Over the past two years, MACC has developed a partnership with Boston’s largest youth and human services agency, Boston Centers for Youth and Family (BCYF). BCYF’s network of 29 neighborhood centers serve Boston residents of all ages through education and economic opportunity programming, from early childhood education, afterschool and summer programming, to youth employment, violence prevention, adult education, family literacy, and senior wellness activities. Resident needs and desires guide programming, and over 50,000 Boston residents visit the sites each year.
To deepen this partnership with the City of Boston, MACC and BCYF developed a collaborative consisting of MACC and BCYF employees as well as students and staff from six colleges in the Greater Boston area. The goal of the collaborative is to foster communication and collaboration between the City of Boston’s BCYF sites and the college students that volunteer with them. Many of the campuses on the committee host MACC VISTAs and saw this as another chance to develop partnerships to streamline communication and to better train college students to serve Boston’s youth and families. The collaborative has met four times this year and has completed a mapping project of colleges in the Greater Boston Area and BCYF sites they volunteer with.
After the initial meetings it became clear that the committee needed a tangible goal to work towards. That’s where I, Sadye Sagov, come in! I am the MACC-BCYF intern, charged with the task of interviewing the committee members about their partnerships with BCYF sites and their visions for committee outcomes. As an active member of Brandeis’ community service department and an education, psychology, and sociology major I was really excited to start learning about the various schools. Over the course of this past semester I visited the community service/service learning centers at Boston University, Bunker Hill Community College, Harvard University, Northeastern University, Simmons College, and Suffolk University. I learned so much about the partnerships and ideas for expansion and collaboration during these one-on-one conversations.
These six schools were partnered with 14 of the 29 BCYF sites through service learning classes, orientation events, tutoring programs, summer camps, exercise classes, art courses, and one-time large-scale projects. They had a lot of great things to say about BCYF. The sites know their community and families well and run programs that people actually need and want to attend. They have also reached out to form and strengthen relationships with Boston-area colleges and have made strong efforts to make communication and programming easy and consistent.
The colleges also spoke about challenges, something that BCYF asked me to explore so that it can strengthen old partnerships and expand new ones. These included issues such as space limitations as sites grew in popularity and requests for standardized volunteer orientation and ongoing supervision across sites.
The schools were also very excited by ideas of opportunities to expand their work with BCYF sites through alternative spring breaks, new programming to fill in service gaps, developing workshops that call on their skills as college students, and working on new issues such as LGBTQ awareness and rights. They were also excited that BCYF has offered to create and maintain lists of one-time, long-term, and summer volunteer opportunities and that MACC has developed a Google Map locating each BCYF site and detailing what college volunteers are already doing at each!
Through these one-to-ones and committee meetings, the collaborative identified the need to better prepare college students to serve in neighborhoods with BCYF centers. This led to the current initiative of developing a neighborhood immersion of Fields Corner, Dorchester. This immersion is being developed with the goal to give college student’s a citizen’s perspective, for college student’s to realize the assets and resources available to them and other citizens of the neighborhood. This tour will introduce college students to areas of the city that are close by but often avoided or ignored, to expand their comfort zones, raise their awareness of great businesses, and share the cities public spaces. Furthermore, I was really excited to discover that students from Bunker Hill, who live in many of the areas we hope to explore, will most likely help us plan and potentially lead the tours. Our first immersion of Fields Corner, Dorchester will be piloted by the collaborative in the hope of expanding the immersion to other college students in the upcoming years.
I feel that my work this semester has been successful. I certainly learned a lot. I learned about the colleges’ great work as well as their hopes and expectations for expansion. I also moved the tangible goal forward by narrowing down several options and coming to a decision that the schools were excited for and feel will be a valuable experience for their students. All of this work will help the City of Boston to maintain and improve its volunteer-base and partnerships between BCYF and local colleges as well as expose its youth to opportunities in higher education!
MACC and BCYF Partnership Intern