By Michael Coughlin Jr.
As part of grants from Boston After School & Beyond, several youth programs are slated to receive funding this summer which will help provide even more support to the children of East Boston.
Some of the programs set to receive funding include the Piers Park Sailing Center, Veronica Robles Cultural Center, East Boston Social Centers, Boston Scores, and Harlem Lacrosse. At this time, the amount of funding that is projected for each program is not finalized.
As mentioned, 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 setbacks COVID caused 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 the aforementioned East Boston programs.
To Chris Smith, Boston After School & Beyond’s Executive Director – the need for this type of funding cannot be understated, especially coming out of the pandemic.
“Kids spend 80% of their waking hours outside of school, and what happens during those hours is important to how they do in school but also in life,” said Smith.
He also spoke about how robust the pool of after school and summer programs are throughout the city and how these programs help kids build essential skills like critical thinking and teamwork, all while having fun.
“When schools closed during COVID, the world saw how important these after school and summer programs are to the lives of kids and families,” said Smith.
Moreover, Smith also spoke highly about the programs that are slated to receive funding, specifically in East Boston. In order to receive these grants, programs had to meet certain criteria, such as serving kids at least three days a week, measuring program performance, and focusing on improving students’ skills.
“The East Boston programs really exemplify that; they’ve been working with us for a long time,” said Smith.
While these East Boston programs are slated to get funding this summer – many of them have already received funds in the Summer of 2022 and the 2022-2023 school year through ASOST-R. Several of those affiliated with these programs spoke about how invaluable the past funding has been and how invaluable the slated upcoming support from Boston After School & Beyond will be.
For example, Alex DeFronzo, the Executive Director of the Piers Park Sailing Center, explained how this funding has allowed them to open more spots for enrollment in their programs and hire the staff necessary to accommodate the enrollment increase.
DeFronzo also mentioned that the potential new funding would allow the center to get more East Boston kids into their programs and support those in East Boston with discounts or fully support those who want to join but might be struggling financially.
Veronica Robles, the Executive Director of the Veronica Robles Cultural Center, described how the funding from Boston After School & Beyond has enabled the center to support hundreds of kids and offer more robust arts and culture programming through things like dance and music.
Robles also spoke about how this funding from Boston After School & Beyond is really the first time the center has gotten monetary support to provide its services – and shared how helpful the support has been.
“We have improved and extended our programming and been able to offer these opportunities to our community. So for us – it means a lot,” said Robles.
This funding will also support programming from Boston Scores – an organization that blends soccer and things like poetry and service learning together. Past funding has supported a free after school program for kids from fourth to eighth grade, and the slated funding would support a summer program located at East Boston High School.
“For an organization like ours, it’s [the funding] really been a crucial source of support these last several years,” said Andy Crossley, Boston Scores’ Chief Development Officer.
Moreover, with potential funding coming this summer, East Boston Social Centers will be able to rebound from the effects of COVID by hiring more staff to support kids in the program. While Harlem Lacrosse would be able to offer off-site enrichment opportunities like museum visits, beach visits, and more with potential funding.
It is clear that the work Boston After School & Beyond has done to support these programs around the city has been tremendously helpful – especially to East Boston – and Smith and his team are looking to continue this support well into the future.
“We’re trying to make this a new baseline for supporting youth in the city. This was sourced with federal relief funding, and we’re trying to get the legislature to increase the amounts available and make it so that we can distribute it to programs every year,” said Smith.
Just recently – according to Smith – State Representative Adrian Madaro co-sponsored two amendments to increase funding for after school and summer programs – so even more help for these programs could be coming in the future.
To learn more about all the different organizations serving the youth of East Boston and their programs, you can visit each of their websites below.
Piers Park Sailing Center: https://piersparksailing.org/
Veronica Robles Cultural Center: https://veronicaroblesculturalcenter.org/
East Boston Social Centers: https://www.ebsocialcenters.org/
Boston Scores: https://www.bostonscores.org/
Harlem Lacrosse: https://www.harlemlacrosse.org/boston
“We say that when you have a diverse network of programs, you’re making the whole city a classroom, and I love it when you do that in a neighborhood. You see from the water at Piers Park all the way to Veronica Robles Cultural Center – different activities, different use of space – but kids are learning and thriving in these different settings,” said Smith.