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B-SAFE in Navajoland


View of the sky as the sun was rising over Monument Valley.

St. Stephen’s Youth Programs and St. Andrews Church in Wellesley partnered up and traveled to Navajoland, Utah for a week. When we first arrived, late that Saturday night, our host, Red welcomed us and made us feel at home. The next morning we went to back-to-back church services first at St. Christopher’s and then at St. John’s. Right away it was clear that the people of Navajoland wanted to build relationships with us..

We spent the week with Red, Willie, and Lily and learned how to speak some of their language, called Dineh/Dine. We had a potluck with the community, woke up at 3 in the morning to watch the sunrise, skipped rocks in the river, went rock climbing, and went on tours. The latter included: Hovenweep Monument Valley; Blanding, Utah;  Bluff, Utah;  and Kayenta, Arizona. We worked early mornings at St. John’s making a path with rocks, digging up and clearing out roots around the church, and digging post holes. When the job was finished, Lily made us a popular Navajo meal, featuring fried bread, as a token of her appreciation and gratitude.


Two teens from St. Andrews, Charlie and Gus, pictured with “The Cube.”

Everything we did and learned in Utah reinforced the lessons of B-SAFE. At St Stephen’s we bond with each other and become like a family, we take on new things and challenge ourselves. Helping ourselves and each other be the best we can be.

Posted by Jahniece Reynolds, B-SAFE Site Assistant


Making An Impact: Service Was Central

Eleven teens and four adult staff members recently traveled to Marshall, North Carolina with our service learning program “BRIDGE” (Building Relationships: Investing in Domestic & Global Experiences). Their objective was to see a new environment, observe a different form of poverty, and be exposed to a culture and region very different from Massachusetts.  A large part of the experience included service projects they completed through our partnership with the Community Housing Coalition of Madison County (CHC). CHS is a non-profit dedicated to performing home repair and rehabilitation and creating new, affordable housing. Since 1999, CHC has partnered with community organizations, volunteer groups, and local and state agencies to assist the people of Madison County with home repairs. After looking at several different projects, the St. Stephen’s staff chose to work on the house of Che and her son Devon. Their house had been badly damaged over the years due to an ineffective drainage system, the run-off from the mountain, and heavy rainfall which was rotting the wood on their home.

The group showed up on Monday morning eager to get started working and was met by June Trevor, the Volunteer Program Coordinator of CHC, Jake Owen, the Program Manager, and Che and Devon. Our projects involved taking down and reinstalling a new gutter system for the house, digging a drainage ditch in the back which directed the water from the hill away from the house, implementing a French drain in the front of the house, building a new clothesline, cleaning up metal and trash from the house, chopping wood, setting up the garden for the spring season, and spreading four tons of gravel on the front and sides of the house.

The biggest project was implementing the French drain system in the front. It involved digging out a Y-shaped trench, which started at both corners of the front of the house, connected in the middle of the driveway, and then continued to run at a downward slope towards the river. This project required a large amount of planning, pick axing, shoveling, and group coordination to make sure that the ditch ran at a downward slope from the house all the way to the river. The project took four days, many trips to Gentry Hardware (the local store in Hot Springs, NC) and all 15 trip members, but when it was completed, there was a strong sense of accomplishment on the part of everyone involved. The final step was to pour water down the two different Y-outlets by the house.  When the water started to flow out by the river, you could hear the satisfaction in the cheering and applause of everyone there.

During reflections throughout the week, one recurring theme was the feelings of fulfillment that manual labor can evoke. Teens and staff both spoke about how amazing it felt to be able to complete an identified goal or project and see the final product.  Whether it was raining or 75 degrees and sunny, all 15 members of the group continued to work, fueled by the support and gratefulness of Che, Devon and the CHC.  When the final picture was taken in front of the house, you could see this satisfaction in the smiles of the teens, staff, CHC members, Che and Devon.  While it was apparent that the group’s work made a real difference in Che’s and Devon’s comfort and well-being, it was also evident that this hard work and service had a lasting impact on the St. Stephen’s teens and staff as well.

Posted By: Jeremy Kazanjian-Amory, College and Career Program Coordinator

“Life is About Relationships.”

