In Community: Career Connected Learning Through Partnership

By LaVonia Montouté

 

Career Connected Learning—“a continuum of awareness, exploration, preparation, and work experience developed through strong public and private partnerships”—has been a hallmark of the Boston education landscape for decades, enabling students to participate in varied and immersive learning opportunities that expose them to the world of work. In 2020, Boston leaned deeply on the partnerships to sustain access to and focus on career learning for students, while also redesigning experiences to meet the needs and call of both a health pandemic and racial reckoning. During the 18th Annual EdVestors Showcase, student, education, and workforce leaders discussed how they transitioned to meet the demands of a double pandemic, their lessons learned, the importance of partnership, and their recommendations for the future to ensure that more students access and benefit from career connected learning experiences.

The speakers shared their incredible pivots in one of three areas: strategies that increased students’ career awareness, career exploration, and career immersion.

 

Career Awareness: Supporting MyCAP and Implementing Virtual Career Lessons for the Class of 2024

Marsha Inniss-Mitchell, Director of Postsecondary Partnerships in Boston Public Schools (BPS), opened the conversation by highlighting the ongoing work in BPS to ensure each student has an individualized student success plan, known locally as MyCAP (My Career and Academic Plan). MyCAP is a key strategy in the district’s college, career, and life readiness framework. In 2020, the BPS team designed a MyCAP distance learning program through Google Classroom to foster student engagement around career learning activities. The team targeted 9th grade students who were most likely to have experienced a significant transition due to starting a new school remotely. Particularly, educators and district leaders noted that discussing careers and the future cultivated a sense of hope in a time of uncertainty.

Partnership was at the core of design and implementation. Leveraging collaborations that spanned the Boston Opportunity Agenda and Generation Success, College Advising Corps, UMass Boston Precollegiate Programs, Boston University Center for Future Readiness, EdVestors, and many more, the BPS team designed and implemented virtual career lessons that engaged students in self-exploration exercises and formed early connection to their career aspirations. Partnership with college access organizations were critical to increasing the number of students who participated in this work virtually during the school year. 

When asked why they focused on career lessons this year, Ms. Inniss-Mitchell explained that the district is focused on supporting students’ self-exploration process, providing them with the tools and supports to identify meaningful careers to them, and aiding their navigation towards their goals.

 

Career Exploration: Virtual Bootcamps in Partnership with Employers and Mentors 

The Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) provides a range of support for students in career connected learning, including school-based staff known as PIC Career Specialists, to support career readiness tasks, hosting job shadow days, and facilitating connections between students and employers through annual summer youth jobs campaigns (A Summer Like No Other). In addition to continuing each of these work areas virtually, the PIC maximized the unique flexibilities of the remote environment and longstanding partnerships to connect students and employers in growing industry sectors for a four-day bootcamp during April break. 

Through the bootcamp, students developed skills in design thinking, data science, or engineering by engaging in virtual project-based learning led by employers and the Ace Mentor program. Joseph McLaughlin, Research Director at the PIC, noted that amidst the pandemic it was important to bring students together, connect them with adults through career learning, and support their informed decision-making about their future plans including postsecondary opportunities and majors. Mr. McLaughlin also noticed an important translation of remote work skills to the classroom, sharing that for many students who worked remotely in the summer they felt more confident managing the demands of remote learning in school in the fall.

 

Youth Internship in the Arts in Partnership with Citywide Arts and Cultural Institutions 

Zorely De la Rosa, Boston Arts Academy ‘21, shared her experience in completing a virtual internship through Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston (BAI), a seven-week program hosted by EdVestors that connects students with more than 20 arts and culture organizations across the city to engage in arts administration work experiences. Zorely developed a website that enabled students and teachers to connect for online classes at Community Music Center of Boston. She enjoyed the work of using technology to build connections between people and saw applications to her career aspirations of being a research scientist and creating community around public health topics. 

As a student participant, Zorely reflected on the benefits and challenges of remote internships. She shared that the virtual format was not always easy but helped push her to work independently and built her confidence in reaching out when support was needed: “ Now I feel like I can do projects on my own.” Zorely stressed that community for students is important and that connections to her supervisors, other interns in the program, as well as BAI staff were important to navigating the workplace. BAI also leverages partnerships to provide wraparound supports for students in college writing from 826 Boston, college exploration through College Advising Corp Boston University, and executive coaching from Muadi B. Dbinga Unlimited consulting.

