Over the past couple years, our programing for rising 9th graders has grown immensely! What makes the JCIT program unique is its hybrid of youth work training, enrichment, and fun field trips. When the JCITs are not visiting college campuses, touring organizations like Artists for Humanity, or taking part in Outward Bound activities on Thompson Island, they are working alongside older teens employed as Counselors in Training (CITs) with the elementary school program. The JCIT program is a transitional one, as JCITs are no longer middle schoolers in full day youth programming, but not yet high school students with part-time jobs. During B-SAFE, JCITs are building leadership skills that can later be taken into the classroom as well as other jobs, all while working for a stipend.
This year, our JCIT curriculum introduced them to community organizing. Not only did it provide them with the knowledge, language, and tools to work as future community organizers, but they gained a deeper understanding into the organizing work being done at SSYP. Throughout the year, parents have organized to gain a voice in their children’s schools, teens have lobbied to keep money in the city budget for education and teen jobs, and relationships have been built across between faith-based groups throughout the greater Boston area.
As the final piece of this curriculum, the JCITs stepped up to the plate and led programming for the elementary school program. After spending the summer learning about influential community organizers, team building, and collective action, it was amazing to give the JCITs the opportunity to show what they had learned. The JCITs planned the lessons and then taught them. And teaching a group of elementary age young people is no easy job, even for the best of teachers! The JCITs were proud of their work and the growth they had made over a few short weeks! While they were a little nervous at the beginning of the day, they quickly gained confidence in their leadership when they saw the enthusiasm of the kids. Their leadership spoke to the incredible potential young people have, when given the opportunities to grow and show off!
By Maureen Burns, South End School and Community Organizer
Maureen earned degrees in psychology and studio art from Loyola University in Chicago. A formative piece of her education involved collaborating on community-based research projects in Chicago which focused on youth perception of community violence. This experience in youth empowerment and community development, coupled with her experience as a preschool Teaching Assistant and nanny, led her to become a part of St. Stephen's Youth Programs. She strives to support and foster positive social, emotional, and academic development of the community's young people.