The sun was bright and the skies were clear when nearly 800 people connected to the B-SAFE Program gathered at Carson Beach for the program's 20th Anniversary Carnival on Friday, July 26. Youth participants, teen and adult staff, volunteers from partner organizations, alumni of the program, and parents of participants all came together to celebrate two decades of relationship-building, academic-skill-practicing, exciting-field-tripping, art-creating, healthy-lunch-eating, and fun-having. A spirit of gratitude and joy was evident in the smiles and excitement of young people and adults alike.
The B-SAFE Program (Bishop's Summer Academic and Fun Enrichment Program) was established in summer 2000 by the Rev, Tim Crellin, shortly after he became the vicar of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in the South End. His experience as a youth worker in the neighborhood in the years before becoming a priest and his conversations with parents and young people in the neighborhood informed his understanding that there was a need for more affordable, high-quality summer programs in the Villa Victoria neighborhood. That first summer, there were 25 elementary schoolers in the four-week program; they had a great time making art, splashing at the Blackstone pool, and going on local field trips. Over the years, the B-SAFE program has grown and evolved. Inspired by research that demonstrated the summer learning slide experienced by many urban public school students, B-SAFE developed fun academic curricula to practice reading, writing and math skills. Motivated by the former Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the Right Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, B-SAFE expanded beyond the South End location to six neighborhoods around Boston and Chelsea. With the help of Mayor Tom Menino and now Mayor Marty Walsh, B-SAFE added a youth employment component to B-SAFE; more than 150 teens have meaningful jobs or paid internships through B-SAFE each summer. In the past 20 years, 7,000 unique students have participated in B-SAFE and this summer, over 65% of B-SAFE's adult staff are former participants or teen staff from the programs.
At the Anniversary Carnival, this sense of connection, love, and fun was in the air. Young people from different sites and neighborhoods played together with friendly games and relay races and a tug-of-love (a more peaceful version of tug-of-war). Everyone ate at least one popsicle or novelty from the ice cream truck. Young people held hermit crabs and explored marine life with the help of the New England Aquarium instructors. Laughter and smiles were as abundant as the turkey and cheese sandwiches and wraps volunteers from suburban Episcopal churches had prepared for lunch. Founder and SSYP Executive Director Tim Crellin said about the day, "People ask me, 'Tim, did you ever imagine that B-SAFE would have this many kids at this many locations?' And honestly, I never did. But I am so grateful for all the staff and partners who have been part of our B-SAFE community over the years and made all of this happen."
B-SAFE is just one part of St. Stephen's Youth Programs (SSYP), which has as its mission to promote equity in education, employment, and opportunity through long-term relationships with young people and their families and communities. During the school year, SSYP runs afterschool programs in two locations for elementary and middle schoolers. SSYP's teen and alumni programs provide support for young people as they plan for their futures in college and in careers. Community organizing and family engagement programs help teens and parents develop leadership skills and create solutions for issues of community safety and in public education. To learn more or to get involved, contact email@example.com or come to SSYP's Fall Open House on Tuesday, September 24 from 6:30-8:00pm at 419 Shawmut Avenue.
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.