BIG Thanks for BIG Books from BIG-Hearted Book-Lovers of Grace Episcopal Church, Newton

SSYP partners with the Blackstone School in many ways, including coordinating the school library. This would not be possible without the network of partners who contribute time, energy, funds, and books to the student readers. In January, Rowan Pantalena, Minister for Christian Formation at Grace Episcopal Church in Newton, led an Advent book drive for the Blackstone Library. 

On a mid-January Tuesday, on behalf of Grace and their rector, The Rev. Regina Walton, Rowan delivered a huge crate of books collected for the Blackstone Library along with more than $100 in Barnes and Noble gift cards. Big thanks to Rowan, Regina, and the congregants of Grace Episcopal Church. Check out the excited readers! 

By Tricia Harvey, Library Coordinator


Trailblazers with St. Stephen's Youth Programs and The Validation Project

On December 18th, a group of 10 young women went on a College & Career field trip to Education First and Harvard Graduate School of Education in a collaboration with St. Stephen's Youth Programs and The Validation Project. 

The field trip started off with a tour of Education First led by female employees and a mock focus group workshop surrounding what the teens are hoping to do in the future. The teens learned about how focus groups serve researchers. 

After the focus group Education First threw a pizza party for the teens where they voiced their fears and excitement for the future.

After our networking dinner we headed over to Harvard for a panel with current students about their educational and professional paths. Thank you to The Validation Project for helping us create a space to empower young women!

By Emily DeMazza, Ambassador of Mentoring


Blackstone School and St. Stephen’s Build Warm Relationships Despite Frigid Cold

On Monday, January 21, more than 130 people from over 20 community organizations ignored the arctic temperatures, donned winter boots, and made their way over to the Blackstone School for the annual MLK Day of Action. This is the ninth year that St. Stephen’s Youth Programs (SSYP) has organized the day of support for the school, along with key partners City Year, Friends of the Blackstone, Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), several Episcopal churches, and the B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign.

The MLK Day of Action strives to advance the vision of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by combining work projects that improve the learning environment of the school with leadership workshops about issues of justice. This year, volunteers created scores of posters and window murals to inspire students, cleared out space for more effective occupational and physical therapy sessions, improved shelving and storage in the school library, assembled care packages for students to be distributed before April’s MCAS tests, organized the parent center and compassion closet for families, and added beauty and affirmations to the teacher lounge.  Additional projects took place in SSYP’s afterschool space at 419 Shawmut Avenue, including a re-organization of the library there.

The leadership workshop began with motivational words from the South End’s new State Representative Jon Santiago and City Councillor Ed Flynn. Both politicians talked about their commitment to public education. SSYP Staff Organizers Ariel Branz, Rafaela Polanco, and Bar Kolodny taught about the process that Boston Public Schools uses to distribute money to schools and the impossible choices that school administrators must often make. Using popular education techniques, games and team competition, pie charts and rock-paper-scissors, the trainers helped participants understand the complicated system of funding and expenses that schools like the Blackstone face. As one elementary student said at the end of the workshop, “It was really fun. The training was good for six-year olds and sixty-year olds!”

As the training outlined, due to changes in status and formulas, the Blackstone School is facing a budget gap for the school year 2019-2020 and is eliminate $500,000 of staff and services from its already thin budget. This will likely result in the elimination of at least ten staff positions, including the family coordinator, school counselor, inclusion strand coordinators, classroom teachers, and other key roles that help to meet the educational requirements of Blackstone’s most high-need students.  

Blackstone teachers and parents, community partners, and MLK Day volunteers refuse to accept choosing between meeting the needs of English Language Learners and Special Education students. Instead, leaders are working together to solve this educational emergency by pushing for the necessary, full-funding for the school.  Participants in the leadership workshop made over 100 on-the-spot calls to Boston decision-makers in City Hall and the Boston Public Schools. Many of these leaders will be turning out again, this time wearing their dark-blue Blackstone “Ubuntu” t-shirts for the Wednesday, January 30 School Committee meeting at 6:00pm at the Bolling Building. State Rep. Santiago and City Councillor Flynn pledged their support for this effort and will be at the School Committee Meeting, too.

