BRIDGE Scholars Retreat, Advance Understanding, and Share Friendsgiving

Part of St. Stephen's Youth Programs is the programming we do with teens. One component of that effort is our BRIDGE Scholars Program; these are opportunities to Build Relationships and Invest in Domestic and Global Experiennces (credit to James Eddy for the acronym!).  This includes trips to North Carolina for the week of April vacation to rebuild homes or to Honduras to get to know the young people who live at El Hogar.


This past weekend the Teen Team embarked on the first annual BRIDGE Scholar teen retreat. The group traveled to Cape Cod where they focused on relationship building, reflection, and trying new things. For one reflection, everyone completed the Enneagram personality type indicator.  This afforded all of us with an opportunity to better understand the lens with which we see the world and the ways in which our personalities are uniquely wired for communication and relationship styles. Working in personality groups, we spent time walking along the beach and finding objects and images that represented the most important aspects of our personalities. 


Later in the day, teens and staff prepared their favorite dishes from family Thanksgiving traditions and created their own "Friendsgiving". The group shared what we are grateful for and enjoyed an abundance of homemade food. For many teens, the most valuable part of the retreat was getting away from the city and having the time and space to bond with their peers and deepen their relationships. 
 

By Kasey Boston, Director of Youth Development

Giving Thanks for So Much! A Gratitude Brunch

At St. Stephen’s Youth Programs, we have so much for which to be thankful: the joy we get from our young people; the deep connections with their families; the passion and energy of our staff and volunteers; and the hard work of our partner organizations--religious and community groups--which helps to make every dollar and every hour do more for our young people.

On Sunday November 20, we celebrated all of those things--plus our brand new kitchen!--at a Gratitude Brunch with our friends and supporters from Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester. Our collaboration with Parish of the Epiphany has been a long and fruitful one, including so many wonderful B-SAFE meals, our annual Turkey Wahoo event (taking place on Tuesday November 22 this year), and a warm welcome at field trips when our youth visited Epiphany over the years.

Our friends from Parish of the Epiphany provided the seed money for the kitchen project so it was especially fitting and important that they were here as we dedicated the kitchen to long-time SSYP participant and staff member Jorge Fuentes, a lover of good food and a student of the culinary arts, who grew up to be an exemplary leader in our program before he was tragically killed by gun violence four years ago.

We prepared a celebratory brunch in the new kitchen and then sat down to eat together. Along with Jorge’s family, the people of St. Stephen’s and the people of Parish of the Epiphany shared a meal. Even more importantly, we shared a sense of partnership, of purpose to create more justice, and of thankfulness.

Wishing all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

  Our new kitchen is dedicated to Jorge Fuentes.

Our new kitchen is dedicated to Jorge Fuentes.

  Rev. Liz Steinhaser, MirnaLuz Ramos, mother of Jorge Fuentes, and Rev. Tim Crellin as we dedicate the kitchen.

Rev. Liz Steinhaser, MirnaLuz Ramos, mother of Jorge Fuentes, and Rev. Tim Crellin as we dedicate the kitchen.

By Jen Cusack, Director of Leadership Giving

 

 Rev. Tim Crellin, Rev. Thomas Brown of Parish of the Epiphany, and Jenny Gray and Beulah Roach, longtime parishioners of St. Stephen's.

Rev. Tim Crellin, Rev. Thomas Brown of Parish of the Epiphany, and Jenny Gray and Beulah Roach, longtime parishioners of St. Stephen's.

  Toasting our partnership with Parish of the Epiphany, Winchester

Toasting our partnership with Parish of the Epiphany, Winchester

 Connecting over a meal.

Connecting over a meal.

 A view of our brand new kitchen. Come on in for a visit soon!

A view of our brand new kitchen. Come on in for a visit soon!

13th Annual Turkey Wahoos!

 THANKS to our partners for making the day so special!

THANKS to our partners for making the day so special!

On Tuesday November 22, partners helped the young people and families of St. Stephen's Youth Programs get into the holiday season with our Thirteenth Annual Turkey Wahoos. What is a Wahoo, you might ask? It is an event that makes you want to shout "wahoo!!!" And these gatherings did not disappoint!

  Turkey Wahoos make EVERYONE smile! 

Turkey Wahoos make EVERYONE smile! 

At B-READY at St. Augustine and St. Martin, partners from Crosstown Church and the Church of St. Augustine & St. Martin in Roxbury prepared a full Thanksgiving meal for the young people and their families. Before sitting down to the meal, Kiana Lane, serving as a VISTA through Lasell College, helped lead crafts and activites with youth. Nearly 70 people had a fun and delicious time!

