This week’s mission moment looks ahead to summer.
If you have children, they may be, like mine, getting squirrely. Summer weather finally touched us on the shoulder this last weekend, and the long school break starts in just a few weeks.
Like most things, however, summer can mean different things to different people. And to different communities. If summer is a time of playing, camp, learning, visiting relatives and hanging out in the yard on warm starry nights, then the time approaching is a cherished one. If summer is a time of no jobs, learning loss, being trapped in the house and collective fear of violence, you are looking ahead to something very different.
Boston Rising recognizes that, in truth, sometimes summer is a temporal barrier to rising. Low-income children, for example, lose up to twice the amount of learning over the summer months as higher-income children. Summer jobs are increasingly unavailable for young people, but especially so for young people of color. In 2006, even prior to the recession, the Center for Labor Market Studies reported, “Low-income black teens had employment [italics mine] rates of 17%, compared to 52% for white youth from more affluent households.”
Further, violence and fear suppress strengthening social connections and taking advantage of warm weather to see neighbors and connect in the neighborhood. According to the Boston Foundation, Grove Hall – Boston Rising’s partner neighborhood right now – has had the highest rate of youth violence in the city. Summer historically marks an increase in violent activity among youth.
With these things in mind, Boston Rising has decided to target the bulk of its grantmaking for the next couple of years on summer in Grove Hall. We call it Boston Rising summers, and our emphasis is on increasing access to summer jobs and summer learning opportunities for Grove Hall youth, while supporting organizations that strengthen summertime as a tool for families to rise in the community. We will invest part of our money in proven models in collaboration with other funders, including the Youth Violence Funders Collaborative and Boston After School and Beyond. We also are investing in collaborative learning across partners in Grove Hall, and inviting parents of some 7th and 8th graders to be direct customers of summer learning opportunities for their children. Ultimately, we are committed to a vision in which 100% of kids in Grove Hall who want quality summer learning or summer job opportunities get them. That will take some time, but this year is our start.
Other great organizations in Boston focus on summer, too. Fantastic that they do. We are doing it because part of the truth about rising is that, depending on who you are, an actual season can get in your way. Since we help clear the way for rising, that’s where we’ll be.
Up we go!
Tiziana C. Dearing
Chief Executive Officer