Fourth Annual Vigil to Honor Victims of Gun Violence

In September 2014, beloved St. Stephen’s Youth Programs community member Jorge Fuentes was shot and killed while walking his dog in front of his house in Dorchester. Just a dozen weeks later, an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut was attacked by a domestic terrorist toting an assault weapon. These senseless deaths left their communities reeling in shock and sadness- and with a new resolve to address the problem of gun violence in all of its forms across the country.

Every year, on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence honors the victims of that massacre, of gun deaths across the country since that day, and those shot and killed in Massachusetts in the past year. Every year, members of the B-PEACE for Jorge campaign attend to light candles to honor, in particular, the memory of Jorge, and also the new names added in the past year which inevitably include people who have touched the lives of people in our community.

This year, St. Stephen’s Youth Programs teen organizer Victoria Omoregie spoke at the vigil, kicking off a powerful lineup of anti gun violence advocates that included Imam , Boston’s Director of Public Safety Dan Mulhern and Attorney General Maura Healey. She talked about growing up in Dorchester, and told a story of a shooting that happened in a park in her neighborhood that caught a toddler in the crossfire of a shootout. After that day, her family started driving to a far away park in a wealthier and whiter neighborhood where that kind of violence was unthinkable,and then eventually stopped going to the parks altogether and began playing video games inside their home instead.


The speakers following Victoria echoed her message that all people should be safe in our city, “safe, regardless of their race or gender or immigration status or religion or sexual orientation. I want people to be safe from gun violence, and from all kinds of violence, in their schools, parks and neighborhoods.” With a new presidential administration poised to take office, the well-being of our most vulnerable family members, friends and neighbors is uncertain. We know and feel it is more important than ever to join together with our whole community and and Commonwealth and country to heed the words of Mother Jones who said, “Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.”

By Sarah O'Connor, B-PEACE Organizer

Advent Action: #SalsaShutDown with Cosecha and St. Stephen's

On Saturday December 3, nearly 300 people--including many Episcopalians from St. Stephen's Boston and Episcopal City Mission--gathered near Downtown Crossing to show their support for immigrants and immigrant rights. The #SalsaShutDown action was organized by Cosecha, a movement fighting for permanent protection, dignity, and respect for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. The SalsaShutDown action was a kickoff of the MigrantBoycott effort which will demonstrate the economic power of immigrants, both as workers and consumers in the United States. But mostly today was about the joy of dancing and bringing some of that energy to the holiday shopping scene.

The day began in Sproat Hall at the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts with a reflection led by the Rev. Marisa Egerstrom. She showed the early-arriving Episcopalians how political action is also spiritual action.  Together, we linked the efforts of Cosecha with the story of Advent and the ways in which Mary and Joseph were also migrants in their homeland, facing oppression under the powers of the Roman Empire. Then, we all received salsa dancing lessons and practiced our steps before exiting in small groups to gather at local stores to show off our newly developed dance skills. All of this was to bring attention to immigrant rights and protection, especially as we face uncertainty of how federal policies may change under a new administration. 

For the Episcopalians who were part of the action, it felt like we were taking well-organized steps (to a salsa beat) toward building the Kingdom of God. 

To see video and other photos of the day, check out Cosecha's Facebook Live video. And to get connected to the next action like this, contact Marisa for more information marisa@ststephensbos.org

By Liz Steinhauser, Senior Director of Youth Programs

  SSYP Teen Organizers at #SalsaShutDown

SSYP Teen Organizers at #SalsaShutDown

  Pre-action salsa lesson in Sproat Hall at the Cathedral of St. Paul

Pre-action salsa lesson in Sproat Hall at the Cathedral of St. Paul

  Cosecha and Diomass leaders show unity in Downtown Crossing

Cosecha and Diomass leaders show unity in Downtown Crossing

  SSYP Teen Organizers lead the upbeat chanting of "no music, no music" to keep the beat and dancing going even when the sound system is shut down

SSYP Teen Organizers lead the upbeat chanting of "no music, no music" to keep the beat and dancing going even when the sound system is shut down