At B-READY at St. Stephen's, friends from Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester were thrilled to prepare the Turkey Wahoo meal in our new kitchen (thanks again, Epiphany, for the seed grant that helped us with the renovation!).  Youth ran outside to build up an appetite, made Thanksgiving decorations to take home, and played games before sitting down to a full Thanksgiving meal with their family members. Volunteers from Epiphany served close to 150 LEARN and YLC youth, teens, and family members. 

At the end of the day, EVERYONE had smiles on their faces and an attitude of gratitude in their hearts. 

By Liz Steinhauser, Senior Director of Youth Programs

  Families get together for food and love. 

Families get together for food and love. 

  YLC dines in the downstairs Art Room at St. Stephen's

YLC dines in the downstairs Art Room at St. Stephen's

  Volunteers from Church of St. Augustine & St. Martin get ready to serve!

Volunteers from Church of St. Augustine & St. Martin get ready to serve!

  Kiana helps the youth of B-READY at St A&M with crafts!

Kiana helps the youth of B-READY at St A&M with crafts!

  Friends and fixings at St. Stephen's

Friends and fixings at St. Stephen's

Strength in Community

There are moments when the only way individuals can get through tragedy and loss is by banding together as one community. Last week, St. Stephen’s Youth Programs (SSYP) suffered an immense tragedy with the loss of one of our teens who died suddenly and unexpectedly. This was then followed up by the election of Donald Trump, the culmination of a contentious, often hate-filled campaign season. These events brought a host of complex emotions for both staff and teens, as we all tried to navigate the variety of different feelings we were experiencing. Grief, anger, frustration, fear, and a certain numbness to what was happening within our immediate community and more broadly within the country at large gripped us all. However, as is often the case, we found that it was incredibly important to turn toward each other and unite as a community to help us get through this time.


On Thursday, November 10th, all thirty-two teens and the entire adult staff of the Teen Programs sat together in a community circle to reflect on the week. Led by our long-time social worker Rebecca Garcia, the group was able to use the restorative justice model of healing circles to create a safe space to share what we were all going through. Students and staff talked about the grief they were experiencing. We shared the fear and uncertainty we felt with the outcome of the election. Teens talked about how they were afraid for their families and didn’t know if some family members were going to be allowed to stay in the country. They talked about the sadness they felt surrounding the loss of a community member. Students expressed an anger toward a country that had elected a president who has routinely spouted hatred towards people just like them. 

 

And yet, out of the circle came a strong sense of love and hope for the SSYP community. Students and staff held each other as they cried, and all of us were able to know that we were in a place and a group that would always be supportive. Teens expressed a deep love for both the St. Stephen’s community and each other. They were able to find strength in one another, knowing that they were surrounded by people who loved them and who would be there for them no matter what these next four years (and beyond) bring.


Over the past week, it has been easy to be overcome with sense of hopelessness around the state of the society and democracy. However, one thing that became clear last week was that there is hope for and in our community. The strength and resilience that our young people demonstrate on a daily basis should be proof that we will be able to rise above the hatred that we see on the television news. Instead, we can replace it for a love of one another, knowing that together we have immense strength. I personally walked away from the meeting last Thursday with a deep sense of gratitude for the strong community that has been built here. I know that SSYP will continue to fight so that our young people have the opportunity to pursue their own dreams in this world.

By Jeremy Kazanjian-Amory, Senior Manager of College Access and Success
 

Stamina!

Stamina. We have heard much about this word and character trait during the election season.  Who has it? Who does not? Dictionaries define stamina as “the energy and strength for continuing to do something over a long period of time…the resistance to hardship.”[1]  As St. Stephen’s Youth Programs  (SSYP) launches our seventeenth year of the B-READY Afterschool Program, it seems appropriate to think about the endurance and vitality it takes to keep a youth program running for nearly 250 young people for the 180+ days B-READY is in session.  In our programs, I see two groups of people who display the quality of stamina.

Staff Members and Volunteers...

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The staff members and volunteers of B-READY are amazing. Every day, they show up ready to love the young people in all of their exuberance, joy, and complexity.  Lead Counselors help youth tie their shoes, complete their math homework, stay safe on the monkey bars, and become a great team player with their group.  Thanks to ongoing training and development, Leads are advancing their skills as positive youth workers and talented out-of-school-time educators.  They also coach our teen Counselors-in-Training who support the growth of younger students, develop professional skills needed to get and keep a job, and learn more about what it means to be a engaged civic leader.  Senior program staff members develop high-quality academic programs that advance the literacy and math abilities of elementary schoolers, the leadership and life skills of middle schoolers, and the artistic creativity of all ages.  Adult staff are helping forty-three seniors develop realistic and fiscally responsible plans for their post-high school lives.  Scores of volunteers are part of mentoring pairs, building relationships with high school sophomores and juniors and helping seventy-five alumni of SSYP stay enrolled and succeed in college.  College students, close to eighty of them, from Boston College, Lasell College, Northeastern University, Tufts University, and Wellesley College come weekly to play, teach, learn, and build connections with everyone at SSYP.   All of this takes a ton of energy, a great ability to overcome obstacles, and the “power of sustained endurance.”[2]  The staff and volunteers of B-READY have stamina.

