This year, in addition to offering Scholars the opportunity to fulfill their service obligation through direct service facilitated by the Civic Engagement Program, the Scholars Program is coordinating six new community-based research projects. Below you will find longer project descriptions.
Scholars can either apply to do direct service or to do a Community-Based Research Project; you cannot apply for both. While we will try to match each Scholar applicant with their preferred project, you are not guaranteed entry into your first choice of project.
Boston Partners in Education
Boston Partners in Education (Boston Partners) enhances the academic achievement and nurtures the personal growth of Boston’s public school students by providing them with focused, individualized in-school volunteer support. Since 1966, we have recruited, trained, placed, and supported volunteers of all ages and backgrounds to work with Boston Public Schools (BPS) students in grades K-12 during the school day in the subjects of math and English Language Arts. Our community and corporate volunteers, known as academic mentors, reached more than 3,700 students throughout the city last year, making a positive impact on their academic and personal development.
As part of BPE efforts to engage more Boston Public School parents/families as classroom academic mentors, University Scholars will survey and profile a group of participating schools (likely comprising some Circle of Promise Schools) and explore the following research questions: (1) How do they define family engagement and how are they meeting that definition? (2) What role should parents/guardians play in classrooms and how can classroom-based learning be extended to homes for parents/families who cannot serve? (3) Describe best classroom practices using volunteers, especially parent volunteers, to support student academic and emotional development in the classroom and at home.
By the end of this project, University Scholars will: (1) Identify definitions of what family engagement looks like at participating schools, (2) develop a common definition, (3) create a profile of each school based on its definition of family engagement and what cultural norms, school activities, curriculum supports and classroom/school practices inform it. (4) explore and document how parents and families are being utilized in classrooms as academic mentors and the perceived impact on students’ emotional and academic development.
Scholars will meet at Boston Partners office weekly with their supervisor. They will be provided a complete organization orientation and full office access, including: desk space, computer/internet access, phone and meeting space. They will have support from Erin McGrath, Program Director for access and support in outreach and work at school sites, along with our Placement Team, headed by Barbara Harris, Director of Placements. Most hours served will happen in the field at the various identified schools. Scholars will develop and implement questionnaires, conduct interviews and collect data through observations and from source materials at Boston Partners and through Boston Public Schools (BPS).
Seeking: Scholars interested in social science research, educational equity, and learning to communicate with diverse populations.
Tentative Start Date
Orientation: Week of September 30, 2013 (6:00 PM) 44 Farnsworth Street, 7th floor Conference Room
Start Date: Week of October 7, 2013
United South End Settlements
The mission of the United South End Settlements (USES) is to build a strong community by improving the education, health, safety, and economic security of low-income individuals and families in Boston’s historic South End/Lower Roxbury and to serve as a national model of successful neighborhood engagement.
USES serves children, teens, adults, and seniors through programs in art, education, technology, and social services. USES has held true to its settlement house roots, committing to the motto of “neighbors helping neighbors to grow and thrive.” Our extended family is an integrated team of participants, staff, volunteers, community leaders, and business partners. USES operates in three locations in the South End - Harriet Tubman House, South End House, the Children’s Art Centre - and Camp Hale on Squam Lake in New Hampshire.
USES strives to be a transformational institution, committed to offering opportunities for personal growth - educational, emotional, artistic, and physical - to all of our constituents: neighbors, participants, staff, volunteers, and partners. Underscoring our mission is the principle that healthy communities and neighborhoods are ones in which there are opportunities for individuals and groups to engage across class, race, ethnicity, age, gender, lifestyle, and ability.
USES’ Theory of Change is guided by four transformative principles: Be the “primary care physician” for the community’s social service needs Build trusting relationships with community partners to provide specialized services and funding support Improve our neighbors’ lives by enhancing the five dimensions of well-being — relationships, education, health, safety, economic security Measure results through outcome studies and data.
There are several questions USES must be able to answer in order to continue working towards fulfilling its mission: How has the South End/Lower Roxbury neighborhood changed since the 2008 Environmental Scan? Which community needs have remained the same? What new needs have surfaced? What are the strengths and assets of the neighborhood today? What are the goals of individuals and families living in the community? What do they believe stands in the way of reaching those goals? Who supports the community today? What are the key agencies and what do they do? What is the impact USES has on the lives of those within the community? How do we know? How will we continue to know? How does USES fulfill its mission to improve the lives of individuals and families within the South End/Lower Roxbury neighborhood along the five dimensions of well-being? To answer these questions we are proposing a community-based participatory research project that will allow the community to contribute to the conversation – to contribute to our understanding of the community, to critique the role we play within it, and to help shape the definition of community success.
Student researchers will design and implement data collection methods that may include surveys, interviews, and focus groups; collect and analyze their data; and, create materials for internal and external dissemination. The VP of Research, Evaluation & Training will supervise and mentor student researchers. There will be a regular monthly group meeting that may include other USES senior staff. The VP of Research, Evaluation & Training will be available for students via phone and e-mail and will keep office hours to plan and assist as necessary throughout the project. The Vice President of Research, Evaluation & Training has an extensive background in participatory action research methodology, in youth development, and in training/teaching. She will be available not only to guide students in the process, but also to provide necessary skills building along the way. USES management staff, and specifically the President & CEO, will be available to students around key project areas (understanding programs, understanding the history of USES and its role in the SE/LR community; understanding other community initiatives and organizations). There will be limited access to the Board of Directors, as described below.