  St. Stephen's leaders show their style at Primark

St. Stephen's leaders show their style at Primark

Arts and Action in Ramsay Park

 Teen organizers perform spoken word poetry and dance

Teen organizers perform spoken word poetry and dance

In the last week of their work in Boston for this B-SAFE summer, the teen community organizers created an event in Ramsay Park that brought together Lenox neighborhood residents (where St. A&M is located), state and city officials, Boston artists, local youth, and various neighborhood organizations for an evening of arts in the park. The community organizers shared a collaborative and original spoken word and dance piece called "We Want To Be Heard" before Anna Meyer and Dancers performed their work "Invisible Imprints of Racism" under the lights of the basketball court. The new mural the organizers painted in the first week of B-SAFE greeted people as they walked into the park. People who had participated in the previous week's peace walk showed up wearing their B-PEACE for Jorge buttons and purple shirts to eat hot dogs and drink lemonade as kids covered the sidewalk in chalk art and stray basketballs and baseballs rolled around their feet. 

 Teen organizers work on a mural in Ramsay Park.

Teen organizers work on a mural in Ramsay Park.

What do spoken word, murals and barbecues have to do with building power to transform a neighborhood steeped in a history of street violence and structural violence into a community where peace, justice and equity win? 

We brought people together, around food and art, to share an experience of what could be possible in the Lenox neighborhood. We know its possible because it happens in other parks in other neighborhoods, and because we made it happen in Ramsay, even if just for one night. And the hundreds of people who showed up built the case for each other, for their neighbors, and for the administrators of city and state governance that what happens in Ramsay Park and in the Lenox neighborhood matters. All the people there that night demonstrated clearly with their presence (in the 90 degree heat!) and their attention (even the basketball games paused to watch) and their applause that they are invested in the future of Ramsay Park, and this is how we build the power we need to decide what that future is like. 

City Parks and Rec staff was also at the event to begin collecting input from people about what to prioritize in the upcoming renovation of Ramsay Park. The community process for the redesign will begin in the fall, and Ramsay Park is slated for a major makeover in the coming year. Facilitating resident input for this process- with an eye toward building sustained neighborhood power to hold ground amidst the development swelling around the park- will be a major focus of SSYP's Lenox neighborhood organizing in the fall. 

By Sarah O'Connor, Lenox Community Organizer

Sarah started working with SSYP in the fall of 2014 as a Jewish Organizing Initiative and Network (JOIN) fellow. Sarah works with young people to organize for issues that affect youth across the city of Boston, like funding for public education and teen jobs, and on local neighborhood anti-violence campaigns. Sarah believes that a city that works for the young people in the SSYP family is a city that works well for everyone.

What do hot dogs have to do with educational justice?

I’ve spent a lot of time this summer wondering, “What could grilled hot dogs and lemonade possibly have to do with educational justice?”

 Kevin, a dad a St. Mary's, volunteered his outdoor catering company to grill for the BBQ.

Kevin, a dad a St. Mary's, volunteered his outdoor catering company to grill for the BBQ.

This summer, for the first time ever, B-SAFE hosted family BBQs at each of our six sites. As young people made a squirming line to get picked up, parents signed them out, grabbed their hands, and made their way over to tables piled with hot dogs, hamburgers, and tasty sides. Each site had its own feel: at Holy Spirit in Mattapan, the Site Director, Kennell, asked parents what the saying, “It takes a village” meant to them and asked them what they wanted from B-SAFE in the future. At St. Luke’s in Chelsea, the Site Director, Mauryn, used the time to assuage parents’ nerves about sending their middle-schoolers to New Hampshire for a week. At St. Mary’s in Dorchester, a parent leader in our Parent Organizing Group spoke to other parents about her experience, telling them that from the first time she walked in, she was greeted with “a smile and a community.”

One thing was clear: this works. Parents are notoriously busy, and yet when we took a chance on planning a family event, they wanted to be there. They wanted to get to know one another, they wanted to meet with their children’s counselors, and they wanted to chat with the Site Directors. Family engagement is an important part of our work at St. Stephen’s Youth Programs, and if this is our first year doing BBQs, just imagine the possibilities for next year!

 Parents receive certificates after completing a series of workshops in partnership with Families First.

Parents receive certificates after completing a series of workshops in partnership with Families First.

It also became clear that the relationships parents build with one another are the real reason they show up. This summer, we offered a second series of Parenting Workshops at our South End site in collaboration with Families First. Parents shared their struggles and successes, laughed together, and problem-solved with one another. While many of the parents there had been part of our Parent Organizing Group during the school year, some had not. When one mom heard the others talking about our group, she turned to me, and said, “Why haven’t I been invited yet? I want to come next year!”

