By Michael Coughlin Jr.
Thanks to grants from Boston After School & Beyond, summer funding is potentially on the way to support programs serving kids in Jamaica Plain.
Some of the programs serving the youth in Jamaica Plain slated to receive funding this summer include ACEDONE, Bikes Not Bombs, the Bethel Institute for Community Development, and Sociedad Latina.
The aforementioned Boston After School & Beyond – an organization with a network of 475 after school and summer programs that focus on supporting children outside of school – is helping make this funding possible through a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) program.
This DESE program was created to help youth in Massachusetts recover from the setbacks caused by COVID and is called After School and Out-of-School Time Rebound (ASOST-R).
As part of this program, the state selected non-profit organizations – like Boston After School & Beyond – in six different regions across Massachusetts to distribute grants to after school and summer programs in their regions.
As part of the selection from the state Boston After School & Beyond has been able to fund 68 programs throughout the City of Boston – including these Jamaica Plain programs.
In order to receive these grants, programs had to meet certain criteria, such as serving kids at least three days a week, committing to measuring program performance and focusing on improving students’ skills.
Chris Smith, Boston After School & Beyond’s Executive Director – described the importance of these grants, especially to the kids as we move out of the COVID pandemic.
“Our data shows, and of course, national data shows, that kids are struggling coming out of the pandemic. Especially with mental health, and many of them have fallen behind academically,” said Smith.
“After school programs are very well suited to help these kids recover,” he added.
Although Smith praised the ASOST-R program, he indicated that this sort of funding is something that should continue for years to come. He also might get his wish as State Representative Adrian Madaro recently co-sponsored two amendments to increase funding for after school and summer programs.
“Its worked incredibly well – we want to keep it going. Every young person should have access to a high-quality after school and summer program – it shouldn’t be based just on their income or their connections,” said Smith.
With summer funding for these Jamaica Plain programs slated to be coming in, those affiliated with the programs spoke about what this funding will do for them and expressed how valuable Boston After School & Beyond funding has been in the past.
Maria Grande, the Director of Development at Sociedad Latina, expressed how valuable funding has been for her organization.
She said, “This funding has been incredibly valuable in ensuring that our young people can continue to access programs that build community, foster positive mental health, are a safe, brave environment, and stems learning loss from COVID – especially for English learners.”
Grande indicated that the slated funding would go towards Sociedad Latina’s summer STEAM team and Academy for Latines Achieving Success and help its health and wellness initiative.
Kalya Hamlett Murray, Executive Director of the Bethel Institute for Community Development, echoed Grande’s sentiment about the funding from Boston After School & Beyond, calling it “invaluable.”
Murray also explained that this summer’s potential funding would go toward things like field trips, salaries, evaluation, curriculum, and supplies.
“We are looking forward to a fun summer that will include hydroponics, robotics and coding, the circulatory system and cardiology, environmental health, and justice, crime scene investigation and forensics, and more,” said Murray.
Elijah Evans, the Executive Director of Bikes Not Bombs, explained that the potential funding coming in would be used to help support its youth pathways program, which this year will employ over 40 young people with paid jobs.
“They get a significant amount of training, professional development, and just more broadly in terms of our model over three years, they develop a plan and some skills and confidence that will really propel them forward,” said Evans – who graduated from the youth pathways program himself almost 20 years ago.
“Boston After School & Beyond – phenomenal organization. We got support from them years ago, and then with all the transitions, we lost touch and then reconnected with them the last couple of school years – they’ve been a phenomenal partner.”
Abdulkadir Hussein, the CEO of ACEDONE, said, “Boston After School & Beyond has been very much a good partner with us. We have been working together for a number of years now.”
Hussein also described how the potential funding from Boston After School & Beyond would enable ACEDONE to increase its enrollment so more kids can join the programs they offer that focus on integrating education, culture, and enrichment to help kids build social skills and become leaders.
To learn more about some of the programs projected to get funding serving kids in Jamaica Plain, visit each website.
Bikes Not Bombs: https://bikesnotbombs.org/
Bethel Institute for Community Development: https://www.bethel-institute.org/
Sociedad Latina: https://www.sociedadlatina.org/
“We helped advocate for this grant at the state level, knowing that kids needed just what after school programs provide – which is a safe place, with caring adults, and an activity that they’re interested in so they keep coming and stay connected,” said Smith.