 

Implementing a Virtual Internship in Partnership with Students and Families 

Melodie Knowlton, PhD, Director of the Learning Lab at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, has been a longstanding partner of BPS and the PIC, supporting STEAM learning in the classroom and hiring up to 40 students to work in the Vertex labs each summer. An exemplar program that blends workplace skill development and whole student supports, the Vertex team creatively addressed the challenges of transitioning to a fully virtual internship and committed to the motto, to not just “make do, but to make best.” The company witnessed and responded to the impact of the digital divide, both by getting Vertex technology to students and supporting students with connectivity challenges to enable students to be fully on camera and engaged. They also redeveloped their curricula to adjust for at-home experiments and safety needs, bringing in partnerships with local restaurant chains and leveraging baking as a key model of basic biological and chemical principles. An unexpected outcome of this particular innovation is that the at-home kits allowed families to connect more deeply with the work that students were doing in their internship and increased access to STEM equipment and processes. 

The Vertex team also focused on community, creating spaces for students to connect independently to disrupt the effects of physical isolation required during the summer. They made space for conversations that responded directly to the racial inequities that were amplified throughout summer 2020. In a year, where many feared disconnection, disengagement, and disillusionment, Dr. Knowlton shared that the best part of the program was finding out that “at the end of the summer, after having students online 35 hours a week for six weeks, when we said ‘you can log off’, they did not want to log off”. The Vertex team developed a community that fostered professional and personal development and provided a venue to offer care and support for one another throughout the summer

 

Student Empowerment Through Community Collaboration 

The session concluded by putting all of this work in context through the lens of data and how Boston uses partnerships to understand the experiences of students at scale through “anywhere, anytime learning” metrics. Collaboration between BPS and the PIC is just one example of the deep data partnership that enables real-time capture of student learning experiences from career awareness to career immersion, and can inform community action. Roshni Wadhwani,  College, Career and Life Readiness Analyst for Boston Public Schools, described how  BPS leveraged the data insights to bring college and career partners together to directly support students’ future readiness by rallying organizations to support career exploration activities and FAFSA completion. 

Despite the challenges of the past year and a half, the panelists conveyed a commitment to continuing to deepen access to career learning and build upon lessons learned. Many supported continued use of technology to expand regular access to career learning. Recommendations included:

  • Employing a flipped classroom in schools to enable students to do their key career tasks at home using virtual platforms and then partner with educators in the classroom for discussion and guidance;
  • Increasing project-based learning opportunities for students and finding ways to leverage the flexibilities of remote work to allow more students to access these opportunities during the school year and school breaks;
  • Continuing to use technology as a way to connect with more students and allow them a broader learning experience; and 
  • Prioritizing time for students to connect as a community during work experiences as a means of community connection.

 

LaVonia Montouté is the Director of Career Pathways. Learn more about the Education Showcase here.

Advancing Racial Equity: Perspectives on Practice

By Alia Verner

 

One of the primary themes during EdVestors’ 18th annual Education Showcase was advancing racial equity in education. The panelists provided powerful examples of racial equity work in practice alongside recommendations for how to advance racial equity from different perspectives. Panelists emphasized the importance of providing collaborative and differentiated learning opportunities for school staff, families and students; incorporating culturally affirming, holistic curriculum and teaching practices in the classroom; and working collectively to address the root causes of racial inequities in schools.

The speakers, comprised of practitioners and community members, included Dr. Jaykyri Simpson, Director of Young Man with a Plan; Garcie Champagne, Boston Public School parent at Mozart Elementary and Co-Chair of their Race and Ethnicity Committee; Michael Baulier, principal of the Mozart Elementary SchoolLovely Hoffman, Edison K-8 Music Teacher; and Anthony Beatrice, BPS Executive Director for the Arts. 

 

Prioritizing Racial Equity 

Despite the renewed attention to racial equity work, racial inequities and the systems, institutions, practices, policies, and culture that produced them are deeply embedded in America’s history as well as the current education system. Students of color, particularly Black and Latinx students in the city of Boston, have been disproportionately impacted by gaps in opportunities and outcomes. Dr. Jaykyri Simpson, Director of Young Man with a Plan, discussed how this past year has further disadvantaged students of color as they experienced disproportionate harm from COVID-19, family economic insecurity, racial trauma, as well as increased neighborhood and gang violence that have had heartbreaking effects on students’ lives. Thus, advancing racial equity within our school systems requires addressing the root causes of these inequities both within and outside of classroom walls.