The relationships that come from parent engagement efforts like BBQs and parenting workshops are strengthening our Parent Organizing Group and giving us more power as we tackle bigger questions of educational justice like school safety, parent voice, and fully funded public schools.

 A young person appreciates his mom at a family BBQ.

A young person appreciates his mom at a family BBQ.

Our final BBQ took place at St. Stephen’s during the last week of program. As I hopped from table to table meeting new parents and hi-fiving kids, I looked over and saw a group of parents that had met through our parent organizing group this year deep in conversation. But it wasn’t just them, they were sitting with parents who had attended the workshops this summer, and parents I’d never even met before. This is how we build community, and community is how we’ll organize for educational justice.

By Ariel Branz, Parent Organizer

Ariel organizes parents at St. Stephen's Youth Programs and is excited about all the fun family engagement planned for the summer. She likes hiking, cats, sweet potatoes, and summertime.

Teen Organizing Team Testifies to Top Priorities

By Sarah O'Connor, Lenox Community and B-PEACE Teen Organizer

Senior Teen Organizer Tahnaree Evans testified in front of the Boston City Council about urgent civic priorities: investment of city resources for safer parks, fully funded and high quality public schools, and economic opportunities for teens! It was a hearing called by City Councillor Andrea Campbell, who represents Tahanree's neighborhood in Dorchester, to explore the network of youth programs in Boston that are working to reduce neighborhood violence. Tahnaree spoke powerfully about the ways that St. Stephen's Youth Programs is striving to create circles of care around each young people we serve, meeting their day-to-day needs and helping them to feel safe, big, and connected. She talked about her own experience as a Counselor-in-Training, mentoring younger students and helping  them grow and thrive. Tahnaree is now employed as a community organizer, fighting for justice and equity in the distribution of resources and opportunities for young people across the city. The teen organizing team (all 20 members!) were there to support her, and they finished the City Hall experience with a stop by the election division to register new voters. 

Sharing the Story of Our School Partnership

St. Stephen’s Youth Programs was honored to share the story of our partnership with the Blackstone Innovation School at the New England Providence All Our Children Conference.  All Our Children is a national network of school- church partnerships, of which St. Stephen’s is a founding member.

Our story began in 2010, when Blackstone’s test scores were in the lowest 5% of the state’s and the school started the Turnaround process.  At our after-school program, we saw that our Blackstone students were struggling in reading.  When we learned the Blackstone lacked a functional library, we could not overlook the opportunity for partnership.  Today, the Blackstone Library, which is entirely staffed by volunteers, welcomes 19 classes on a weekly basis.  Other school partners, such as City Year and Big Sisters, Big Brothers use the space as well.


In addition to sharing our story, our conference session focused on building relationships with the leaders in the room.  Fifteen church and school leaders come from New Bedford, Salem, Lynn, and the Cape as well as New Hampshire and Connecticut to learn from our partnership and share their own successes and struggles.  Across geographic areas, participants stated that their motivation for entering into a partnership with a public school was to provide the resources the school can’t prioritize.  With increasing emphasis on standardized test scores, schools do not have the in-house resources to provide programming in reading, physical activity, and the arts. This is where community partners, both faith- based and secular, can step in.

By Maureen Burns, School and Community Organizer

 Maureen Burns presents the story of St. Stephen's Youth Programs Partnership with the Blackstone Innovation School

Maureen Burns presents the story of St. Stephen's Youth Programs Partnership with the Blackstone Innovation School

Fostering A Lifelong Love of Literacy!

Most library classes at the Blackstone Library begin the same way-- twenty or more students file in, place their books in the “return” bucket, and take a seat on the rug.  If the class is kindergarden, there is usually a little bit of squirming on the rug.  If the class is third grade or older, at least one student might inquire about the status of the library’s most popular collection,The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  Once the class is comfortably seated on the rug, one of the librarians will read to them.  For the older classes, read alouds might include a chapter of the Roald Dahl book the class is reading together.  For younger classes, the story might be a Mo Willems picture book that even has the teacher laughing.  Following the read-aloud, the students have time to look through the collection and select one to check out for the week.

The library currently sees nineteen classrooms on a weekly basis, from the three-year-olds in K-0 to the fifth grade, the oldest grade at the Blackstone.  The librarians are all volunteers; they are each committed to overseeing some of the thirty-minute library classes that happen every day of the week.  Yet--and not surprisingly--the most popular member of the library team is a knit red dog mascot named Clifford.  Students are very interested in his book selections, even though he usually has has his nose in a book about himself or other dogs.  The library is also a space shared by other programs at the Blackstone School, including Big Sisters and Starfish, City Year’s after school program.    