Leaders from SSYP and the Blackstone School invite community members to support the Blackstone as their neighborhood school. To find out more about Blackstone’s budget crisis, support teachers and families, or to volunteer in Blackstone classrooms and library, contact Liz Steinhauser at

By Liz Steinhauser, Senior Director of Youth Programs

(L-R) Blackstone Principal Jamel Adkins-Sharif, SSYP Parent Organizer Rafaela Polanco, City Councilor Ed Flynn, State Rep. Jon Santiago

(L-R) Blackstone Principal Jamel Adkins-Sharif, SSYP Parent Organizer Rafaela Polanco, City Councilor Ed Flynn, State Rep. Jon Santiago

Volunteers from Congregation Dorshei Tzedek bring beauty to the Blackstone School. 

Volunteers from Congregation Dorshei Tzedek bring beauty to the Blackstone School. 

Volunteers improve shelving in Blackstone Library

Volunteers improve shelving in Blackstone Library

Inspirational words were  posted around the school. 

Inspirational words were  posted around the school. 

Words to live by at the Blackstone School! 

Words to live by at the Blackstone School! 

SSYP Staff and Mass Promise Fellow Latasha Scott with young volunteers

SSYP Staff and Mass Promise Fellow Latasha Scott with young volunteers

Giving Back

On January 4th at St. Augustine and St. Martin, the youth participated in what we like to call “a day of service.” We decided that we wanted to continue to give back and thought it would be best to do so with an organization that has agreed to work and partner with us. During the April vacation this year, we will be visited by the MSPCA Adoption Center, an animal shelter located in Jamaica Plain. During that time we will learn more about what the MSPCA does to help homeless animals and what we can do to help those animals, too. The MSCPA, along explaining the depths of their organization, will bring a couple of animals for the youth and staff to get to know and hang out with! We decided that we should thank the organization by donating some items that will help them in their everyday tasks. The youth made homemade dog treats with oatmeal, peanut butter and pumpkin puree. YUM! They also designed hand towels that the MSPCA will be able to use to clean the facility, and they wrote lovely notes to all the homeless animals. I hope that you enjoy the pictures attached of the youth during these several activities. #AdoptDontShop

By Cassandra Bernabel, Site Manager at St. Augustine and St. Martin


Groups stage City Hall Christmas event asking wealthy Boston nonprofits to pay their share of municipal costs

With petitions, songs, costumes, and a brass band, students and other demonstrators from the PILOT Action Group staged a performance today in Boston City Hall, dramatizing their campaign to get wealthy nonprofits to contribute their fair share for city services.

Young people from Boston Public Schools, their parents, and members of other PILOT Action Group organizations sang modified lyrics to popular Christmas carols and delivered petitions with more than 1,000 signatures asking Mayor Marty Walsh and the City Council to press wealthy nonprofits to make their full payments due under the city’s Payments In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) program. The hallways rang with the music of local brass musicians and chants of “Jingle bells, jingle bells, PILOT’s on the way, Oh what joy it is to go to fully-funded schools-hey!”

“Every day I read from textbooks older than I am, and I pray that there’s soap in the bathrooms, even though there never is,” said Fiona McManus, an 11th grader in Boston Public Schools, underscoring the need for fully-funded schools.

“Universities like Northeastern are growing and expanding into the neighborhoods’ rental market with students outcompeting with lifelong residents,” said Cortina Vann, an organizer with the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA). “We have a racial homeownership gap that is unacceptable. PILOT is a way for major nonprofit institutions to give back and address the housing crisis that they as institutions are helping to feed.”

City Councilors Annissa Essaibi-George, Lydia Edwards, Ed Flynn, and Michelle Wu addressed the crowd. "Boston is home to fantastic educational institutions, world-renowned hospitals, and distinguished cultural centers that help make our city great and attractive. However, these institutions own a lot of property in Boston, property that has not been reassessed since 2007," said Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George. "It is important that these nonprofit institutions pay their fair share of taxes to offset the burden on Boston taxpayers."

