationships that were built here at SSYP this summer!

By Christian Cruz, Art Specialist

Christian is a rising sophomore at Columbia University studying Political Science and Urban Studies. After receiving his undergraduate degree, he plans on pursuing a graduate law degree. He is an activist, avid photographer, and amateur cook. He can whip up a mean chicken parm and take your next Instagram photo!

Caterpillar to B-SAFE Butterfly

This has to be the best summer I've ever had with St. Stephen's Youth Programs (SSYP). SSYP has been that safe place where no matter where you might be in life the door is always open for all. I've have been through a couple of roles such as a volunteer, counselor-in-training (CIT), site assistant for the YLC program, Lead for the LEARN program and this summer I was able to be a part of the B-SAFE Summer Program as the Teen Staff Coordinator for St. Mary's in Uphams Corner and St. Augustine & St. Martin (St. A&M) in the Lower Roxbury community. I work with 23 CITs, young teens from Boston that work as tutors, mentors and role models for younger students. Teens walk through the day with young participants having loads of fun while learning in their rotations like STEM, humanities and health wellness at St. Mary's and St. A&M. Teen staff receive ongoing job training, professional development, and supervision.

Working with these 23 individuals has helped me see the importance of teen jobs, especially for the summer. All young adults should be given the opportunity to be heard, respected, valued, and supported. SSYP has made that opportunity possible. It is amazing to see the difference in their energy from the first day of training to the end of the summer award ceremony. I remember being a CIT at SSYP, feeling like the job had too much going on in one day, but now I see that this program is just the kind of exposure teens in Boston need. Here are a couple of pictures of the amazing group of teen staff and young participants I had the pleasure of working with for B-SAFE 2017.

By Priscilla Alcantara, Teen Staff Manager

Priscilla joined St. Stephens Youth Programs as a Jr. Counselor in Training in 2011 and has worked her way up to be a Teen Staff Manager for the Summer of 2017. She is a part time student in Boston studying Psychology. Priscilla is a former K-prep teacher from Bright Horizons in Cambridge and decided to get back into youth work to help the communities she grew up in.

Go High With Exercise

As a health and wellness specialist, I like kids to gain as much knowledge as they can about their bodies while also enjoying fun games. This week specifically, Epiphany LEARN has been introduced to their muscles and bones, and after learning those different areas we stretched them out. It's important for the kids to learn various ways to "go high" in the area of health in wellness, and we have done this not only through exercise but by making nutritious snacks. Each class is different and has their own games that they really enjoy.  So in that way, the class becomes more of a team effort and we work together to get through what's on my agenda but also make sure they can play games and do activities they enjoy. At the end of the day I emphasize that it is all about teamwork. As long as we can play a game or two together, I don't mind them being active in their own way. You can see examples of the teamwork effort that is put into each of the classes from the pictures posted. Not only are the kids playing, the CITS are equally involved as well as some of the volunteers. We played games such as basketball, soccer and dodgeball, which was a really big hit for everyone. 

By Alysa Thomas, Health and Wellness Specialist

A New Experience

I was 16 years old when I started working with St. Stephen’s Youth Programs. That was seven years ago. This summer, Liz and Kasey at the South End site asked me to step out of my comfort zone and try something different. They thought it was time for me to try working in another location and expand my responsibilities. They suggested that I try my hand at being a teen staff manager.

I was a little hesitant because I had never worked with teens before. I was nervous about how I would be received and whether I’d be able to connect with them, because my previous responsibilities involved working with younger children age 5 to 12. I would supervise them in several activities, including art, physical awareness, field trips, and help with homework.

Now that I have been working in this teen staff manager position for a little over a month, I am glad that I have had this opportunity. Throughout this summer of being a teen staff manager, my responsibilities include having weekly meetings where we do check-ins, team building, and discuss the weekly happenings. We also have trainings on healthy relationships, public speaking and racism. Some of the trainings are more popular than others, but overall I think that the teens and I get something out of them. My experience in this position hasn’t been all positive though. I struggled a bit with communicating with some of the teens. However, we seemed to have worked it all out and I am happy to say that I am glad I embarked on this experience.

By Brianna Hall, Teen Staff Coordinator at Holy Spirit

Brianna Hall has held many positions at St.Stephens youth program. She has beena Counselor in Training, a Site Assistant, a Lead Counselor and at present, she is a Teen Staff Coordinator. She recently graduated from Urban College of Boston with an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education. Her passions include the education of children as well as positive uplifting attitude.

Having Beach Fun At Home!

Fun At Home Days are a time each week when young people get to build their skills in new areas, such as photography, mindfulness, and dance. SSYP Alumna Kytiasha, a recent high school graduate, has been leading cooking classes. Her workshops are building on some of the lessons about nutrition that have been happening in the Health and Wellness classes. During each of these sessions, first-time teacher Kytiasha is--like all of our specialists and Fun At Home experts--getting more comfortable with leading groups and supporting young people in their discovery of new things. Most recently, our Fun At Home chefs created banana pudding beach scene cups! These relatively healthy desserts also turned out pretty cute! Who needs to go to the actual beach to have some beach fun?