This year marks the sixth year of Blackstone Library, the product of the thriving partnership between St. Stephen’s Youth Programs and the Blackstone Innovation School.  Previously, the school did not have an operational library and the space the library currently occupies was a dusty, musty space used for storage.  Once the Blackstone made the need for a library known, St. Stephen’s, along with Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester, came together to clean the space, collect and organize books.  Leaders worked with the school’s staff to integrate the library into the Blackstone.  Volunteers from Wellesley and Simmons College were also instrumental in the foundation of the library.  The library officially opened on March 2nd, 2010.  The ribbon cutting ceremony was part of the Blackstone’s Read Across America Day celebration, a holiday that coincides with Dr. Seuss’s birthday!

At the launch of this school year, the library welcomed a new Library Coordinator, a new Blackstone Partnership Coordinator, and a handful of new volunteers!  These volunteers include a group from the Emmanuel Gospel Center, located across the street from the Blackstone.  One EGC volunteer shared how happy she was to be involved with a neighboring school on a regular basis and how much the staff, including their director, enjoyed interacting with their class.  Because of their support, an additional kindergarten class is able to regularly come to the library!  In addition to welcoming more kindergarten classes, the library is hosting Multiple Disabilities classes for the first time this year.  The library is also working to add more Spanish language books to its 10,500 volume collection.

 Volunteers help students check out books in the Blackstone Library

Volunteers help students check out books in the Blackstone Library

 Clifford reads about Clifford!

Clifford reads about Clifford!

 Students learn to love reading together

Students learn to love reading together

To volunteer as a classroom reader during this year’s Read Across America Day Celebration at the Blackstone on Friday, March 4th from 1-3PM, or to learn more about ways to get involved with the Blackstone Library, contact Maureen Burns at maureen@ststephensbos.org.

PARENT ORGANIZING: BECOMING THE AWESOME PARENT YOU ALREADY ARE

The first-ever Parenting Workshop series at St. Stephen’s Youth Programs is off to a fantastic start! St. Stephen’s Youth Programs is partnering with Families First  to offer a series of four workshops for parents to gain skills and confidence in their parenting. During the first workshop, which focused on creating homework-healthy households, parents learned how to adapt the homework environment to individual learning styles and work with their child to create a routine. The highlight of the second workshop on school partnerships was parents role-playing a parent-teacher conference at their child’s school. Parents have been loving the workshops so far. In the words of one mom, “It was very helpful. I was happy with everything and the atmosphere is very comfortable.” The next two workshops will cover Parenting and Technology (March 8th), and Challenges and Changes (March 22nd). This series is offered in Spanish and is open to the public. If you or someone you know would like to attend, please contact Ariel (ariel@ststephensbos.org).

  Parents learn about strategies for productive parent-teacher meetings at their student’s school.

Parents learn about strategies for productive parent-teacher meetings at their student’s school.

  Parents share stories with one another at the second Parenting Workshop.

Parents share stories with one another at the second Parenting Workshop.

Everything Going On!

At St. Stephen's Youth Programs, there is ALWAYS a lot going on! The building is open seven days a week and welcomes more than 150 youth, college students, adult volunteers and others every Monday through Friday. Three nights a week, fifty middle and high school students stay to get help with their academic work or build their professional skills. 

Tuesdays are supposed to be one of the less busy nights. But that was not true on Tuesday February 9th! There were three simultaneous things happening:

A mentor training in which our college and career mentors learned  more about implicit bias and the ways race and class issues play into their mentoring pairs. And they built skills to build relationships across difference and to overcome some of the challenges these implicit biases create. 

A parent workshop for parents of our B-READY students to learn more about how to support their child's learning, including how to build better connections with the child's teachers and best use parent-teacher conferences.

A BRIDGE Scholar meeting for parents of the teens who will be traveling to North Carolina in April for a service-learning trip where they will discover Appalachia, learn about rural poverty, and help a family improve their home. 

The entire building of St. Stephen's was abuzz with people, learning, and leadership growth! 

 Signs point parents, young people, and mentors to the right place.

Signs point parents, young people, and mentors to the right place.