20150423_170342The title of this blog is borrowed from a phrase a mentor of mine says all the time. “Life is about relationships,” is a phrase I’ve always kept in mind and paid attention to, but it struck me as particularly apt when we were in Marshall, North Carolina, meeting many new people and places.

It became clear to me from the very beginning of the trip, that it was about building relationships, just as much as it was about new experiences and service. When we had breakfast with folks at Holy Spirit in Mars Hill, I was reminded about the particular hospitality that a relationship with God or a church fosters. When we were welcomed at our worksite by June and Jake from the Community House Coalition, I was struck by the instant camaraderie that a common goal and mission build.
As we spent our week with Che and Devin, I was reminded of the joy and gratitude that comes with intentionally learning about someone and letting them learn about you.  Our week with Che and Devin was noting short of awe inspiring.  They way we were welcomed into their family and they way we welcomed them into ours, made the week all that much more special. Che shared with us her love and knowledge of the earth — telling different teens about plants with healing properties. Devin shared with us his love of jumping on trampolines and sugary sodas.  We shared our willingness to work, to learn an to welcome them into our hearts.
Submitted by Meg McDermott, School and Community Organizer

Laura Correa-Franco: The Costa Rica Travels of an SSYP Teen



Interviewer Emily Daina Šaras (pictured left) and Laura Correa-Franco (right)

During the summer, many of our teens set off on new adventures as they begin to think about and visit colleges. Some of our teens become involved with the SSYP BRIDGE Scholar program and they travel on meaningful service trips to other parts of the US – sometimes to other countries! Between these life-changing journeys to new places with SSYP friends and fun days of B-SAFE programming as Counselors-In-Training, our teens stay extremely busy. In just a few short months, our teens demonstrate amazing personal growth and professional development.

This year, one of our teens, Laura Correa-Franco, set off on her own independent adventure. Supported by her fantastic mentor Susannah Benner, Laura was able to find a scholarship opportunity to participate in a study abroad program in Costa Rica. This past Monday, Laura and I sat down for coffee to discuss her Costa Rican travels where she gained life-changing experiences.  
I’m so proud of Laura for her amazing accomplishment of studying abroad. Also, I am incredibly thankful to the support and guidance that was provided by Susannah Benner in terms of connecting her to this program, advocating for her scholarship opportunity, and encouraging Laura to think globally about her education. What an awesome mentor pair!

Emily: So – let’s start from the beginning. Tell me about the experience of getting on a plane for the first time to go abroad for an intensive language course!


Laura (far right) and her service group in front of a lagoon

Laura: Oh wow, it was really scary and exciting at first. But when I arrived, my host family took me in so kindly. I got these really good vibes from everyone. Other participants in the program were so cool – people came from all across the country to attend this program. Other Americans that I met there came from everywhere, from California to Louisiana – but they were all so intelligent and had such cool personalities. I was challenged to learn a lot within my first few hours off the plane, but everyone was really kind to me and made sure I was happy and safe.
And the food – the food was delicious! We were eating amazing fruits all day – guava, pineapples, and knepa – and then at night rich, delicious, amazing foods, always served with the perfect side dish of rice and beans. 

I can tell that you had so much fun! What were your language courses like? Did you like your teachers?

When I got there, I knew I really wanted to focus on perfecting my Spanish. I knew going in, I was getting close to fluent in terms of speaking. But, I was missing a lot of vocabulary, and I didn’t have a really firm grasp on formal grammar. But, I really impressed my teachers on the first day, and they were very kind and paired me with a teacher, Marysella, who was really committed to making me work hard. 
And my tutor – she wouldn’t let anything slide. I got a lot of individualized attention that forced me – in a good way! – to learn formal grammar and avoid mistakes. She wasn’t easy on me! But now, I know I’m approaching fluency in not just speaking, but writing as well. My speech patterns are much more formal and polished. 

I grew to love my teachers – they taught me so much! Marysella was so amazing, that every moment I could, I would talk to her, just to learn more about her and practice my skills. I daydream about going back!


La Fortuna Waterfall Taken by Laura Corea-Franco

Wow, what an incredible opportunity – and I know that you got to do a lot of sightseeing and cultural activities while you were there as well. 

