After my last year as a site manager for B-SAFE, I noticed an opportunity for program growth. Our middle school Youth Leadership Corps (YLC) program was in need of a reboot to make thoughtful and deliberate changes that reflect the youth we serve. It seemed counterintuitive to expect our middle school students to rise to the expectation of leadership while doing the same programming as our youngest ones.
Also, the impact of media, hormonal changes, our current social climate, life transitions (elementary to middle school or middle to high school), and community/peer pressures puts our 6-8th graders in a completely different mental headspace. It opens up a need for different conversations, different workshops, and differentiated learning approaches. It’s harder to have conversations about voting/elections, toxic masculinity, the importance of giving back, and setting financial goals with elementary aged students, but it is the perfect time to start with our budding teenagers.
The Bishop’s Summer Academic & Enrichment (B-SAFE) Program always looks to find role models for our youth to look up to. In previous years they were Mae Jemison, Kamala Harris, and Michelle Obama. Representation has always been important for our program because a majority of the students we serve come from neighborhoods stricken with violence and poverty. There is something empowering about seeing a person who looks like you do powerful and positive things. Unfortunately, due to environment, society, and media our youth come to us bombarded with images and misconceptions about their futures and we try to make deliberate steps to flood these negative ideas out with positive ones.
Yara Shahidi is our “Hero of the Summer 2018” because she reminds us that activism has no age limit. Everyone has a voice and a point of view that matters. Anyone can get involved and show leadership. In a world that often times glorifies ignorance, Yara goes against the grain to prove that education is cool, art is powerful, and love builds community. (It’s also a cool connection that she has decided to attend Harvard here in Boston--with a recommendation letter from last summer’s hero, Michelle Obama!)
For B-SAFE 2018 YLC students will be engaged weekly in academic enrichment, community service projects, and field trips that inform and inspire. Each week we will be delving into new ways to live out our theme-- “Disrupt, Remold, Create”. This includes participating in workshops to disrupt the way our minds have been conditioned to think by society, field trips that teach us how our government works and what it takes to remold it, and creating art for our communities that is socially relevant. There will also be a Yara inspired academic rotation where we explore topics that Yara is passionate about.
Our goal is to create a community of young leaders that are socially conscious, believe that they can effect change, and represent a voice that is often unheard and undervalued. We hope that each participant can seek out their own individual strengths and discover new ways to contribute to the world around them.
By Vicky Ajene
I am Vicky Ajene, a 27-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.