For our panelists, and so many other education practitioners, families, and community leaders in Boston, racial equity work is not a new priority but has been the priority, the core of their mission statements, the driver of their actions and decisions. What does it mean to prioritize this work in education? Michael Baulier, Principal at the Mozart Elementary School, provides a description: “Prioritizing racial equity means applying an anti-racist lens to every aspect of the Mozart community, every staff hire, every family interaction, every leadership decision, every instructional choice, every main office referral. Prioritization means this work is consistent. It remains year after year, and our efforts grow and deepen every step of the way.” Our panelists shared how they prioritized and worked towards racial equity in education both within and outside school walls. 

 

Collaborative and Differentiated Racial Equity Learning

Panelists spoke about the importance of providing both collaborative and differentiated learning opportunities for school staff, families, and students. 

Garcie Champagne, a parent at the Mozart and co-founder of the Mozart’s Race and Ethnicity Committee (REC), shared that school staff and families deeply valued engaging in professional development together: “It felt like a true exchange of ideas where families are able to have input and be a part of the thinking and brainstorming and bring themselves into the curriculum and the activities students are a part of.” She emphasized the importance of bringing all stakeholders to the table to ensure collective learning and opportunities to hear multiple perspectives. For Principal Baulier, it is crucial to learn from and engage in thought partnership with “educators, families, and community members who have different identities and lived experiences” because his “identity and perspective as a single white male administrator is limited.” 

While opportunities for collaborative professional learning are important, learning and growth opportunities centered on racial equity also need to be differentiated to meet the individual needs of those involved and build upon their already existing funds of knowledge and lived experiences. “Meeting the needs of families of color and needs of white families is often different,” Champagne observed. “It is important to acknowledge that people are coming in from different places, which necessitates different entry points of learning.” One of the ways in which the Mozart community has responded to the various needs of their families is by creating affinity groups for families with shared affinities to share and problem-solve together. 

At the district level, differentiated professional learning is a core strategy for supporting arts educators. Anthony Beatrice, the BPS Executive Director for the Arts, shared an overview of the Arts Department’s racial equity professional learning framework. One of the department’s realizations when beginning this work was that arts teachers were at different stages of their learning journeys and that professional development had to meet the needs of all teachers. The Arts Department used the Continuum of Cultural Competency to identify stages of cultural competency and sequence learning experiences for arts educators.

 

Culturally Affirming and Holistic Approaches to Teaching

The Boston Public Schools Office of Opportunity and Achievement Gaps Policy describes a culturally affirming curriculum as one that connects with students’ cultural schema and affirms and admires their backgrounds, identities and experiences. 

For Lovely Hoffman, a music teacher at the Edison K-8 School, providing culturally affirming education experiences to her students means teaching from a holistic perspective and ensuring “what we are teaching is relevant, socially conscious, and teaching the whole child.” In practice, this requires moving away from western traditions of compartmentalized subject areas to a more interdisciplinary approach that brings in the real world and students’ identities. Hoffman utilizes a broad range of musical styles, poetry, and songs to teach students about different cultures and leads lesson activities that enable students to bridge connections to their own cultures and identities. As an educator, she saw that low self-esteem was a recurring issue among young Black girls, directly impacting their confidence, motivation, and performance in school. In response, Hoffman created her now viral music video “My Black is Beautiful” and accompanying Self-Esteem Curriculum for Young Black Girls to “encourage young girls of color to define and embrace their natural beauty.” Her “Kwanzaa Song” video teaches students about the traditional African-American holiday and her poetry unit examines Tupac Shakur’s music and poetry in relation to larger discussions about racial relations in America. 

Dr. Jaykyri Simpson describes Young Man with a Plan (YMWAP) as a holistic mentoring program for young men of color. Beyond academics, YMWAP mentorship helps students make sense of and prepare for the world they live in as young men of color. Students in YMWAP discuss a variety of topics with their mentors of color and each other, including race and identity, current events, academic challenges, healthy relationships, finance management, stress, and college and career options. 