And really, it was perfect, because it gave me the chance to take a lot of pictures for my blog. You see, my trip was sponsored by a scholarship, in which I was asked to document my trip with photos on a blog. I loved being a photographer. I caught a lot of great moments, which you can see on my Costa Rica Blog. Susannah, my mentor, was the one who connected me with this program, and she was so supportive in terms of connecting me with this chance of a lifetime. She helped me find this scholarship opportunity, which made the trip financially feasible for me.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous about working with a mentor when we first started talking about it in the fall, but you encouraged me to try it. I’m so glad I did. I focused on building a positive relationship and finding new and exciting opportunities – I still want to grow our relationship even more as we work towards my applications for college. 

I’m so thankful to Susannah for making all of this happen – and you, too, for supporting me and my growth along the way!
Thanks, Laura! But you and Susannah were the one to put in all of the work building your relationship and making this happen. I can really see that this trip made a big impact on you as a person. What were some of your biggest take-aways from this trip?
Wow, I learned a lot of big life lessons on this trip. I discovered my own independence – that I can survive on my own in a new place, that I can motivate myself to learn on my own, and that traveling independently is possible and fun.
I was really excited about my trip, but was somewhat fearful of having to live and study by myself in a foreign country. I made friends so easily – in part because I was matched so perfectly with amazing roommates and classmates – but also because I was brave enough to try something new on my

Obstacle course; Taken by Laura Correa-Franco


Now that I think back on my trip, I can’t wait to travel again. It was so fun! And now I know that I can think about new college and career opportunities and not be limited to think locally. I look forward to working with my mentor Susannah to think about new school choices that are further away from home that will also support me studying abroad.

Posted by Emily Daina Šaras, College and Career Program Coordinator and Massachusetts Promise Fellow
To find more photographs of Laura’s amazing Costa Rican experience (including white water rafting, volcano explorations, and more) visit her blog, My Photography.

More Service Trip News – NYC

From Daniel, in New York City with St. Stephen’s and St. Anne’s Lincoln young people:

Here are the four small groups in which we have been doing our work this week. Today we will each serve at one more site before returning to ysop for the closing reflection time in the late afternoon. Tonight we plan to go see the 9/11 memorial and ride the Staten Island ferry.

Posted by Marisa Egerstrom

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Working Together in Apalacia

During our last night in Appalachia, we met in a big group with the
other church congregation and staffers. We sat in one circle and
offered our “God moments” during the trip. I said the following, “I
don’t know if I had a God moment on this trip but I felt a God this
entire week. I came down here thinking about all that I could do and
give to others. It has been quite the opposite. I’ve been taken aback
by all that I have been blessed to learn from my host family and the
youth I am working with. My work crew, Greg and Yvonne have been god
sends. I really had no experience with construction. I’m someone who
can write a 30 page paper in 2 days but I’m pretty clueless when it
comes to power tools. I’ve been very blessed and honored to be here
this week. I don’t know if I hurt more than I helped but I kept my
eyes open to learn and my heart opened to God. I know that I’m forever
changed by this experience. Thank you ASP for the opportunity.” That
surmises what the week meant for me.

Loren S. Cahill

Loren is a volunteer through Wellesley College’s “Stronger Communities, Stronger Schools” program at St. Stephen’s during the school year, and chaperoned St. Anne’s in Lincoln and St. Stephen’s youth to West Virginia on their Mission Trip.

Happy 4th of July from St. Anne’s and St. Stephen’s in West Virginia

Hi Everyone,

I just got off the phone with Alex Chatfield and a bunch of kids in the background on speaker phone.  Our teams are really cut off from civilization–no cell service or internet.
But the report is that trip is going very well and they all sound terrific.

The kids are working hard, the program is well run and living up to expectations, with fellowship and meaningful spiritual reflection on poverty each day.  The food is “edible,” which doesn’t seem to be a problem, and the groups will enjoy some Fourth of July festivities with their local families tomorrow after work.

It was good to hear from them and it will be wonderful to welcome everyone home on Saturday.

I don’t have my phone tree at home–please forward this to anyone I may have missed, and maybe help get the word out to St. Stephen’s parents too.

Thanks for supporting your kids (and chaperones) in this adventure.
Peace and have a happy and safe Fourth of July,


An email from Rev. Kate Malin, Rector at St. Anne’s in Lincoln, MA