Over the past twenty years, the B-SAFE Program (The Bishop's Summer Academic and Fun Enrichment Program) has grown from a small program in the South End with twenty-five elementary schoolers having tasty lunches, taking fun field trips, and making creative art to one of the largest summer programs in the Boston-area. This year, the B-SAFE community will span six neighborhoods, have nearly 500 elementary and middle schoolers developing their skills in Humanities and STEM (among other subjects), build the professional skills of 170 teens who will have paid jobs, and employ 90 adults as teachers, youth workers, and leaders. Over the past two decades, 7,000 unique young people have participated in and been formed by the B-SAFE Program.
Even as B-SAFE has grown, we have worked to maintain our model of individual attention and support for young people. B-SAFE's values of building a community where all people feel safe, feel big, and feel connected helps us create places and spaces where all youth feel loved and included; all teens try new things, make mistakes, and try again; and adults (both staff and volunteers) build meaningful relationships as mentors. B-SAFE emphasizes leadership development; one of our proudest statistics for this year is that just over 65% of our adult staff people are former B-SAFE participants or teen staff.
Yet, the numbers and growth tell only part of the story of B-SAFE. Over the first three days of July, our adult and teen staff came together for the B-SAFE training. Together, we got certified in first aid, learned more about how to implement B-SAFE's model of restorative justice, played a ton of games, practiced crossing the street safely, and got trained in supporting the academic components of the program. But, really? We build relationships. Our connections with each other --across differences of neighborhood, age, language, and culture--create a sense of cooperation and joy that we hope will inspire the young people so they do the same.
News of separation and divisiveness surrounds us and is creating a feeling for many of our B-SAFE families that they do not belong. B-SAFE offers a welcome antidote to this rhetoric with our theme for the summer, "Do It Like YOU!" from the movie Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, Each B-SAFE community member's special and unique talents are to be celebrated. When we put these all together, we are stronger and better. And that is some Good News!
Could there be a more important way to spend these summer days than building friendships and increasing love? Come join us!
By Liz Steinhauser, Senior Director of Youth Programs
Liz Steinhauser joined St. Stephen's staff as the Director of Youth Programs in August 2003. She brings over 30 years of professional training and experience as a youth worker and community organizer to the position. Liberation theology developed her commitment to social justice. Girl Scouts built her arts and crafts skills and her repertoire of goofy songs. She is a graduate of Colgate University and Harvard Divinity School and is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. She lives in Roslindale with her modern family.