Service to Justice: St. Stephen's Sixth annual MLK Day of Action at the Blackstone School

By Sarah O'Connor

On Monday, January 18th, in celebration of the Martin Luther King Day holiday, over 200 people from thirty organizations gathered at the Blackstone Innovation School for the Sixth Annual MLK Day of Action.  This day was organized collaboratively by St. Stephen's Youth Programs, the Blackstone Innovation School, City Year, the Massachusetts Service Alliance, and the B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign. Volunteers from the South End community, numerous AmeriCorps groups, and churches and other faith institutions from across greater Boston spent the day brightening hallways with colorful paint, organizing the school library (which is run by St. Stephen's and staffed by partner church volunteers), building classroom storage space, and creating educational materials for lessons. A team also reclaimed the greenhouse from cacti that have been growing for more than four decades, creating areas for desert and temperate flora and preparing for spring science projects. 

State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz was there with her staff team. They worked with teens from St. Stephen's Youth Programs and Hidri Boston, an Eritrean youth group, to paint four murals of heroes with Puerto Rican heritage, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and independence movement leader Dr. Ramon Betances.  These murals will be displayed in the Blackstone School entrance area to inspire students toward similar greatness. Senator Chang-Diaz said that being part of this Day of Action was an opportunity to live out King-like values by "praying with our feet." 

 

During a community conversation to draw meaning from the day, participants reflected on the day's theme of moving from service to justice.  Adults and teens spoke about applying lessons from their work and discussed this quote by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love. And this is what we must see as we move on."  One teen shared her thoughts on why this Day of Action mattered: "[W]hen we all work together to make my school better, I see that my school matters to other people. I see that I matter to other people."

For more information about how you can build relationships with young people at the Blackstone Innovation School and in the South End, please contact Maureen Burns, St. Stephen's Youth Programs' School and Community Organizer at maureen@ststephensbos.org

 

 A Volunteer Creates a Hundreds Chart to Support Students at the Blackstone School

A Volunteer Creates a Hundreds Chart to Support Students at the Blackstone School

 Volunteers Paint a Welcome Banner at the 6th Annual MLK Day of Action

Volunteers Paint a Welcome Banner at the 6th Annual MLK Day of Action

Teens Organize for a Fair Economy

The teen organizing team recently collected a total of 149 signatures for the Fair Share amendment petition!

The teen organizers covered Dudley Square; the South End from Lenox Street to Blackstone Square (including the sidewalks and Silver Line routes in between); Mass Ave, Back Bay and Forest Hills T stops; Downtown Crossing and the Boston Common; and the Southwest Corridor from Camden Street to Copley Square. 

They had hundreds of conversations with people about the need for increasing state revenue to improve our K-12 schools, rebuild crumbling roads and bridges, make college affordable, and invest in fast and reliable public transportation. 149 people were happy to sign on to the petition to amend the Massachusetts state constitution in order to create an additional tax of 4% on income that exceeds one million dollars per year. 

Raise Up MA (the organization that brought you the increased minimum wage in 2014) met its signature collection goal, with over 157,000 signatures. The next step is for the petition to go to a Joint Session of the Legislature and be approved by 25 percent of legislators (50 votes) before the end of formal sessions on July 31, 2016. The petition will then need a second approval by 25 percent of legislators in a Joint Session before the end of formal sessions on July 31, 2018 to appear on the ballot on November 6, 2018.

 St. Stephen's teens collected 149 signatures for the Raise Up MASsachusetts Fair Share Amendment  Photo Credit: Jon Feinberg, Neighbor to Neighbor (Lynn)

St. Stephen's teens collected 149 signatures for the Raise Up MASsachusetts Fair Share Amendment
Photo Credit: Jon Feinberg, Neighbor to Neighbor (Lynn)

Parent Power: Community Organizing for Education

This fall marked the kickoff of an exciting new project at St. Stephen’s Youth Programs: the Parent Organizing Project! There are mountains of research to show why parent engagement is good for young people- it results in better behavior, higher academic achievement, and enhanced social skills. It also makes it less likely that young people take unhealthy risks like using tobacco, alcohol, and drugs or engaging in risky sexual behavior. Plus, engaged families, communities and schools are part of St. Stephen’s long term plan of providing a circle of care for every young person who walks through our doors.