Principal Baulier believes curriculum must “engage students in learning about representative journeys of achievement, social justice, and antiracist action.” At the Mozart, school staff and families examine and transform current curriculum together. In their Race and Ethnicity Committee, parents brainstormed literature projects with educators that allow students to explore their racial identities. They worked collectively to unpack and understand the Learning for Justice Framework for Anti-bias Education and Social Justice Standards, then applied these standards alongside antiracism research and the Universal Design for Learning framework to co-develop writing units and grade-level curriculum. 

The BPS Arts Department has worked with arts teachers to decolonize and examine existing curriculum for bias using the 7 Forms of Bias Protocol. Auditing curriculum often resulted in the district asking vendors to change existing curriculum, having to buy new curriculum, or creating curriculum on their own. The Arts Department created their own Elementary General Band book that focused on merengue, muchata, and hip-hop after auditing the existing instrumental bandbook and finding it heavily Western European-focused. Like the Mozart, they also engaged in co-creation, enlisting high school students to create artwork for elementary general music teachers to accompany lessons. Beatrice noted that auditing curriculum for bias does not necessarily mean removing content and bias from curriculum, but adding counter-narratives and explicitly teaching students how to be critical consumers of information. 

 

Cross-sector Collaboration for Change 

Operating across sectors is critical to the success of Dr. Jaykyri Simpson’s YMWAP mentorship program. To advance racial equity, Dr. Simpson calls for an honest, holistic, radical, and collaborative approach to system change. This approach acknowledges and addresses the root causes of racial inequities, considers the interconnectedness of factors impacting students both in and outside of the school building, and requires cross-sector collaboration so that everyone can “row together,” put adequate resources in the right places, and make broad-scale change. 

YMWAP breaks down silos by working across different types of schools, in partnership with families, and alongside other organizations like the Private Industry Council and the Boston Police Department. As a result of YMWAP’s collaborative and holistic approach to mentoring, students’ academic and social-emotional skills improve, and the program bridges understanding across sectors, schools, races, cultures, and neighborhoods. 

 

Continued Commitment to Racial Equity in Education

Racial equity in education requires change in our classrooms and school buildings, but also calls for change in all policies, practices, and environments that shape the lives of students and their families. The approach to broader systemic changes rests firmly in working collectively and holistically. Racial equity has to remain a priority and it has to center students first. As Principal Baulier states, “The more we do racial equity work, the more work there is to do…We learned that no matter where you start, you have to start somewhere.”  Until every child, regardless of race or ethnicity, has access to the opportunities, resources, and support they need to thrive in our school system and beyond, we all have work to do. 

 

Alia Verner is the Director of Strategic School Support. Learn more about the Education Showcase here.

Agency and Relevance: Engaging Students through Project-Based Learning

By Emily Barr

As students and teachers across the city adjusted to remote learning last spring and various iterations of remote, hybrid and in-person instruction over the past school year, Project-Based Learning emerged as a powerful strategy to engage students in real-world and personally meaningful work. At EdVestors’ 18th Annual Showcase, educators from Winship Elementary School and the Digital Ready program at Excel High School shared powerful examples of this learning strategy in practice. 

First up, Sarah Cherry Rice, Executive Director of Digital Ready, and Molly Mus, special education science teacher at Excel High School in South Boston, shared how Digital Ready programming approaches Project-Based Learning not only as an effective strategy to engage students in a way that is personally relevant to their lives, but also as a way for students to build problem-solving and technical skills that provide access to Boston’s innovation economy. Digital Ready, a grantee in EdVestors’ Career Pathways work, aims to ensure that students have agency and social capital for pathways to high-wage, in-demand jobs that are in their backyard, as they create a digital portfolio showcasing their experience and developed skills that has currency in Boston’s innovation economy.

In partnership with Digital Ready, one project that Ms. Mus tackled with her students this school year centered around the question: How can we use principles of energy to help us build and refine a device to serve our everyday needs? Students were tasked with developing a solar-powered phone charger. This project incorporated an important state-standard in physics but also gave students a tool they were excited to use following the completion of the project. Students were given toolkits of materials that allowed both in-person and remote students to be fully engaged throughout the project. Ms. Mus shared that during this challenging school year, students were craving learning opportunities that were both hands-on and relevant to their lives. During this project, students were eager to come to school and dive in each day. She shared, “No matter what—even when their circuits weren’t working—students jumped back into it the next day and were excited to keep trying. It’s really rare to see that.”