Nonprofit organizations are exempt by state law from paying property taxes, even though they receive city services paid for by the taxes of others.

In 2010, a city taskforce that included nonprofit representatives was convened by then Mayor Menino to come up with a way for nonprofits to shoulder a share of Boston’s municipal expenses. The taskforce agreed that wealthy nonprofits—those owning over $15 million of Boston real estate—should pay one quarter of what they would owe if they were not exempt. Half of that quarter can be in kind services to the city and its residents, or community benefits. These payments are called Payments In Lieu Of Taxes or PILOT. Payments began in 2012.

Many large institutions have complied with the program but some of the wealthiest, especially some of the universities—Boston College, Harvard University, and Northeastern University—are falling farther and farther behind in their payments. Boston University increased its contribution from last year.  

In 2018, only 64 percent of the requested PILOT cash payments were collected, down from 90 percent in 2012. Altogether, wealthy nonprofits are more than $77 million in arrears since 2012. Most of that—$46.7 million—is due from the “Big 4” universities.  

The PILOT Action Group is a growing coalition of more than 20 community, faith, student and labor groups working to increase compliance with the city’s PILOT program by appealing directly to the wealthiest non-compliers and by asking the city government to hold nonprofits accountable for their missing payments.

The organizations have issued a comprehensive report on the PILOT program and its shortcomings, packed a City Council hearing in August, and recently wrote letters to Mayor Marty Walsh and major university presidents seeking to meet with them about PILOT underpayments.

“Today’s action is a light-hearted part of our campaign but this is a very serious matter for the residents of Boston,” said Enid Eckstein of the PILOT Action Group.  “These institutions benefit tremendously from being located in an exciting city. They should pay their fair share of the costs. We will continue to expand our campaign until they do.”

The demonstration ended in the lobby of the Mayor’s office, where students and parents in full costume dramatized the Grinch story. Seven-year-old Amy Polanco, dressed as Cindy Lou, insisted, “All I want for Christmas is for you to pay your PILOT Payments!” In the end, the green-faced Grinch covered in university logos handed “Mayor Santa Claus Walsh” a check for the $77 million dollar arrears, and the band burst into song.

For more on the PILOT Action Group, visit

By the PILOT Action Group Organizing Members

City Councilor Lydia Edwards addresses the audience.

City Councilor Lydia Edwards addresses the audience.

Delivering a check for the $77 million in unpaid PILOTs from “Grinchy Universities” to the City of Boston.

Delivering a check for the $77 million in unpaid PILOTs from “Grinchy Universities” to the City of Boston.

Cindy Lou tells the Grinch, “All I want for Christmas is for you to pay your PILOT Payments!”

Cindy Lou tells the Grinch, “All I want for Christmas is for you to pay your PILOT Payments!”

Service is Sweet!

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”

    ~ Mahatma Gandhi

As we work to support youth in becoming healthy, successful individuals and strong leaders, we must remember the importance and value of service. In the JCIT (Junior Counselor In Training) program, there is a constant focus on personal development and leadership development among the 9th graders who make up our team. Lately, the JCITs have been hard at work planning and implementing a service project to give back to local children this holiday season.  

In late November, we had great brainstorming session where the JCITs pitched a variety of fundraising ideas. Eventually, the group voted on making deep-fried oreos and brownies to sell, and use the money to buy gifts for local children whose families need support this holiday season. The next week we made lists of exactly what materials we would need and calculated the cost. The JCITs were very focused on both cost and quality, noting bargains on certain items, but insisting we get Ghirardelli brownie mix because it is the best!  We also decided to sell dog treats since we would be setting up shop at the park across the street, where many people take their dogs. After materials were purchased, we devoted a whole day of programming to baking, frying, and crafting. The finished product was beautiful: bags of sugar-dusted fried oreos, fudgy brownies, and homemade dog biscuits, all tied with ribbons and a festive gift tag containing a picture of the JCIT crew and the list of ingredients we used.