Tentative Start Date
October 9th, 2013
Boston Building Resources
Boston Building Resources is a non-profit building materials reuse center that accepts donations of building materials and then sells them at steeply reduced prices to our members. In executing that mission, we have a receiving department that processes all donated materials, and a sales floor where the goods are displayed for sale to the general public and members alike. As such, BBR offers students the opportunity to be part of our organization's basic mission to keep good materials out the waste stream and put them in the hands of income-eligible members from the immediate surrounding area. We have been around for over 30 years, gone through many changes, and have adapted to changes in the economic climate. BBR offers students a chance to see this process in action.
Boston Building Resources recently completed a strategic review in partnership with a group of Harvard Business School alumni. These alumni suggested to BBR that they revise their mission statement and adopt a "business" attitude so that they can measure the impact that they are having within their communities with measurable data.
They are looking to partner with our group to help them 1) determine useful metrics for measuring both social and economic impact and 2) develop the tools they need to perform this measurement and 3) do some of the measurement. The University Scholars will be collaborating with the Social Enterprise Institute to produce a field-study Impact Measurement and Evaluation for BBR.
This is a very challenging project that we hope will appeal to business students, those interested in social innovation, the brave, and those interested in data collection and analysis.
The Playground Project
We are working on reviving the Doyle Memorial playground. The area is currently considered a play lot, but is unusable due to disrepair. The University Scholars hope to pair up with Mattapan United to create an eco-playground. An eco-playground uses all non-toxic materials and focuses on Nature. The playground would be sustainable and incorporate green materials. These would be made of Recycled Content, Natural, Plentiful or renewable material creating a place for children to play and learn that would also be beneficial ecologically.
The focus for the year is to create connections with Mattapan United, the City of Boston, and the community of Mattapan to create enthusiasm and excitement about the potential playground. The hope is to also create a preliminary design that represents the community’s needs and begin to fundraise for implementation in the future. Our group hopes to partner with faculty members from our School of Architecture.
The high degree of interaction with community members will require Scholars to be comfortable speaking with people of all types, from politicians to community members to monetary donors. We are also seeking students with backgrounds in architecture and design, with skills or interest in learning AutoCad, and students with experience fundraising. The project is interdisciplinary and will require people from every major to work together effectively and efficiently. The most important thing will be a willingness to work hard, collaboratively, and enthusiastically over the course of the year.
Haley House is a social enterprise that promotes the economic, social and physical well-being of the community. It offers collaborative living and working environments that build communities and connections across boundaries that divide us, model creative alternatives that confirm the intrinsic dignity and worth of each person, and challenge the attitudes and structures that perpetuate suffering. With a focus on reciprocal learning, Haley House provides economic development opportunities, skills training for the underemployed, affordable housing for the homeless and working poor, and wholesome nourishment for body, mind and spirit. reweave, founded by Northeastern students, helps social enterprises and projects grow organizational capacity by providing business and impact-measurement consulting, media-development services, and direct-impact capital investment facilitated by on-the-ground support teams.
This initiative is the Roxbury Project - an effort to help Haley House express its message and further bring the community of Roxbury together. This project will include two main components: video production and t-shirt design. Over the course of the year, students will create videos telling Roxbury’s and Haley House’s story in an inspiring and engaging way and show the reasons behind the social enterprise’s creation in 1966. The Scholars will also focus on Haley House's TEP program. lead a community building project engaging students from local middle schools to design a t-shirt representing the community they live in. Members of the team will visit middle schools in Roxbury and teach students about Haley House and the importance of the community building work it carries by organizing a design contest for the Roxbury Project t-shirt. This will provide an opportunity for young artists from Orchard Gardens K-8 school to have their art featured and promoted. Design submissions will be posted on reweave’s website for vote and the three most popular entries will be chosen. Scholars can expect to learn about social entrepreneurship, teamwork, stakeholder engagement, and the power of community.
Our partners seek students with a diverse set of interests and skills that include writing, photography, scripting, filmmaking, editing, designing, and marketing.
The Science Fair Project
Scholars will work closely with the students and faculty of the John D. O'Bryant School of Math and Science. The school is named after the first African-American elected to the Boston School Committee, Mr. John D. O'Bryant, who also served as Northeastern University's Vice President of Student Affairs. The school prides itself on being a "diverse body of learners," engaging “students in a rigorous and comprehensive Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics program, integrated with Humanities.”
The ProjectWhile the O'Bryant school provides many wonderful academic and extracurricular opportunities for its students, the school does not currently hold a science fair. University Scholars, led by Kelli Lynch and supported by our Faculty Fellows, would work closely with high school students from O’Bryant to provide mentoring and support in the development of their science fair projects. The year would being with some in class work with students (as Northeastern students’ schedules permit) as science fair is first introduced, followed by holding regular after school hours. These after school hours would be utilized to provide one on one mentoring with specific students to help them develop and execute their science fair projects. Once the projects are presented in the school science fair in late January, the Northeaster students will continue to mentor and support students who advance to the regional and state science fairs. Towards the end of the school year, when fewer students require science fair support, the Northeastern students can work with O’Bryant students to tutor them and help them to prepare for science exams including AP and SAT II tests.
Our project leaders seek science-oriented people, preferably with Science Fair experience. The project will involve tutoring in AP Bio and AP Chem, so having experience in those areas would be helpful.