Next up, in Brighton, a team of educators from the Winship Elementary School, EdVestors’ 2020 School on the Move Prize winner, shared the important role that Project-Based Learning played in teaching and learning during the pandemic. Project-Based Learning has been a core foundational strategy for the Winship as a STEAM school that prioritizes authentic, student-centered learning experiences. During periods of remote and hybrid learning, Project-Based Learning also facilitated strong family engagement opportunities. 

 

ESL teacher Lisa Llorente shared a project aimed at academic discourse and building vocabulary among English learners focused on the launch of the Falcon 9 spaceship to the International Space Station. The project was multifaceted; students watched video clips of earlier launches, read related texts, and culminated in presentations of rocket drawings and models made from materials found around their homes. As parents were experiencing a closer look at instruction than previously possible during in-person instruction, Ms. Llorente noticed authentic learning happening between parents, students, and teachers. Throughout the project, parents emailed relevant resources to Ms. Llorente, and they all met on Google Classroom to watch the launch live.

Family engagement was also a key strength of Shannon DeBari’s All About Me project with her first graders. Students were tasked with creating a digital autobiography. This project addressed many ELA standards, including developing interviewing and writing skills to technical typing skills. Families were involved through a survey and sharing photos that would eventually be incorporated into each student’s autobiography. Regarding the celebratory publishing party, Ms. DeBari shared, “Students really wanted to share about themselves, especially as they weren’t seeing each other as often. [This project] created a sense of community while having kids really engaged in a writing project.” Students were excited to be able to choose which chapters of their lives to share with their peers.

 

Aaron Noll, librarian and ESL teacher, also highlighted the value of student choice in engaging learning opportunities. His students created video book trailers based on their favorite fiction book. This project encouraged them to create a product about something they loved while analyzing story elements and practicing new skills such as storyboarding and using a new technology platform.

As educators across the district rethought and reimagined their strategies for engaging students during the pandemic, Project-Based Learning emerged as an instructional practice with high potential to create meaningful and relevant learning experiences both remotely and in-person through interactive learning environments that fostered a sense of community among students, teachers, and families. 

 

 

Emily Barr is the Director of Data and Evaluation. Learn more about the Education Showcase here.

Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector: Final Thoughts

This blog is part of a series on Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector drawing from experiences managing the Bloomberg Arts Internship program in Boston through sharing the learnings and key takeaways for effective creative youth development and employment models.

The challenges of life during a pandemic and future implementation

Living  during a pandemic took a toll on everyone connected to the BAI program this summer and the toll felt by the interns was especially challenging. For three students the circumstances of the pandemic were too much to balance with the requirements of the internship and they made the decision to leave the program. In assessing these cases, several observations came to the surface.

  • Engaging with the interns’ families is critical. Especially in a remote model, families and caregivers are essential sources of support and can assist the interns in prioritizing and navigating their work experiences and personal responsibilities.
  • Even when interns had to make hard decisions about leaving the program, interns learned important career lessons in professional communication around difficult conversations and follow up.

Another learning was that remote experiences can offer a wealth of quality opportunities, however there are still times when in-person connections are both helpful and more impactful. From a program design standpoint, it is not simply one or the other (remote versus in-person) that defines a successful program design. Based on this observation the BAI team is preparing for a hybrid model in 2021 which will allow for the flexibility and maximization of key program elements to be implemented with impact and safety in mind. 

The lessons learned from the Boston BAI summer of 2020 offer insight into how a remote summer employment program can engage and support high school interns. Even after the summer ended the cohort of youth remain connected to one another and meet for informal “hang-out” sessions online. The Alumni Advisory Council, comprised of 2019 and 2020 BAI program alums, leads and provides peer support through these gatherings. 

As the Boston BAI program staff plan for the 2021 summer, there are successful program elements and experiences that can inform key aspects of the program model and are applicable for future summer internship program design regardless of whether the program is in-person or remote. The importance of the right partners, accessing quality adult mentors, creating opportunities for interns to develop transferable skills and emphasizing the interns’ identities as artists and creators are all learnings that will assist in creating a strong program model in the future.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our community, the staff remain both vigilant to the safety of program participants and partners while remaining open to the possibility of greater in-person program opportunities in 2021. 