The Young People!

 

The young people of B-READY are equally remarkable. Every day they arrive from seven hours of school, still with smiles, hugs, and laughter.  They hang up their backpacks, eat a healthy meal, and reconnect with friends before retrieving their homework and getting to work.  Short essays are written, Spanish skills are practiced, pre-algebra worksheets are finished.  Then it is on to other enrichment activities: practicing mindfulness skills and yoga, learning computer programming using Scratch, engaging in cool science experiments (and learning about liquids and solids in the process), and planning and carrying out a super-fun Halloween party for the whole neighborhood.  The young people are learning and teaching other the skills of patience, kindness, and good communication that make for a healthy community. The young people of B-READY have grit and stamina.

As early voters wait in lines to mark ballots, let us celebrate the energy, strength, and resilience of our B-READY youth and staff.  Stamina lives at St. Stephen’s Youth Programs! 

--Liz Steinhauser, Senior Director of Youth Programs

[1] Wiktionary

[2] Wiktionary

¡Viva La Raza!

On Friday, October 7th, St. Stephen’s held a Hispanic Heritage Celebration to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.  We were joined by our friends from St. Augustine and St. Martin and we had a blast! The kids split into three groups and had three different rotations in which they got to learn a bit about the diverse cultures that encompass Latin America.  The children were able to make their own salsa while listening to traditional Mexican music. They walked over to the Blackstone playground were they engaged in a scavenger hunt where they learned different facts about the various countries, languages, and notable people from South America. Thanks to one of our parents, we were also able to have live bachata and salsa music for the kids to dance and sing along to! To close the day the kids decorated and colored passports with stamps from some of the countries they had learned about that day.

By Sandy Quispe, Site Manager at St. Stephen's

Sandy, born in Peru, has lived in Dorchester since the age of 5. She grew up in the Boston Public school system graduating from Boston Arts Academy. She attained her bachelor's in psychology from University of Massachusetts Amherst. Working with children has always been one of her passions. She loves to see how children grow and develop from early childhood to adolescence.

 

 

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...and We are Back!

 The empty library awaits a class

The empty library awaits a class

After weeks of anticipation, the Blackstone Library is open for classes!  Since the school year began, I have been asked on a daily basis when the library will open, by students and teachers alike.  Before officially opening for classes, the library held a preview week in which librarians visited classrooms to introduce the class’s time in the library and read stories.  Students were already requesting books to read aloud throughout the school year and inquiring about books available for checkout in the library’s collection.  

 Clifford, the library's mascot

Clifford, the library's mascot

This year marks the seventh year of the library’s existence under the leadership of St. Stephen’s Youth Programs.  Previously, the Blackstone did not have a library!  During our after-school programming, we saw first hand the side effects of this lack of access to books in the reading ability of our Blackstone students. The library is staffed by volunteers and now welcomes twenty classes on a regular basis.  

 A mural of Justice Sotomayor hangs in the Blackstone School

A mural of Justice Sotomayor hangs in the Blackstone School

This month, we are spotlighting National Hispanic Heritage Month by reading a variety of picture books, short fictional stories, biographies, and bilingual books that celebrate Hispanic culture and Hispanic heros.  In a fifth grade class, we discussed where in the library we would look to find books about well-known Hispanic people.  A student quickly raised her hand and gave the correct answer: the biography section, which is in the nonfiction section, and is marked with blue dots on the book spine.  We then named Hispanic leaders that we might look up.  A student raised her hand named Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as an important leader with Hispanic heritage.  Another great answer!  Down the hall from the library is a mural of Justice Sotomayor, which was painted by volunteers last Martin Luther King Day.  A framed picture of the mural also hangs in the office of Justice Sotomayor!  


To learn more about the Blackstone Library, become a volunteer, or to learn more about the partnership between St. Stephen’s and the Blackstone, contact Maureen at maureen@ststephensbos.org.   

By Maureen Burns, Lead Organizer of School and Community Partnerships

Creating Leaders for the Present and the Future!