The day after making our products, we sold them at the park, talking to lots of community members, and petting lots of dogs. After standing hours in the cold, and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones, we raised a total of $295!!! Last Thursday, we took our money over to Target and picked out gifts for the kids whose wishlists we had been given.

The JCITs really took ownership of this project, and let their leadership skills shine. We all got to grow our skills in business, fundraising, baking, crafting, communication, advertising, customer service, and shopping on a budget! I was impressed with the devotion many of them showed to the project, and know that there are more service projects in our future!

By Jennie Bruno, JCIT coordinator


Church - School Partnership Builds a Library that Inspires a Love of Reading

St. Stephen’s Youth Programs (SSYP) and the Blackstone Elementary School kicked off their ninth year of a formal partnership and readers of all ages celebrated their love of books. One of the signature projects of SSYP is the school library, which was without one for almost a decade before the partnership. The Blackstone Library is open to students and teachers five days a week. With close to 12,000 well-organized volumes on the shelves, an online database of these books, regular author visits, a subscription to the search engine EBSCO, and a cheery, well-lit space, the Blackstone is one of the premier elementary school libraries in Boston Public Schools. This is all thanks to a team of dedicated volunteers and resources raised outside of the school’s regular budget.

Library volunteers, who are neighborhood residents and members of suburban Episcopal churches,  welcome two-thirds of the school’s classrooms (23 of 35) for weekly visits to the library for read-alouds and book-borrowing. Adults work hard to get to know each young person in grades K0 to 5, helping students find the “just-right” book to read independently.

In October, young readers at the school met Newbery Honor-winning author Adam Gidwitz.  This and other author visits to the Blackstone School have been made possible because of SSYP’s partnership with Wondermore, Inc., a Boston-based non-profit agency that seeks to “cultivate children’s curiosity, creativity, and academic achievement by igniting a love of good books.” During his time at the school, Gidwitz presented his new series, The Unicorn Rescue Society, and shared insights into the writing process with an enthusiastic audience of third graders.  Thanks to the generosity of Wondermore and Gidwitz, each student took home a copy of the first book in the series.  Wondermore also provided copies of the next two books in the series to all the third-grade classrooms and to the Blackstone Library, where they are proving to be popular checkout choices!

In November Blackstone Library volunteers led activities at the Blackstone’s Family Literacy Night, an annual event that encourages a spirit of literacy at school and at home.  More than forty students visited library, bringing their friends and family members, to make bookmarks, pick up some reading-related swag, and read stories to the library’s mascot, Clifford the Big Red Dog.

The library program relies on volunteers who keep their focus on supporting classroom teachers and enriching the reading experience for students.  If you are interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities in the library, please email the Blackstone-SSYP’s Library Coordinator, Tricia Harvey ( to arrange a visit or join the next orientation session.

Support for the Blackstone Library can also come through donations. During this festive season, please consider donating a book from the Blackstone-SSYP Wish List, found online at Porter Square Books:

Be sure to mention in the Order Comments section that you are ordering for Blackstone Library to receive a 10% discount. Choose "In-store Pick-up" as the delivery option and Blackstone Volunteers will take it from there.

By Tricia Harvey, Library Coordinator

Literacy Night activities for students and families

Literacy Night activities for students and families

Library volunteer Jen Cusack of Needham gets ready to welcome young readers on Literacy Night

Library volunteer Jen Cusack of Needham gets ready to welcome young readers on Literacy Night

Author Adam Gidwitz Visits the Blackstone

Author Adam Gidwitz Visits the Blackstone

Blackstone Library display of Gidwitz books

Blackstone Library display of Gidwitz books

Parent Snack!

If you are familiar with our program, you may know that the well-being of all of our youth is always our main priority. Every day, apart from helping 130 kids with homework and other enrichment activities, we also provide our youth with a meal. The meals we provide our kids are warm when appropriate and hearty which allows for our youth to make it through the afternoon with full bellies. For some years now we have tried our best to include our families in this part of our afternoon by asking that they help us provide snack.