By Kali Boston, B-SAFE Academic Administrator

Kali is excited to be joining St. Stephen's for her first summer as the Academic Administrator! She is a graduate of Boston College and New York University, where she earned a Masters in Social Work. Over the past decade she has worked with children, adolescents, and families in a wide variety of school and clinical settings. Currently she is a school social worker at Boston Community Leadership Academy and runs a business that provides academic and ADHD coaching for middle, high school, and college students. Outside of work her passions include: burritos, Cape Cod weekends, the Patriots, binge watching Netflix, and spending time with her wife and dog!

Let’s Go Higher and Further

“Today, we are learning how to fold a paper airplane,” I told my students. 

“I already knew how to make one!” “That’s so boring!”, many students responded.

“But I will teach you to fold the best airplane that can fly the highest and furthest in the world!”, I explained in my origami rotation during our Fun At Home day.

Following my instructions, the students folded their own airplanes step-by-step and were excited to see them flying in the air. Each step was important in creating this best airplane. One by one, they lined up in the classroom, tested out their airplanes, and watched as their airplanes flew high and far.

Just like teaching the students to fold airplanes, step by step, the B-SAFE program this summer aims to prepare students to go higher and further in their future. From field trips to academic rotations, each part of this program was carefully designed to provide a safe and fun summer for them. Through this program, they can develop skills that they need to go higher and further in their future.

By Angela Liang, Academic Specialist

Angela is joining SSYP as an academic intern for the B-SAFE program. She is currently studying psychology and business in Brandeis University. Born in China, she grew up in the Boston area. Angela had worked closely with Asian immigrant youth and Asian community organizations during her high school years. Now, she is excited to work with the youth in SSYP for this summer.

Two Days Learning from the Youth at B-SAFE

As in past years, several of us volunteered in the B-SAFE summer program at St. Luke’s Church in Chelsea.  During lunch, I joined several 14 and 15-year-old boys—and fully expected that conversation would be stilted in view of our age differences. 

However, their first question caught me by surprise:  “What do you think of President Trump?”  Recognizing a heated subject, I replied that everyone has a right to their political views but I personally do not like the way our president treats people. This opened a floodgate: from a discussion of whom they favored in last year’s election, they rapidly moved to what I thought about the Russians. Questions raised included, “Were we not on the same side against Germany in WWII?”  After explaining the allies, I was asked whether I had lost family members in that war.  Then topics moved rapidly to, “Why did we get into the Vietnam War? Were Americans lied to?”  Next came questions about whether I remembered the Cuban Missile Crisis---an event I experienced in college and was sure would result in massive American casualties.  They loved my description of sitting with my friends in the basement of our dorm---singing sad songs to guitar music—as we prepared for the end!

Segregation and Martin Luther King required a fairly long discussion:  “Was President Kennedy really in favor of civil rights?”   “Did he and MLK get along?”  “Did you know about Malcolm X?”  (My sister worked at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, the night of his assassination.)  “What do you think of the episodes of police brutality?”  “Did you know any Black Panthers?”   Fortunately, I did live through that era and could answer honestly----however, I stopped short of “remembering” the Civil War. 

On the second day, I complimented the young men on their knowledge of politics and history.  They are much more astute than I was at their age.  Questions on this day continued on the Vietnam War and 9/11, i.e., “Where was the plane going that crashed in Pennsylvania?” They were extremely impressed that the passengers had tried to overcome the hijackers. 

At that point, I decided to ask my own questions such, as had they ever heard of the draft?   They had not so I explained it to them—including the impact on young people when I was growing up.  I also suggested that since they are interested in politics, they might want to meet a judge---fortuitously Carol Ball was in the kitchen!  (They had never met a judge before and were quite impressed!)  I also asked them if they knew what a jury is—which necessitated a lengthy description, including the expectation that they would serve as jurors in the future. 

While our discussions were far ranging—and could have gone on for hours---lunch was over.  So, my final question to these young men was, “What frightens you the most?”   The answer was swift---“a nuclear bomb on Boston.” 

As I left Chelsea, I realized what an honor it was to spend time with these fine young people---their thoughtful questions belied an interest in history, their place in it, and the fears and challenges as they mature.  It was so reassuring to know that they—so curious in their thoughts and ideas—will, with support, grow into productive adults contributing to the country’s future.   B-SAFE is a haven for these youth---and our small part is providing food---but also entering their world, sharing ideas and experiences from which we can all learn.  For this, I am thankful.