 The JCIT program is  a unique hybrid of work training, enrichment, and field trips

The JCIT program is  a unique hybrid of work training, enrichment, and field trips

Over the past couple years, our programing for rising 9th graders has grown immensely!  What makes the JCIT program unique is its hybrid of youth work training, enrichment, and fun field trips.  When the JCITs are not visiting college campuses, touring organizations like Artists for Humanity, or taking part in Outward Bound activities on Thompson Island, they are working alongside older teens employed as Counselors in Training (CITs) with the elementary school program.  The JCIT program is a transitional one, as JCITs are no longer middle schoolers in full day youth programming, but not yet high school students with part-time jobs.  During B-SAFE, JCITs are building leadership skills that can later be taken into the classroom as well as other jobs, all while working for a stipend. 

 JCITs learned about community organizing

JCITs learned about community organizing

This year, our JCIT curriculum introduced them to community organizing.  Not only did it provide them with the knowledge, language, and tools to work as future community organizers, but they gained a deeper understanding into the organizing work being done at SSYP.  Throughout the year, parents have organized to gain a voice in their children’s schools, teens have lobbied to keep money in the city budget for education and teen jobs, and relationships have been built across between faith-based groups throughout the greater Boston area.  

 JCITs led programming for elementary schoolers

JCITs led programming for elementary schoolers


As the final piece of this curriculum, the JCITs stepped up to the plate and led programming for the elementary school program. After spending the summer learning about influential community organizers, team building, and collective action, it was amazing to give the JCITs the opportunity to show what they had learned.  The JCITs planned the lessons and then taught them.  And teaching a group of elementary age young people is no easy job, even for the best of teachers!  The JCITs were proud of their work and the growth they had made over a few short weeks!  While they were a little nervous at the beginning of the day, they quickly gained confidence in their leadership when they saw the enthusiasm of the kids.  Their leadership spoke to the incredible potential young people have, when given the opportunities to grow and show off!

By Maureen Burns, South End School and Community Organizer

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Maureen earned degrees in psychology and studio art from Loyola University in Chicago. A formative piece of her education involved collaborating on community-based research projects in Chicago which focused on youth perception of community violence. This experience in youth empowerment and community development, coupled with her experience as a preschool Teaching Assistant and nanny, led her to become a part of St. Stephen's Youth Programs. She strives to support and foster positive social, emotional, and academic development of the community's young people.

Goodbye B-SAFE

“How many summers have you been a part of B-SAFE?  Two, five, ten, fifteen, twenty?”  This is a question I have been asked many times by parents, staff, partners, teens and young people over the past eight summers.  As my final summer comes to a close I’ve been thinking about what first brought me to B-SAFE and what kept me coming back.  

What brought me here is simple.  I needed a job for the summer of 2009.  I started as a Site Director at St. Augustine & St. Martin.  I continued as a Site Director at St. Mary’s in 2010 and 2011.  I have spent the past 5 summers as Program Administrator supporting multiple sites and most recently the entire registration process for all of B-SAFE’s many, amazing programs.

For the first few years I returned because of the connections I made with the young people and their families at my sites.  As I took on a new role I found that the behind the scenes work I was doing helped to make things a bit easier for the staff.  So, I kept going.   I took on more responsibilities and worked to try and make things more streamlined and organized for everyone.

It wasn’t always easy but it felt great to know that I was helping the people I worked with.  This is when I realized that what drove me to return to B-SAFE had changed.  I was doing it for the staff.  If it was possible for me to make things easier and less stressful for them I wanted to do it.  The staff became what made me keep going when I was exhausted, what got me out of bed at 3 am to work on registration and what brought me back again and again.  

I have experienced a lot of ups and downs during my eight years at B-SAFE.  I have made amazing friends who have become my family.  We have cried together from frustration, exhaustion and grief.  But more than anything we have laughed together.  I have seem my son Maxwell grow up and go from an 8 year old at St. Stephen’s LEARN who didn’t know anyone to a CIT at Epiphany LEARN who often knows more about B-SAFE than I do.  I feel incredibly lucky as a parent to see how the staff at St. Stephen’s Youth Programs have embraced him, supported him and helped shape him into the person he is today.

I am saying good bye to my time at B-SAFE but I’ll still be around.  If you can’t remember something that happened over the past 8 years chances are I will.  Even though I won’t be there anymore my drive to help make things easier for the staff of B-SAFE always will be.  I hope that by supporting and appreciating the staff I have made it easier for them to support the young people and the families that they serve.

By Jodi Rich, Registrar

This is Jodi’s eighth summer with B-SAFE. During the school year she is Executive Director of the Dragonfly After School Program in Cambridge.

B-BOLD: Emotional Empowerment @ B-SAFE 2016

  The insights that surfaced during our lesson on shame and self-love with rising eighth-graders. We ended up talking about history, beauty, and critical thinking. I continue to be amazed and humbled by how much and how profoundly the children are willing to see.

The insights that surfaced during our lesson on shame and self-love with rising eighth-graders. We ended up talking about history, beauty, and critical thinking. I continue to be amazed and humbled by how much and how profoundly the children are willing to see.