This year we put a little more effort into reaching out to our families for help and we have had such a great turn out so far! Every Thursday we have been so lucky as to have 2 to 3 families help us provide snacks for our kids! It has turned into a day the kids look forward to as they eat the food that their families prepare and we thank the kids whose parents cooked for us. 

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

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Running with Sole Train

The YLC middle school program had its first race on October 20th, “THE JP FUN RUN,” and the youth did a great job completing the 5K. The youth enjoyed all the support during the race: they got to see some of their middle school teachers who are involved in Sole Train, Megan, who was their Site Coordinator for St. Stephen’s last year, and even some outside friends. One youth name Fanleys and his running old sole Kyshawn completed the race in 33 mins. Another youth Dana and her old sole Maggie completed in 43 mins. The race was provided by a community-building and mentoring program that uses running as a vehicle for setting and achieving seemingly impossible goals. As a supportive community of caring adults and peers, Sole Train champions young people as they realize their capacity for greatness. Come cheer us on at our next big race in May of 2019 “ The Run to Remember”. Or every Tuesday and Thursday as we run in the South End for practice.

By Latasha Scott, YLC Program Coordinator and Mass Promise Fellow


Learning Through Play

Anyone who knows me well knows that math and I have never gotten along. I was able to keep up enough to pass but I never felt like I got it. Fractions were particularly difficult for me so I can empathize with our students who struggle to grasp certain concepts or subjects in school. It is easy to fall behind and harder and harder to catch up. While my parents and teachers did the groundwork to help me understand the general concept of fractions, it didn’t fully click until I looked at it in a different

I could read and understand music--that made sense to me. It was when I stopped thinking about the fractions as math I realized that I did understand them and had, in fact, been using fractions this whole time when subdividing musical measures and melodies. The skills were there but something about the formal classroom setting caused a disconnect. The only way for me to reconnect with these skills was to practice them in an area I felt skilled at and that I found enjoyable.

This is the basis of my theory on learning through play. Standard classroom learning can be an intimidating and sometimes cold environment. The last thing I want when facilitating a lesson is to have youth stressed or disengaged. I’ve noticed that our youth tend to loosen up when you take out the classroom feel and incorporate more abstract activities, competitions, and games.

This theory also is the reason that we introduced Skillz Lab this year. Skillz Lab offers a variety of activities for youth to engage in but the catch is that each activity is stimulating some area of their brain. For example, when you challenge a child to build the tallest lego tower, their mind is learning about engineering and architecture. In a Play-Doh version of a “Cake Boss” bake-off, a child’s sculpture is really just practicing concepts in fine art, color theory, and geometry. A simple activity surrounding planting seeds has youth inadvertently learning about living organisms and the science of botany. “Fill in the Caption” comic books are really just storytelling, dialogue, and writing in disguise.

Skillz Lab in particular is embodying our B-READY 2018-19 theme “Change Can’t Wait” by trying something radical with the hopes of a positive outcome. Within an afterschool setting, we are fighting an uphill battle by offering classroom structure after a child has already had a 6+ hour school day. In my opinion, it does us no good to pretend to be what we are not--in this case, teachers. This is especially true when you consider that learning is constant and limitless and that humans learn a variety of ways. The formal classroom setting has already been provided by each of their schools. What we can provide is the supplemental practice and real-life application of those learnings. What we can provide is play.

By Vicky Ajene, Manager of Academic and Enrichment Programs.


Tacos & Trivia: Kick-Off to Mentoring

From the Open House to Tacos & Trivia and the first Mentor Training, adult and teen participants alike have shown passion and interest in cultivating their mentoring relationships. 

The winning team at Tacos and Trivia

The winning team at Tacos and Trivia

The official mentor kick off was on October 4th at the Volunteer Open House. The room was buzzing with conversation and excitement about the upcoming year. With thirty volunteers roaming around the building, a mix of new and returning, I felt my own passion and excitement growing with each person I talked to. On that Thursday evening, I left work feeling more ready than ever to cultivate mentor matches and plan events.