By Anne Sheetz, B-SAFE Volunteer from Old North Church

Scoring Healthy Choices

A significant part of our camp is to make sure our kids remember the academics they learned during the school year, avoiding the "Summer Slide" over  the two month vacation. At B-SAFE, we want our kids not only get a head start academically for the school year, but also learn about what it takes to live a healthy lifestyle for years to come. We have a wonderful class called “Health and Wellness” that the kids take part in during the academic rotations portion of the day. This class is designed to teach kids the importance of eating healthy and staying active. The academic specialist, Alysa Thomas, has turned this into a course that kids genuinely enjoy and look forward to each and every day. Some days the course focuses on staying active by playing cardio intensive games such as dodgeball (our students' favorite), basketball, or soccer. Sometimes they even get to have free gym, which shows them that they can use their imagination and create their own games to stay active and fit. On other days the kids make their own healthy snacks. One snack was a yogurt parfait with fruit and granola! Parents, when you get the chance, make sure you ask your kids about the food pyramid and what nutritional facts they have learned about so far! They have been learning a lot and love to talk about what they have learned in their health and wellness class!

By Jasmine Hill, Site Manager at Epiphany

This is Jasmine's first year with the B-SAFE program, where she is the site manager at Epiphany LEARN. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Boston College in 2015. After graduating in 2015, she completed a year of service with the Dudley Promise Corps Americorps program located in Roxbury, MA. Currently, she is student-teaching at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School and attending graduate school where she will be receiving a Masters of Education in June. She will be teaching in the BPS school district come September 2017.

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Winners of the 10th Annual B-SAFE Basketball Tournament


St. Stephen's YLC won the 10th annual B-SAFE Basketball tournament in a stunning, historic and decisive victory over a highly competitive field of opponents. Edwin and Marquis were also there.  

By Sarah Rose O'Connor, Teen Staff Manager

Sarah started working with SSYP in the fall of 2014 as a Jewish Organizing Initiative and Network (JOIN) fellow. Sarah works with young people to organize for issues that affect youth across the city of Boston, like funding for public education and teen jobs, and on local neighborhood anti-violence campaigns. Sarah believes that a city that works for the young people in the SSYP family is a city that works well for everyone.

Drum Roll Please... Introducing Online Registration!

As hard as it is to believe in the middle of B-SAFE, it is not too early to start thinking ahead to B-READY 2017. This fall, we will be rolling out an exciting innovation in the enrollment process. This fall, for the first time ever, families will be able to enroll their young people in the B-READY program via our brand new online platform.

Our digital infrastructure has just made a giant leap into the 21st century, thanks to the technological brilliance, indefatigable commitment to good data, and heroic persistence of our staff.

We could not be more pleased to announce that we are expecting an unprecedented level of efficiency, user-friendly experience, and higher-quality tracking of information critical to running an excellent program.

Enrollment will be open in September.

By Sarah Rose O'Connor, Lead Blog Procrastinator

Sarah started working with SSYP in the fall of 2014 as a Jewish Organizing Initiative and Network (JOIN) fellow. Sarah works with young people to organize for issues that affect youth across the city of Boston, like funding for public education and teen jobs, and on local neighborhood anti-violence campaigns. Sarah believes that a city that works for the young people in the SSYP family is a city that works well for everyone.

Finding a Connection to Creativity

From traditional Bharatnatyam dance classes, to creative arts camps in middle school, to attending a high school for the visual and performing arts, art has always been a significant factor in my life. I feel like the early and continued exposure to various arts forms has made me a person who challenges norms, finds creative solutions, and can navigate the world in a way that only an artist can.

With arts programming and education budgets being cut drastically in recent years, nourishing youth’s creative minds has been put on the backburner nationwide. Art is seen as a simple hobby and not a necessity, which honestly hurts my soul.

One thing about this generation of young adults that I have noticed is an almost unbreakable bond with their cell phones. Even as an adult it has become harder to disconnect from my phone and reconnect with people. But that is why I believe that fostering an environment of creativity is so important for growing minds. Every form of art can be used as a method of connecting inwardly to ourselves, expressing our views to others, or experiencing a thought/feeling/emotion from someone else’s mind.

I think that programs like B-SAFE that still find ways to cater to the portion of the mind that craves dance, music, painting, and theatre are rare and special. Most of my kids think about art as drawing and the level of enthusiasm towards that varies greatly. But this year in our art specialty they are able to design their own screen prints to put on T-shirts which is an art form that is less typical for them to try. In an ideal situation each youth would be able to find an art form that speaks to them, be it graffiti, improv, jewelry-making, DJ-ing, or hair braiding. Finding an artistic skill that they are genuinely interested in and want to develop is like planting a seed that can help their minds flourish.

Art makes the world that much more rich, beautiful, and vibrant. Even though participating (in anything really) garners an eyeroll and a groan from most of my middle schoolers, I hold out hope that with enough exposure to new artistic opportunities that something will spark that creative gene in them. I truly believe that finding a connection to creativity is a way for these youth to connect with each other and possibly--possibly-- put down the phones every once in awhile.

By Vicky Ajene

I am Vicky Ajene, a 26-year old fashion designer and alumni of the B-SAFE Program. I grew up in the arts, attending Boston Arts Academy for Instrumental Music and Lasell College to receive my B.A. in Fashion Design and Production. After college I freelanced as a designer for PUMA and J.Jill and later went on to teach at Lasell College as an adjunct professor. What I hope to bring to the program is a sense of community and an outlet that encourages kids to explore their creative sides.

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.