When people ask me what being in divinity school is like, I usually take a deep breath and end up saying: “It’s important.” Earlier this week, someone asked me how B-BOLD was going, I found myself saying: “It’s important.” B-BOLD is the fruit of long, lonely, and—yes—important months and years I have spent in divinity school thinking, reading, and writing about the role that emotional agility can play in strengthening the life chances of our future citizens. B-BOLD is an emotional empowerment curriculum that SSYP’s very own Director of Youth Programs & Priest Associate, Liz Steinhauser, and Tim Crellin, our Founder, Vicar, & Executive Director, kindly trusted me to pilot and roll out at the St. Stephen’s site this summer. 

Some of America’s most courageous thinkers and loving writers—especially John DeweyToni MorrisonJames BaldwinMartha Nussbaum, and Melissa Harris-Perry— have inspired the project behind B-BOLD. B-BOLD’s premise is simple: learning how to understand, manage, and, ultimately, transform your emotions is a progressive capability that can empower you to be all you can be. When I say “you,” I imagine anyone who has had—and remains likely—to come to terms with forms of emotional pressure that threaten to keep them small, make them feel worthless, and shut them down. Many a story, including my own, suggests that the weight of emotions does not spare any human life. Nor does the wealth of information and transformation they contain. 

I cannot yet see what or how much connecting elementary and middle schoolers with the power they have to transform impatience into self-control; anger into calm; shame into self-love; and self-doubt into self-belief in the St. Stephen’s sanctuary has unleashed. But deep in my heart, I do believe B-BOLD has empowered our children to embrace a trajectory of 21st-century possibility. 

The children. 

Oh the children. 

 The children.

The children.

The children have done wondrous things for me. They have persuaded me of the tremendous impact one can make by intervening thoughtfully and ferociously in early childhood education. I have insisted on adding a proviso to love the children to our love contracts since the B-SAFE team started to gather in May. I have loved the children. And I have also found that I need their love as much as they need mine, and maybe more. They have renewed, rejuvenated, and healed me, beyond my wildest imaginings.

I often think of divinity school as a place where we can dream of possible futures. Piloting B-BOLD at B-SAFE this summer has afforded me the privilege and responsibility of delivering possible futures with and for our beloved, darling children. And that is good, important news. B-SAFE is important. 

By Sitraka St. Michael, Academic Team

Malagasy by birth. Chicagoan at heart. Episcopalian by choice. In love with all the beloveds @ SSYP. Sitraka is excited to incubate B-BOLD, an emotional empowerment curriculum, with the Academic Team at St Stephen’s during B-SAFE this summer. When he is not in divinity school, Sitraka can be found running or biking along the Charles, hosting dunch (i.e. dinner+lunch), or writing something about progress and the emotions.

In This Together

During B-SAFE staff training, I led a training rotation that I called “In This Together” about working with partners, about building relationships across difference, about understanding that we are all in this together- staff, kids, families, partners and volunteers. That together we all want the same thing, the best program and experience we can offer to young people. These goals of building relationships can sometimes seem more like challenges during a summer when current events cause division and political campaigns focus more on what separates us. But that is our work, to power on, to not give up or give in.

Each summer I have the honor of being witness to this work. About 50 partner (mostly suburban) churches and their volunteers spend countless hours and resources to make sure that each of our young people and staff eat a nourishing meal and enjoy fun field trips outside of the city. Everyone involved believes that this is important work,  that it is about more than serving lunch, that it is about the care and the joy that is given and received. And, where there is joy and care, there is ample opportunity for relationship.

Every day I witness care- care in making sure a child with a food allergy has the food he/she needs, care in planning all of the last details of a field trip, care in choosing the best activities, care in holding hands while learning together on a farm, or in making a friendship bracelet together.

And, I witness joy- joy in knowing a child is fed and ready to learn or explore or discover, joy in welcoming a group of young people to a field trip and making them feel special, joy in a special interaction, joy in sharing a book, joy in petting a goat together, joy in getting to know someone they didn’t know before, joy in building relationships with children, teens, staff or members of the host congregation.

Many times over the past 5 weeks, I have wondered to myself what our city, our country or our world might look like if we joyfully cared for each other and did the work of building relationships, all in this together.

By Betsy Walsh, Partner Organizer

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Betsy earned a degree in Special Education from Vanderbilt and subsequently worked with preschoolers with special needs in the South Bronx. She moved to Boston where she studied counseling psychology and raised a family. Betsy chaired the Outreach Committee at Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester for twelve years, and led their partnership with St. Stephen's. She is also a member of SSYP's Advisory Board and the board of El Hogar Ministries.