The first event I planned for mentor and mentee matches was Tacos & Trivia. Here, the interest in mentoring for youth and mentors was obvious over five competitive rounds of trivia. At the end of the fifth round we had a three way tie. After some careful deliberation, the judges decided that whoever could list the most Disney movies in one minute would take home the trophy. After an intense sixty seconds, the underdog of the game won the Fall 2018 Taco's & Trivia! Join us on November 16th for our next Mentor/Mentee Night! 

On October 16th we had our Mentor Training kickoff event! We were happy to welcome Janeen Smith of Mass Mentoring Partnership to facilitate this training. All our mentors found something new to learn and reported that this was a helpful training. Our next training on November 5th will have a focus on mentor check-ins and how to build your mentor relationship. 

I can't wait to see what this incredible year of mentoring relationships will bring for our teens and their mentors. 

By Emily Demazza, Americorps Ambassador of Mentoring

Welcoming a New Site Manager!

Hi, my name is Cassandra Bernabel and I am the new site manager for the St. Augustine and St. Martin location. This is a new role for me, but I have actually been a part of the program for approximately 10 years. I started working for St. Stephen’s as a counselor in training when I was 15 years old. I grew from that position, taking on more responsibility as a site assistant and, later on, as a lead counselor. After a two-year break, gaining different skills and knowledge concerning youth with autism and animal welfare, I have returned to an environment that has always brought me joy. To be exact, I have returned to St. Stephen’s to continue to pursue my passion with children and to gain more experience for a possible future career in teaching.

By Cassandra Bernabel, Site Manager at St. Augustine and St. Martin’s


B-COOL and B-KIND in Concord

By Martha Stone, B-Cool Leader at Trinity- Concord

Ok, sure. It’s all well and good to open your home... invite a few people to spend time together... share a meal... a little conversation. The vision is pure joy at the outset. When a whole bunch of other stuff fills your calendar between the day the invitations go out and the day of the party, that’s when it gets real and you say to yourself, “I must have been out of my mind! Who ever thought hosting a party at our house was a good idea?”

The narrative at Trinity Concord with St. Stephen’s Boston couldn’t have been further from that kind of panic when we launched B- Cool in early August. When we heard that St. Stephen’s kids were coming to play at our house, parishioners from every generation stepped up for the sheer joy of it. Collaborations in baking, photography, floral design, collecting, writing, organizing, recruiting, gardening, teaching, smiling and laughing made the day.

From our youngest camper (age 5) to our oldest volunteer (91) we worked together, got hands dirty together, shared stories together and got sticky, soaked and sudsy together. Trinity’s teenaged “sidekicks” supported individual teams to guide and get to know their campers as they moved from activity to activity.

In 4 hours, some 60 campers, 15 staff and CITs and 25 volunteers shared hundreds of interactions – some planned, some serendipitous. These connections deepened the gratitude for our long-standing ministry with St Stephen’s.

We wouldn’t have believed it if we hadn’t seen it with our own eyes, heard it with our own ears and felt it in our own hearts.

Click here to see our one-day adventure for yourself.

Welcome to our new Fellows!

This week St. Stephen's Youth Programs welcomed  three new staff members for 2018-2019! Thanks to our partnerships with the Mass Promise Fellowship and Mass Mentoring Partnership, we are thrilled to welcome Tasha, Jennie, and Emily. Read on to hear from them about why they're here!


My name is Latasha Scott and I am a first year Massachusetts Promise Fellow. I wanted to commit to a year of service to develop real-world skills through a hands-on service. I want to create equity for the up coming youth by helping them break down barriers and build up the confidence by knowing they can achieve anything. Through my year of service I hope to make a impact on the participants with the wisdom I obtained and the compassion I provide. 

My name is Jennie Bruno and I'm a first-year AmeriCorps Massachusetts Promise Fellow working as the JCIT Coordinator and one of the teen staff supervisors. I wanted to do a year of service because I wanted to purposefully and proactively grow as a leader and learn more about youth work and community work. I want to make a difference for young people, giving them the support and resources they deserve instead of the inadequate environments and lack of opportunity society often leaves them with. My hope is that the world will become a better place, but I know that in order for that to happen we need to empower and encourage our next generation of leaders. 