Learn more about the Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston program on our youth-created website.

Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector: Connecting Artistry to the Workplace

This blog is part of a series on Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector drawing from experiences managing the Bloomberg Arts Internship program in Boston through sharing the learnings and key takeaways for effective creative youth development and employment models.

BAI Boston 2020 Logo and Design Mockups from BAI Interns

Empowering interns to express themselves through their art provides a safe space to form relationships with peers, mentors, and colleagues. This self-expression fosters their development not only as artists but as young professionals as they begin to connect their skills through the arts with relevant career skills.

Using arts as a theme encouraged and promoted interns to “share their best selves”, find commonalities with one another and with their worksite supervisors, and provided a platform for self-expression and youth voice.

The Boston BAI program builds on the best practice principles and characteristics of Creative Youth Development (CYD), which see young people as active agents of their own change, with strengths and skills to be developed and supported. 

Each week began with the interns attending a Monday morning 30-minute zoom group check-in led by EdVestors Internship and Program Coordinator, Jeremy Gooden. These gatherings set the tone for the week, with fun group activities, sharing of program logistical updates, and an easy, welcoming touchpoint for the interns as they started their week. At these sessions the interns shared their goals for the week and what they were looking forward to accomplishing at their worksites. The full cohort of interns also met every Friday in longer sessions that included additional group building activities that supported interns connecting with each other and building deeper relationships as a group. 

The interns reported at the end of the summer how close they had grown as a group and this connectedness developed to a large degree as a result of the Monday and Friday weekly meetings. Jeremy facilitated engaging and fun activities that allowed the interns to relax, be themselves and laugh together. Their creativity was a key part of the gatherings as the interns were encouraged to share their artwork with each other in addition to connecting over the shared experience of having remote summer internships through the program. Icebreakers, games and use of the chat function on Zoom to elicit quick responses to questions related to how they were feeling kept the sessions lively and allowed for maximum participation by the interns regardless of their personalities or comfort with using their cameras.

The program components explicitly created an experience that supported self-expression and youth voice: through the twice-weekly cohort zoom gatherings; the personal and professional coaching which encouraged interns to think of themselves as artists, youth leaders and network-builders; along with the strong worksite experiences and wrap-around supports. 

For example, while Sara saw herself as a visual artist, she reflected that she did not have as much time as she would like to focus on her art. Being part of the BAI program allowed for more of that.

“The BAI [cohort of interns] had a different dynamic because everyone was into art and it created an atmosphere that I liked, people in the program had a lot of good ideas [about their artmaking].”

The solid connections among the intern cohort started through the summer experiences and continued after the program ended with ongoing monthly “chill sessions” facilitated by the alumni council. These sessions were self-determined by intern alumni, and provide an example of how the skills the interns developed as program participants carried over into their experiences as alumni. As one alumni council member said, “Being in the program I learned how to be more comfortable talking to people I don’t know. It gave me confidence and as a council member I was able to help the newer interns by being someone for them to ask questions and get support.” 

An arts-based internship program can provide opportunities for participating interns to develop skills that are transferable and relevant across industries sectors. 

This lesson is relevant during an in-person program as well, however it is worth noting that the remote experience increased student exposure to digital products that are used across organizations regardless of industry sector. The interns gained familiarity and agility with tools that will likely become mainstays of the new workforce environment such as Zoom and other virtual communication platforms. They also gained specialized competencies such as website design, marketing (especially via social media), and how to utilize Microsoft Office or Adobe products for research, analysis, and presentation. Due to the remote format nearly all students completed their internship with a digital artifact of their skill development, which can be added to their e-portfolio, resumes, and LinkedIn profiles as they pursue new opportunities within and beyond the arts sector. 

As an example, Zorely had conversations with her supervisor, Morgan at CMCB, about her goals and identity as an artist. Zorely asked to learn about arts opportunities that she might pursue beyond performance. Zorely discussed with Morgan how music could fit into her future. She knows she can return to music in the future and that she can take the lessons learned from her training into any space.  She expressed that music is the source of her confidence, something that she leverages readily in her STEM internships (she is interested in studying bio-engineering) and public speaking. She was recently a student panelist  in the Boston PIC’s 2020 STEM Showcase.

