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On November 22nd, eight students from St. Stephen’s Youth Programs and St. Mary’s Ethiopian Congregation ventured out on the commuter rail to visit Wellesley College. The trip was part of a growing partnership between St. Stephen’s and Wellesley, which also includes SAT Prep, a program in which Wellesley students help prepare high school juniors at St. Stephen’s for the SAT exams. This fall, the partnership grew to include a program for seniors focused on college preparation. The high school students set up Common Applications, wrote college essays, and participated in SAT Prep classes.
The opportunity to visit Wellesley College allowed students at St. Stephen’s to see what a small liberal arts college looks like and ask the college students questions about their experiences and challenges. The visit included a tour led by college students and a panel of college students who answered questions. Helegenat, one of the students from St. Mary’s commented that her favorite part was “talking and listening to the Wellesley students, especially hearing the first generation student’s stories and advice. Also viewing the art room was something that struck my interest because it pertains to the type of art I’m working on right now.” After the panel, everyone went to the dining hall and stuffed themselves at the buffet. The next stop was the student center, where Wellesley generously provided $10 for every student at the gift shop. The students left the school fulfilled by a fun day exploring a new part of Massachusetts and learning about a different type of school.
St. Stephen’s is excited to continue the partnership with Wellesley in the spring by providing SAT Prep for Juniors. If you know anyone who may be interested in participating or if you want to learn more about how you can be involved in the College and Career program at St. Stephen’s, please reach out to Jeremy at Jeremy@ststephensbos.org.
By Teen Organizer Tahnaree Evans
Spending a Saturday afternoon at the Church of Saint Augustine and Saint Martin seemed perfect, due to the fact that Thanksgiving was coming up around the corner. The teen organizers were there to do community service in the Lenox neighborhood, where we have focused organizing efforts in Ramsay Park throughout the summer and fall. We helped Crosstown Church volunteers cook and serve a community Thanksgiving meal. Meeting people who I had never met before was fantastic. Also, just having 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 to eat and I enjoyed every moment of it.
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 work together to reduce neighborhood violence.
Over the past week, through a partnership with Mass Mentoring, teens from St. Stephen’s have enjoyed a variety of Boston sports events. This past weekend, soccer fans Aliyah Glover and Nyah Webb traveled to Foxborough see the New England Revolution play the Montreal Impact at Gillette stadium. They went with their mentor, Kali Downer, as well as St. Stephen’s staff Kasey Boston and Jeremy Kazanjian-Amory. It started snowing in the second half, but the group stayed warm with a steady stream of hot chocolate and warm treats. Despite the Revolution losing 1-0, the group loved the experience and was thankful to have had the opportunity to go on the adventure together.
Following the soccer adventure, 5 of the teen organizers, along with St. Stephen’s staff members Sarah O’Connor and Karl Magloire, saw the Boston Celtics play a preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets. The teens celebrated their own fall organizing success together, while also losing their voices cheering on a team they all love. Sarah O’Connor said of the experience, “Dominick lost his voice yelling over the railing for the coach to put all of the players in so they all got a chance to play!”
All of these experiences were made possible through the partnerships between St. Stephen’s, Mass Mentoring, and Celtics Shamrock Foundation. With this partnership intact, St. Stephen’s hopes to continue to send teens and their mentors to games throughout the rest of the year.
SSYP’s new College Success program will help us do a better job of supporting our graduates as they transition into college. Because twelve of our alumni currently attend Bunker Hill Community College, the school, was a natural choice to be a program partner. Our goal is to create a cohort model, similar to that of the Posse Foundation, where students can utilize each other as resources during the what is typically a very challenging year for Boston Public School graduates. Since many of our alums hope to transfer to four-year schools, we also hope to support them in those efforts.
Anna Rodriguez (an alum in her second year at Tufts University) and I met with Julita Bailey, the Senior Special Programs Coordinator at Bunker Hill. Julita has years of experience working with first-generation students and oversees the ACE mentoring program. ACE is “committed to helping new students make a successful transition to Bunker Hill Community College by focusing on academic achievement, engagement, and cultural competency.”
Our next step is to have Bunker Hill students come to an alumni event at St. Stephen’s, where Julita will help them learn more about campus resources and the transfer process. But that is just the beginning. Soon we will go to Benjamin Franklin Institute to meet with their academic advisors and the three SSYP alums who attend the school.
Posted by: Jeremy Kazanjian-Amory, College and Career Program Coordinator
For young people in the neighborhoods we serve, earning a high school diploma is a huge hurdle. Last year, for a second year in a row, all nineteen of our seniors graduated from high school. That was amazing, given the fact that only about a third of their public school peers who enter high school achieve that goal. Their success reflects a lot of hard work on their part and a lot of support from us — one-on-one mentoring, academic enrichment, and college counseling. They all headed off with great plans for this fall.
For some time, we have known that getting into college is only the first hurdle. As we hear from from our alumni, making it through college is very difficult for young people who graduate from Boston Public Schools (BPS). In fact, The Boston Foundation reported that college completion rates among BPS graduates are almost as low as the district’s high school graduation rates.
Some teens experience “summer melt” and drop out before they actually enroll in college. Others become discouraged early on when faced with remedial coursework, overwhelming debt, and lack of support. Sometimes, students who are used to being portrayed as “success stories” in their communities drop out without telling anyone they are experiencing difficulty, embarrassed about not being able to meet the goals they have set for themselves.
The Success Boston College Completion Initiative was created to change the conversation from college access to college success. Based on their model, this year our mentoring program will include college students and we are developing an alumni support program to connect students with other SSYP alums, and campus resources.
If you are interested in being involved in this program please contact Jeremy Kazanjian-Amory.
Posted by Jeremy Kazanjian-Amory, Massachusetts Promise Fellow, College and Career Program Coordinator
St. Stephen’s Youth Programs could not be happier with the hard work and major accomplishments of Jeremy Kazanjian-Amory this year! His contributions — career panels, mentoring pairs, new partnerships, college visits, service projects, and leadership development — have helped NINETEEN seniors graduate from high school with solid plans for the future. With his encouragement, many other teens in our programs have begun to imagine their paths to success! THANK YOU, JEREMY! #PromiseFellowWeek, #ThankAFellow!