My name is Emily DeMazza and I’m the Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassador of Mentoring through the Mass Mentoring Partnership. I’ll be working with volunteers overall as well as the mentoring program to put on orientations, training and activities. I wanted to do a year of service to help connect youth with adults and foster relationships that will make a meaningful impact for both the mentors and the mentees. I can’t wait to meet all of you and work with our youth!

From left to right: Jennie, Tasha, and Emily

From left to right: Jennie, Tasha, and Emily


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As 100+ scholars poured into Epiphany, ready for B-SAFE, I remember being fearful that I could not contain all the energy, that the future lesson plans would end in disaster.

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This fear came from my lack of experience in such an environment, and yet, the scholars proved me wrong. With some support and attention, their final projects for STEM, a Rube Goldberg machine, turned out creative and unique. During the closing ceremony, I asked them what their favorite STEM activity was, and many said that it was working on the Rube Goldberg machine. Another student said that STEM had been her favorite academic rotation. I also saw two students using Jenga blocks to create a mini Rube Goldberg machine during their break time. I could not be prouder of them.

These scholars have taught me how to be patient and adaptable; they have taught me more than I could have ever taught them.  

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By Emily Cheng

Emily is a rising sophomore at Princeton University, majoring in Molecular Biology. She helped design and implement the STEM curriculum for LEARN and for YLC at St. Luke’s Church. She aspires to be a physician scientist and is passionate about issues relating to minorities and education. She comes to St. Stephen's through Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS).

Making Learning Fun

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It is very easy to fall into the trap of teaching to the test or thinking that in order for children to grow and learn they must be contained in an extremely structured, student sits and teacher teaches, direct instruction kind of environment.  At the B-SAFE program at Epiphany LEARN that is not how learning happens.  The same way kids come in all types of personalities and different backgrounds so does the way they learn. Not all participants learn the same way. It is important that as educators and youth workers we understand that. The world we live in is different, the environment in which our children grow in is different, and so the way they learn is also different. Learning can happen in all types of forms. Learning can be measured in all types of ways. Test should not dictate the content taught or the manner in which learning happens. This leaves with the question of, how do children learn? The first step is taking the time to get to know them, their families, and their individual needs. As you take the time to build that foundational relationship, you build trust, you learn about their strengths and areas that need more growth. When we engage families we get a more accurate picture of the child and come to understand their needs even better.  This foundation is crucial in helping learning happen. You then tailor your lessons to those needs and little personalities. Learning can happen while out exploring in a field as much as it can happen sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture. Learning can be measured in a conversation as much as in the completion of a worksheet. If this is true, then we should be making learning more engaging to children by making it fun. The best learning happens when kids don’t necessarily realize that they are learning something new. This learning is permanent because it is t engrained with happy memories. This is the learning that comes from something being created and all of our senses activated. Effective learning is when we have kids at the edge of their seats with suspense eager to take in more information. It’s when they have smile on their face because they can see and understand the growth that they just underwent. This is how effective teaching should always be. This the direction that successful prevention of the summer slide should take. This is how we have fun learning at B-SAFE.

By Mauryn Perkins

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Learn and Grow with St. Stephen's Youth Programs


I am Zinha Coronel, I am 19 years old, I have worked with St. Stephen's Youth Programs for three years, and I’ve worked with B-SAFE for two years. Started off as a CIT, then worked for B-SAFE the summer of 2017 as an Art Specialist, then became a Lead that following fall for LEARN. In the summer of 2018, I am a Site Assistant, I help out my site manager around the site making sure things are running smoothly, and I help manage how lunch will be served, and that also goes along  with breakfast. Being a Site Assistant allows me to build my skills in management, since that is what I am majoring in college. I am learning how to use the resources around me and how to manage teens. My favorite thing about being a B-SAFE is watching young people learn and grow in the program.