Replacing the Summer Slide with a Jungle Gym of Knowledge

In my other life, I teach 6th graders about the intricacies of fractions and proportional relationships. I love teaching, and I am always motivated by the challenge of convincing kids that math can be fun and that there is no such thing as someone that is "good" at math. The challenge that I don't love, and don't look forward to every year, is getting kids caught back up after a summer of lost opportunities. 

We've all heard the research. It goes something like this: Due to students taking two months off from school, they "slide" back in their knowledge and learning and it takes them at least the first few months of the school year to get back to where they were back in June. This is incredibly frustrating and especially so when you understand that the students are often below grade level in one subject or another to begin with.

That's where a program like B-SAFE truly proves itself exceptional. By providing a solid academic program for kids, they are reversing this slide, and kids are often able to go back to school even stronger than where they left off. This is truly invaluable and emphasizes our goal this summer of letting kids "Create Their Future". Whether it's writing creative essays in Word, or doing hands on cooking lessons in Numbers, students are receiving an outstanding education at an increasingly crucial time of the year.

By Joshua Donati, Site Director at Epiphany

My name is Joshua Donati and this is my 5th summer working as the Site Director for Epiphany LEARN. During the school year, I teach 6th grade math at Trotter Innovation School in Roxbury. This past year was my 8th year as a teacher. This past October, my wife and I welcomed our first child, Jack, into the world. He's amazing.

Mexican-American Children Want to Make America Great Too

When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people". -Donald Trump

  It's Christmas in July with children excited to receive books to take home and read.

It's Christmas in July with children excited to receive books to take home and read.

The political climate right now is a scary one for several reasons, but one of them is the comments made about immigrants from people that don't know them. I know these people. I am the daughter of immigrants and have worked with the immigrant population for the last 8 years in Chelsea. When you hear from a major political candidate negative things about Mexican-Americans with a side of "some, I assume, are good people" you get this distorted look of what an immigrant community is like. Let me tell you who are the people Mexico is "sending". 

  An excited young person shows proud mom all of her hard work this summer.

An excited young person shows proud mom all of her hard work this summer.

At B-SAFE San Lucas in Chelsea, a majority of the children are either immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants. The majority of them come from Mexican families. Over the course of the last 8 years, I have been able to know these families, but most of all these children that have grown up in the program. They are the children of parents working multiple jobs to make ends meet. They are the children of parents that use their low wage paying jobs as a reminder to their children of the importance of education. They remind their children constantly of the great sacrifices that they have made. They truly believe in the American Dream that many of us US-born citizens believe is dead. They are open with their children about the reasons they came here, many times to escape great crime warlord cities or to give their children a chance to survive. They teach their children daily about the being grateful for all the opportunities that they are given in this great land of ours and to show their gratitude by serving their communities and paying it forward. This is an ideology that I have only seen in the immigrant community. 

  Kids use math to present what a great future looks like for them. 

Kids use math to present what a great future looks like for them. 

How this translates to their kids is amazing. I have always seen it this way, but more this summer than ever before. The theme of this summer was to "create our future". And what a bright future we have because of these children. At the closing ceremony they read their essays on the future that they see ahead of them. Many spoke about serving their communities as entrepreneurs, teachers, doctors, veterinarians, and even presidents. They talked about how they want these jobs to make their communities great. There were also essays about what the future of this country would be like in 10 years and they hope to see. While some of the essays were about advancements in technology like flying cars and robots, even those essays had altruistic reasons to them like flying cars because "there would be less pollution and less traffic to make people not be angry when going to work" or robots because "they would walk around and help the homeless people and animals".  Their future was about seeing more farms in communities, people clothing the homeless, caring for the forgotten elderly, volunteering at animal shelters and everyone having a pet because "having a pet makes people happy". These are not words from a politician. This is the future that Mexican-American children want for us. This is how we "make America great again". 

 Siblings at our program with the oldest sibling Kennedy volunteering at B-SAFE

Siblings at our program with the oldest sibling Kennedy volunteering at B-SAFE

I invite anyone that has negative thoughts about immigrants to B-SAFE Chelsea. You will hear from these children some positive ways to "make America great again". You will see love. You will see hopes and dreams that are very much alive. You will see teenagers that grew up in the program spending their summers volunteering in the program that gave so much to them. You will see parents that care for their children. You will see their tired but excited and proud faces as they pick up their children after work. You will see that more than just "some, I assume, are good people". You will see that most actually are good people who want to create a bright future for all. 

By Mauryn Perkins, Site Director at St. Luke's

Mauryn Perkins has been with the B-SAFE program in Chelsea for 8 summers. During the school year she is a 7th grade Spanish teacher at a charter school in Malden. She loves teaching children. She loves organizing things, especially planning and organizing her binder for trips to Disney for her family.

