Programs offer summer fun and support for kids in need

Priscilla Alcantara and Campers at Summer (B-Safe) Program

Priscilla Alcantara and Campers at Summer (B-Safe) Program

This is an excerpt from a piece written by Sharon Sheridan.

It was the first day of B-SAFE, St. Stephen’s Youth Program’s summer enrichment program in the South End and Lower Roxbury neighborhoods of Boston. One girl in Priscilla Alcantara’s group kept wandering off, unwilling to talk to the other sixth-graders, because her friends were in a different group. Alcantara, a teen staff member, asked if Priscilla wanted to talk to her instead. Alcantara, 17, stayed with the girl and helped her feel comfortable making new friends.

For 14 summers shy youngsters have been making new friends during B-SAFE, a fun academic enrichment program which serves 625 elementary and middle-school children. It also employs 30 Junior Counselors in training and 100 Counselors-in-training at six locations in the Boston area (four are stand-alone summer sites in Dorchester, Mattapan and Chelsea). Four days a week, the youngsters attend morning academic programs followed by lunch, reading time and afternoon field trips to parks or cultural institutions. Fridays, they take day-long field trips outside the city, usually to a farm, park, lake or beach.

B-SAFE is the summer portion of St. Stephen’s year-round programming. Begun by St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Boston’s South End in 2000, B-SAFE partners with about 52 Episcopal churches, 1,000 volunteers, area schools, colleges, museums, cultural organizations, artistic groups, farms and parks. Churches provide program space, lunches, transportation and admissions costs for field trips, other in-kind donations and volunteers. Local organizations and businesses provide hands-on enrichment curriculum, tours, and instruction.

Children at St Stephens Summer (B Safe) Program

Children at St Stephens Summer (B Safe) Program

B-READY is their after-school program. It provides elementary and middle school students with one-on-one tutoring, homework help, and academic enrichment throughout the school year. In addition, for middle and high school aged students, it includes leadership training, social organizing, and college and career mentoring. Teen employment in year-round programming is an essential part of their model. It keeps students in long-term, year-round relationships with St. Stephen’s. They experience being positive role models, learning valuable job skills, earning income, and accessing academic and emotional support.

Year-round programming helps to bridge the educational gap between inner city students who attend poorly-funded schools and their more wealthy suburban counterparts. Research shows that learning gaps between low income inner city students and their more affluent suburban peers are cumulative and attributable to “summer slide” in their academic skills which result from their lack of access to ongoing learning and enrichment during the summer months.

Children and teens come from neighborhoods around the program sites and reflect those neighborhoods — often living in public housing, in families receiving public services, attending underperforming public schools, sometimes coming from foster homes, or involved with the court system – according to Reverend Liz Steinhauser, St. Stephen’s priest associate and director of youth programs. They represent a rich variety of cultural and religious backgrounds. Moreover, “the majority of the kids that we’re working with would not have a summer program to go to” without B-SAFE, Steinhauser said.

Participating teens benefit from meaningful jobs, training around issues such as healthy relationships and bullying, and the chance to visit colleges and receive mentoring. Michael Cordero, 16, entered the St. Stephen’s program as a third-grader and now is a staff member working with third- and fourth-graders for the summer. “St. Stephen’s just kind of opened up … a whole new world,” he said. “The neighborhood I’m in, it’s not bad. It just doesn’t have as many opportunities as it should.” St. Stephen’s has given him a job, the chance to see and learn new things and just be himself, he said. Priscilla Alcantara said it had opened doors for her as well, including involving her in community organizing and service during the school year including reopening a greenhouse at a local school.

St. Stephen's Youth Programs

St. Stephen’s Youth Programs

Funding comes from their host churches, partner churches, foundation funders, individual donors and volunteers and is dependent upon the generosity of those people and groups. Please take a look at the many options of making a donation.

Also, please read more about the B-Safe Program and download an application if it is right for you!

Connecting To Life at Center for Hearing and Communication

Connect to Life is their tag line and very much their mission. After touring their downtown Manhattan facilities, it became clear to me just how the Center for Hearing and Communication connects the people with hearing loss to life. For their clients, many of which are children, it is a place of opportunity and inspiration. It’s a cheerful setting with hallway walls filled with pictures of smiling children and their artwork. Behind every door, devoted staff works hard improving the quality of life for people with hearing loss by providing the highest level of clinical proficiency and technical skill in the hearing healthcare field.

Fara and Annabella reading "Sam Who Never Forgets" by Eve Rice

Fara and Annabella reading “Sam Who Never Forgets” by Eve Rice

After an extensive assessment, each person that comes to the Center for Hearing and Communication is provided with comprehensive services that address all their individual needs including communication and socialization skills. I had the pleasure of meeting and observing 2 1/2 year old Annabella during her speech and language therapy session. Her mom sat close by watching while Fara, her speech pathologist worked with her at the little table and chairs. I was able to speak with Fara after our initial meeting to better understand the work and techniques used during their sessions as well as the kind of hearing technology used by Annabella.

Fara and Annabella during an auditory speech and language therapy session

Fara and Annabella during an auditory speech and language therapy session

Fara Augustover explained to me- “Annabella was diagnosed at birth with a hearing loss for which she wears bilateral (both ears) pink hearing aids. Annabella and I are always working on her auditory skills, first and foremost. I monitor her articulation, language, and vocabulary as well. For the particular session you saw, we were reading “Sam Who Never Forgets” by Eve Rice, a book about a zookeeper who always remembers to feed all of his animals the food they love most. We were targeting learning new animal vocabulary (e.g. ostrich, seal, etc.), as well as using auditory memory to pair the correct animal with the correct color and type of food (e.g. The seal ate blue fish, The zebra ate yellow grains, etc.)”

The average adult waits seven years before confronting their hearing loss. Individuals with hearing loss often feel isolated and depressed. I remember when my grandfather began to lose his hearing. His isolation grew as his hearing loss became more pronounced. No longer able to participate in conversations, he retreated rather than seeking help for his hearing loss. It is because of the Center for Hearing and Communication that people with hearing loss can Connect to Life again.

Fundraising is crucial since client fees only cover a portion of the full cost of therapy. The Center provides services to anyone who is hearing impaired, no matter their ability to pay. They are depending on the generous contributions of their benefactors and sponsors to continue offering the best care to everyone who needs it.

Thank You For Coming Here To Make Sure We Can Hear

Thank You For Coming Here To Make Sure We Can Hear

The Center for Hearing and Communications is a not-for-profit organization with offices in New York City and Florida. Please visit their website for more information at:

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On any ordinary day we can choose to make a difference. Great people, who make a big difference, most times don’t do anything extraordinary – they just do small, good things over and over again. To create change we need to change. For things to be different, we need to see things differently. As Shakespeare observed, “The fault is not in the stars, but in ourselves.” We can do nothing or we can choose to make a difference.