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.