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.

Field Trippin’ Around Boston

 Students splash during a fun field trip.

Students splash during a fun field trip.

Every week, B-SAFE fills up bus after bus with our enthusiastic, energetic young people to bring them on field trips throughout Boston. This week, we have groups visiting Boston Children’s Museum, the Harvard Museum of Natural History, Revere Beach, Boston Public Market, Castle Island, the New England Aquarium, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and the Jackson Homestead and Museum. This is in addition to all of our Friday field trips, which are planned by our generous partners.

Why do we bring our students on so many field trips? It’s important to us at B-SAFE that we take advantage of all the learning opportunities around us! In the summer, students are not in school mode, and they benefit from hands-on, active learning that can happen at the museums and outdoor spaces around the city.

 Students learn about marine life during a field trip to the New England Aquarium

Students learn about marine life during a field trip to the New England Aquarium

This year, each one of our sites is visiting the New England Aquarium. At the Aquarium, our young people can see up close exciting water animals like sea turtles, sharks, rays, and penguins. Exploring the aquarium in small groups, they are constantly asking questions about the animals they see. What do they eat? Where do they live? Are they dangerous? Staff at the aquarium offer the expertise that our staff can’t, as well as the opportunity to encounter in person wildlife they would never see in the city. The curiosity never ends when young people are excited about what they are doing, and we make it a priority to give students a lot of those experiences during their summer months.

 

 

By Maggie Needham, Academic Coordinator

Maggie Needham is part of the Academic Team for B-SAFE this year, and she is excited to bring interesting, fun programming to our students this summer. Maggie graduated from Saint Louis University in 2015 and spent the past year as a lead counselor and academic coordinator for LEARN students at St. Stephen's. Her favorite thing about St. Stephen's is the relationships she gets to build with our wonderful young people.

8 Steps to Running a Countercultural Program

  Students at St. A&M are engaged while working on a group mosaic. 

Students at St. A&M are engaged while working on a group mosaic. 

Here at B-SAFE, we work to make young people feel safe, feel big, and feel connected. Part of that work involves helping kids to stay excited and engaged all day long, whether that be in their academic rotations, on field trips, or in their groups with their lead counselor. As a member of the Academic Team who also serves as a teaching specialist, I have had the unique opportunity to deal with student engagement on two different levels. Not only have I been able think about how best to engage our young people when writing curriculum, but I also get to witness it happening firsthand in the classroom.

Of course, as we all well know, sometimes young people aren’t as engaged as we may have originally planned when writing up our lessons or putting together our supplies for the day. While this can often be frustrating for both us as staff and the young people as students, it are these very moments that can make or break the true impact of the work we do at SSYP.

When students are disengaged in the classroom, many might immediately move to the traditional framework of classroom and behavior management to get them back on track. However, at B-SAFE we avoid these models of managing others, because we firmly believe that the only person’s behavior you can manage is your own. Instead, we follow what we call “The Eight Steps to a Smooth Running Program With Lots of Smiling Kids Learning Lots of Cool Things,” or “The 8 Steps” for short. In this model, we focus on the idea that everyone has the ability to take responsibility for their own actions and behaviors. This means that instead of disciplining or rewarding young people for their actions, we work to redirect them through discussions about the issues behind the disengagement.

We believe that all young people, just like the rest of us, want to have power and feel safe and supported. In practice, this means that we recognize that what might be perceived as a disruptive and disengaged student could actually be a student who doesn’t understand the material and doesn’t know how to express it. We assume the best intentions in all of our young people, and it’s that starting point that makes all the difference in our work.

Ultimately, at B-SAFE we are running a countercultural program that centers the needs of young people rather than having them work to fulfill ours. Through both writing curriculum and working in the classroom, I have seen firsthand that allowing young people to feel safe, big, and connected means using moments of disengagement as opportunities for growth.

y Emily Boyk, Academic Team

Emily Boyk is a rising junior at Wellesley College who is spending her first summer with St. Stephen's on the B-SAFE Academic Team. A student of political science and women's and gender studies, she is passionate about youth empowerment along the lines of race, class, and gender, and is thrilled to be working with SSYP this summer on such issues.

Kids love kale

 Kids love kale!

Kids love kale!

This summer the young people at St. A&M have been learning about gardening.  We have our own garden attached to the program, where young people have watered the plants and tasted the delicious greens.  The young people have eaten kale, chard, lettuce, mint, and more green things that they watched grown from seedlings over the 5 week program.  The young people have also visited two different farms, Green Meadow farm and Farrington farm.  During these field trips the young people surprised the staff by recognizing different plants and sharing what they already knew about farms and gardens. After the trip to Green Meadow farm one of the young people turned to me and said, “Can we make our program a farm?”. 