By Zinha Coronel

We All Need Self-Care


When I transferred to Wheelock College in the fall of 2016, many professors and guest speakers would mention how important self-care is. I have done a lot of volunteering with different organizations, but it wasn’t until I started working in a therapeutic after-school program that I realized how important self-care is. Self-care is emotional, physical and mental. These are the areas where we need to take time to prepare ourselves to do the work we are destined to do. How do you practice self-care? The first thing I turn to when I am feeling stressed is listening to music at the loudest possible volume. Well… maybe not that loud but it is definitely loud! Something about singing my heart out – although I know I can’t sing – singing out my emotions is refreshing. Work is stressful. Life is stressful. We all need time to ourselves to unwind, refresh and practice self-care.  

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By Nichelle Gomez

Nichelle is a rising senior at Simmons College where she studies social work. Nichelle started with St Stephen's Youth Programs in 2017 when she was hired as a lead counselor. Through hard work Nichelle moved up to be a teen staff manger for the B-SAFE Summer Program. Nichelle has a great passion for working with youth and wants to give back to her community. After she graduates with her bachelor in social work, Nichelle plans to continue her education at Simmons to receive a masters degree. Ultimately, Nichelle would like to become a clinical social worker.

Always Choose Kind

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This is the first year ever that B-SAFE has had two themes, one for the YLC (middle school) program and one for the LEARN (elementary school) program. 

The theme for the LEARN program this summer is a shortened version of a quote from the book Wonder, "When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind." This theme has been incorporated into many aspects of our programming. The most evident use of the theme is during the "Choose Kind" academic rotations where each lead reviews the lesson plans and run the activities with their groups. The youth have now learned about empathy, random acts of kindness, and about how people are more than just their appearances, with many other lessons not listed! 

The beauty of this theme is not only that it is short and memorable but the youth seem to really connect with it. Many times throughout the week when the youth have had a break in their B-Excellent Pacts you can hear them and their lead/teen using language like "that wasn't very kind" or "I will try to be kinder." This language is familiar to the youth. The message is made more clear when they get to watch video clips of how one random act of kindness can create a ripple effect or when they get to experience what is is like to live without sight and can feel what other peoples lives are like. Our youth are learning how to choose kind in all the things they do!

By Sandy Quispe


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.

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Time Capsule

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I wandered into the B-SAFE Humanities classroom this week where John Dwyer has been working and saw a table covered with cards. “To My Future Self” the cards were addressed. Inside, B-SAFE Learners had written down how they were feeling at the time they made them, “I Feel….” they began. “I Feel Happy!” “I Love Camp!” but also “I Feel Depressad (but I like John)” I love this creative spelling btw.

In my desk at home, I have a letter that says, “Do not open until 2077!” I had written a letter to my future self. From time to time, I open it. I used to find it embarrassingly goofy, but now I find it an amazing encapsulated report of a particular time in my life.

It occurs to me that many of the moments we share with children in our daily lives are time capsules--each act of kindness and teaching can make an indelible impression on a child’s life, as they carry it with them. To us, the moment may be quickly forgotten.To a child, the moment can be everything.

I still remember a camp counselor who made a dandelion chain for me one afternoon. I remember making stained glass cookies in a summer art camp. I remember a summer art teacher who was kind to me and complimented a large papier mache pig I had made and urged me to work on it some more--”it’s good! Keep going!”. In fact, I still have it and my family won’t let me throw it away! A papier mache cat my daughter made sits right next to it (she’s almost 23 now).

From childhood summers, I remember specific popsicles, art projects, splashing in fountains, eating a potato cooked in a campfire, but more than that, people who affirmed me and what I was feeling in the moment--whether that was “happy” or “depressad!”

So to the volunteers, the staff members, the families, and the supporters of B-SAFE, I would say,  please remember that the small things that you do and say can be of huge importance to the young people--affirming a feeling, sharing lunch, drawing a picture together, helping with a band-aid, reading, leading a field trip: these moments of kindness become part of a child’s memories and a big part of who that child becomes. Don’t ever underestimate who you are in a child’s life.

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By Kate Hornstein


Kate is Director of Development at SSYP until August 9th. Kate is also a volunteer writing tutor, choir geek, pug lover, aspiring novelist, and mother to two wonderful young people.