Over 50 parents were involved in the parent organizing project this fall. Through one-to-one meetings, the parent organizer built relationships with parents and learned about both the aspects of their schools that are awesome, and the aspects that could benefit from more parent involvement. Over 70% of these parents who had one-to-one meetings then attended monthly bilingual Parent Organizing Project meetings, in which parents get to know each other, find shared issues, and work together to solve them. Many of these parents have stepped up as leaders in unbelievable ways- from planning meetings, facilitating activities, translating meetings, and making reminder calls, to bringing a boombox and bachata music!

Not only are parents working together on their shared passion for giving their children the best education possible, but they are also using the connections they build with each other through the meetings. A happy mom remarked, “Because of the meeting, I got my son into baseball on Saturdays. I met another mom who told me about the program!”

This semester has lots of exciting parent organizing opportunities in store. We’ll be tackling issues of safe entrances and exits in school, offering a series of parenting workshops, and setting up parents to volunteer their time in their children’s classrooms. Stay tuned! For more information, contact Ariel (ariel@ststephensbos.org).

  Parents introduce themselves at the first Parent Organizing Meeting

Parents introduce themselves at the first Parent Organizing Meeting

  A small group of parents talks about safety in schools

A small group of parents talks about safety in schools

  Parents take ownership by creating their group norms

Parents take ownership by creating their group norms



Mayor Spotlights SSYP Teen Organizing

In his State Of The City address last night, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh unveiled plans to to renovate Ramsay Park, thanks to the efforts of SSYP's teen organizers. The Park is one of the few green spaces in the Lenox neighborhood, which is home to one of our year-round program sites. Despite its potential to be a family-friendly recreation space, it has long been an epicenter of drug use and violence in the neighborhood. SSYP's teen organizers came together last winter to plan the park's transformation as part of the B-PEACE for Jorge anti-violence initiative. (Read the Boston Herald Article, which includes video footage, here.) 

The teens' efforts spurred the formation of a coalition, Friends of Ramsay Park, that fosters greater collaboration between community organizations. Teen organizers led cleanup days, painted murals, planted bulbs, planned summer evening athletic programming and created family events. Their efforts to make the six acres safer have engaged city and law enforcement officials in dialogues about larger neighborhood issues including gang activity, homelessness, addiction, and mistrust of law enforcement. Noting that he "grew up in his neighborhood's parks" the Mayor said he is committed to improving parks throughout the city.

SSYP's Lenox Neighborhood Organizer, Sarah O'Connor who attended the Mayor's speech along with teen organizers and Director of Youth Programs, Liz Steinhauser commented, "We are thrilled that Ramsay Park is getting the kind of resources and attention from the city that the neighborhood deserves! This has been a community-wide effort that would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment of many individuals and organizations including (but not limited to) Vibrant Boston, Northeastern University, Washington Gateway Main Streets, D-4 of the Boston Police Department, the Church of St. Augustine and St. Martin and the City of Boston Department of Youth Engagement and Employment. Thanks again to everyone for being part of this exciting new chapter in the story of Ramsay Park." 

To find out how to get involved, please contact  Sarah O'Connor.  Read press coverage:

 

 

 

Fall Cleanup In Ramsay Park

img_5627.jpg

OCTOBER 27, 2015 12:15 PM

On Saturday, October 24th, the Friends of Ramsay Park spent the morning giving the park a thorough fall cleaning. Neighbors from the South End and Lower Roxbury were joined by Northeastern students (as part of the Northeastern Center for Community Service’s NU Service Day), Washington Gateway Main Streets, teens from Vibrant Boston, and members of the South End Community Church and Emmanuel Gospel Center (as part of the Unite Boston BostonServes day). They raked up dozens of bags of leaves, picked up trash, and planted hundreds of daffodil bulbs around the tennis courts and the airplane statue that commemorates Captain David Ramsay. The day concluded with a performance by the Praise and Worship team from People’s Baptist Church, lead by the rockstar Reverend David Wright of the Black Ministerial Alliance.

Posted by Sarah O'Conner

Books And Bulbs At The Blackstone

Following the AmeriCorps Swearing In Ceremony, 40 Mass Promise Fellows visited the Blackstone School for an afternoon of service. This was the first service event B-PEACE has sponsored this school year!  School partnerships and service are the primary way B-PEACE works toward its goal of academic excellence in public schools.