 Kids on tour of Green Meadow Farm

Kids on tour of Green Meadow Farm

 Kids picking peas and smelling wildflowers

Kids picking peas and smelling wildflowers

Growing plants and eating fresh veggies is a fun way to get the kids to be active outside, but it also serves a larger purpose; it helps kids develop a positive relationship with healthy food.  Through growing healthy food, eating healthy food, and limiting the consumption of high sugar foods and beverages, we encourage children to develop healthy habits that can last a lifetime.  

By Maggie Casey, Site Director at St. A&M

Maggie Casey is the site Director of St. Stephen's LEARN during the summer and for the year-round after school program. She has worked for St. Stephens Youth Programs since summer of 2015. Maggie is originally from Santa Monica, California. She attended Oberlin College and has a degree in Comparative American Studies with a concentration in Education. Maggie can speak Spanish, do math, and play basketball.

Keep ‘Em Fueled, Keep ‘Em Focused!

During the five weeks of B-SAFE 2016 we strive for our students to discover many wonders during field trips all around Massachusetts (and New Hampshire for our YLCers), enjoy the exciting educational activities at all six sites, and engage in a variety of enriching academics. In order to keep our students focused, we must also keep them fueled!

The first step that our students take in preparing for all of the fun-filled days that B-SAFE offers is by properly fueling their bodies with nutritious foods. Our staff and partner churches work hard to provide all of our young people with a sufficient amount of food everyday for both breakfast and lunch.

To ensure that everyone has enough energy, it is important to keep in mind that the most important meal of the day is the first meal of the day: BREAKFAST. Sites cook up a variety of breakfasts ranging from waffles and sausage to boxes of Cheerios and bananas

Unfortunately, when students don’t eat enough food at breakfast and lunch, they are sluggish and don’t have the energy to participate in all of the day's fun and enriching activities. Studies show that students who eat breakfast have higher test scores than students who skip the morning meal. Not only that, but in a recent study published in “Physiology and Behavior” researchers have found that students who enjoyed a low-glycemic breakfast were found to have higher levels of concentration, improved memory, and fewer signs of academic frustration in comparison to students who eat high-glycemic breakfasts! So, it is very important to keep in mind that not only should we continue to provide young people with the meals necessary for them to learn and explore, but also we must continue to pay attention to supplying the nutrients necessary for our students to succeed!

This is Maggie Carey's first summer as an Academic Intern for B-SAFE, and she will be working at Epiphany School in Dorchester this summer. Currently, Maggie is a rising senior studying psychology at College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, MA). She is the captain of the Division 1 Holy Cross Women's Soccer program, so she is very excited to be teaching/overseeing the Health and Wellness Curriculum this summer!

B-SAFE is Community

  Leads, once CITs, enjoy breakfast before starting the day at Epiphany 2014.

Leads, once CITs, enjoy breakfast before starting the day at Epiphany 2014.

Having been a part of St. Stephen’s Youth Programs since the age of 17, I can confidently say that community is the best way to describe this program. I started off as a Counselor in Training, moved on to be a Lead Counselor, and this summer I have the pleasure of being a first year Site Director. Throughout the years I have formed lifelong friendships and created amazing memories. I have had the opportunity of going on Mission Trips to another state and even another country.  I have watched youth grow from being in the youngest group to now being JCITs, from being participants to being Site Assistants, from being teens to being Site Directors.

  Didier stops by to say hi and volunteers to read with youngest group during DEAR time. 

Didier stops by to say hi and volunteers to read with youngest group during DEAR time. 

This year I experienced the power of unity that is encompassed within the walls of St. Stephen’s. In previous years I have worked for B-SAFE at their Epiphany location, this year is my first time working at St. Stephen’s. At any given moment people are walking into the building seeking help or to simply say hi. Since being here in September I have seen numerous faces, some more than others. What I love about this program is that even when you move on from this program you can always rest assured knowing that St. Stephen’s will always welcome you with open doors. Individuals who have been part of our program find comfort in knowing that there is always a friendly and familiar face when they walk through our front door. Previous teens, now young adults, come in seek help with their college work and/or prep, sometimes they simply stop by because they would rather be here than at home. 

By Sandy Quispe, St. Stephen's LEARN Site Director

 

Sandy, born in Peru, has lived in Dorchester since the age of 5. She attended Boston Arts Academy where, during a job fair, she came across St. Stephens Youth Programs. She worked as a teen for an academic year and two summers before taking on the role of lead counselor for St. Stephen's summer enrichment program, B-SAFE. She attained her bachelor's in psychology from University of Massachusetts Amherst. Working with children has always been one of her passions. She loves to see how children grow and develop from early childhood to adolescence.