The event began with an address to the volunteers at the school’s library from Lisa Lineweaver, representing the school’s Executive Leadership Team. Lisa spoke about the school’s turnaround story and the students the Blackstone serves.  The school is one of the only BPS schools to serve students with multiple disabilities, and therefore draws students from all around Boston.  Lisa also spoke about the school’s motto, Ubuntu, meaning, “we are because of each other”, and the school’s core values: respect, unity, and excellence.  The presence of the volunteers that afternoon, said Lisa, was a way of showing, and not just telling, the students that the school community strives to live its motto.

Following Lisa’s introduction to the school, Tim Crellin, the founder and Executive Director of St. Stephen’s Youth Programs, spoke about the South End community that surrounds the Blackstone and the flourishing relationship between the Blackstone and St. Stephen’s.  In addition to facilitating service days like this one, St. Stephen’s runs the Blackstone Library, coordinates Support-A-Classroom, and oversees classroom aids from Wellesley College.

After the orientation in the library, volunteers joined students in their classrooms for an afternoon of reading!  A teacher hosting volunteers said he was delighted by his students’ enthusiasm to read with the volunteers. Several teachers expressed interest in hosting similar events to empower students and foster a love for reading. 

After school was dismissed, the Mass Promise volunteers and St. Stephen’s after-school students and staff spent the sunny afternoon at the Blackstone Park and Ramsay Park weeding the garden, planting daffodil bulbs, and playing kickball.

Teen Organizers Volunteer in the Lenox Neighborhood

Spending a Saturday afternoon at the Church of St. Augustine and St. Martin seemed perfect with Thanksgiving right around the corner. The teen organizers were there to do community service in the Lenox neighborhood, where we have focused our organizing efforts on Ramsay Park. We helped Crosstown Church volunteers cook and serve a community Thanksgiving meal. Meeting new people was fantastic. Also, the joy of being able to dance with my friends and to feel like part of a community was an amazing way to spend my Saturday afternoon. Not to mention, the food (especially the green beans), was delicious and I enjoyed every moment of it.

Posted by Teen Organizer Tahnaree Evans

B-PEACE Teen Organizers part of neighborhood peace walk

OCTOBER 29, 2015 11:23 AM

B-PEACE for Jorge teen organizers joined about 30 people from local churches (including many clergy), police officers, and community members in front of Grant A.M.E. Church for a neighborhood walk for peace to end to street violence. The route crossed Washington Street and wound through Ramsay Park, where B-PEACE teen organizers have been involved in a campaign to increase neighborhood safety.  “I was proud to walk through Ramsay Park, because people were noticing the art we had created over the summer. The point of the mural and the tiles was to make people feel safer in Ramsay Park.” said B-PEACE teen organizer Tahnaree Evans.

Law enforcement officers and members of the clergy introduced themselves to residents in the Lenox-Camden housing development and lead prayers for peace and an end to violence in the neighborhood. "These walks bring everyone together," said neighborhood resident and B-PEACE organizer Jhanel Potts. "A lot of people feel some type of way about the cops. Cops were there and nothing bad happened, no one got arrested, so people felt more like they could trust cops. And get the sense that not all cops are bad and we can trust some of them." B-PEACE organizer Dominick Jackson agreed, "It was awesome to see people I haven't seen in a long time and to see that lots of people I know care about my neighborhood. And that we were talking about the problem of violence in the community and people had to listen."

Clergy and law enforcement are teaming up to organize a series of walks in neighborhoods throughout the city in response to the uptick in violence this summer, with the goal of strengthening community-police relationships so everyone can be on the team working to reduce neighborhood violence.

POSTED BY the Teen Community Organizing Team

Building Relationships Across Boundaries

On a recent Sunday afternoon, five teen Community Organizers joined the youth group at St. Paul’s in Natick for an evening of relationship building, crafts, and pizza. The connection between the two teen groups began in October when teens from St. Paul's came to the South End for a workshop on youth leadership. The workshop left both groups curious to know more about each other!

At St. Paul’s, the teens discussed the values they share and made collages depicting them. The groups came together to combine their pieces into two larger collages, one for St. Stephen’s to take home and display and one for St. Paul’s to display.  

During dinner, the organizers from St. Stephen’s invited the youth from Natick to join them in January for the 6th Annual Martin Luther King Day of Action.  In addition to working on service projects, the Teen Community Organizers will be hosting a workshop focused on the importance of youth jobs and the upcoming Youth Jobs Rally in February!  

Posted by Maureen Burns, South End School And Community Organizer