Ziane at Urbanity Dance improved her customer service skills as a result of the outreach calls she made, gaining comfort in speaking to people via these phone calls. She also utilized and expanded her presentation skills, some of which she had developed through her school and church. This made her realize how knowledge gained in one place can be utilized in another. “I realized no knowledge is lost and it can be used to connect with people in different settings.”

BAI students gained and consistently demonstrated transferable competencies such as adaptability, collaboration, self-advocacy, networking, and creating your personal and professional brand. Based on alumni engagement of the 2019 and 2020 cohorts, BAI alumni leveraged their skills in architecture/digital fabrication intensives, website design, launched new businesses, and made intentional efforts to network for new opportunities using their connection to EdVestors. 

Coming up in the next blog, Final Thoughts. 

Learn more about the Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston program on our youth-created website.

Family Engagement: Parents in the Classroom, Teachers in the Home

Photo Courtesy of St. Stephen’s Youth Programs

By Karen Levin

The Family Engagement panel at EdVestors’ 18th Annual Showcase featured a variety of speakers who highlighted the importance of the continuing partnership between parents, schools, and communities. Speakers included Estephany Almanzar, a parent organizer at St. Stephen’s Youth Programs and parent of a student at Blackstone Elementary School, Ada Avelar-Martinez, Resource Center Coordinator at St. Stephen’s Youth Program, Steve Desrosieres, Family Education Coordinator at Boston Public Schools’ Office of Family, Student and Community Advancement, Clara Lucien, Second Grade Teacher at Kenny Elementary School, and Liz Steinhauser, Director of Community Engagement at St. Stephen’s Youth Program

The panel overviewed Boston’s history of education (Steve Desrosiere explains in detail here), describing how parents have had central roles in organizing and advocating for their children’s education. They expanded on meaningful ways to involve and collaborate with parents in providing a more effective and hands-on approach to education for students and families.

Parents in the classroom, Teachers in the Home
As education in Boston turned remote in March of 2020 amidst all the challenges of teaching and learning in a remote environment, one bright spot was that parents were able to see directly into their children’s classrooms. Parents were naturally more involved in their child’s classroom (Zoom-rooms) as teachers saw into students’ homes. Second grade teacher, Clara Lucien, of the Kenny school expressed that “without family support a lot of the work we did would be really hard.” Ms. Lucien shared that her typical math class is very interactive. She worked this year on developing her own teaching and as a 2020 Zeroing in on Math Teaching Fellow to ensure the knowledge from parents was brought into remote classrooms. “Math should not only feel like words or symbols on a page or a screen” Ms. Lucien says, “but should be viewed kinesthetically, comprehensively, and critically.” That task, though difficult in the remote/hybrid classroom, has been made possible through partnerships with parents. 

Parents as Partners

While COVID created a virtual window into classrooms, St. Stephen’s Youth Programming has, for some time, operated as a bridge for parents and teachers in their Parent Mentor Program. Through their program, parents are trained and paid for collaborating 2 hours a day, four days per week in the classroom in additional to weekly training. This partnership between parents and teachers turns schools into vibrant centers of community and has greatly enhanced the experience for students, teachers, and parents in the education process. SSYP Parent Mentor Coordinator, and former Parent Mentor Estephany Almanzar said “Before, I was just dropping my daughter off and going to work. I didn’t really know what was going on in the school.” Now, with experience as a parent mentor, Estephany is more involved in her daughter’s education. By working in the classroom, in addition to being closer to her daughter’s education, she is able to provide support for groups of students in writing, math, and reading. 

When parent engagement is strong, schools do better. Test scores, grades, and student perceptions of themselves as learners are all higher. Parents are more confident in connecting and teachers are more confident in communicating. This all leads to better results as research has readily shown as family-school-community partnerships and family engagement improve student achievement. 

Amplifying Voices and Equitable Access

Director of Community Engagement at SSYP, Liz Steinhauser often discusses with parents their rights and how to advocate for what they want. During the pandemic, SSYP helped parents organize around safe school facilities, language interpretation, and compensatory services. Progress was made in all areas, with language interpretation resulting in a huge win for families who are multi-lingual. Estephany said she is now able to use her voice more effectively with the support of interpretation services. 

Given the unprecedented nature of the changes to school, Boston needed to hear from the most important stakeholders, students and families. SSYP and parent advocates organized and worked to ensure BPS facilitated meetings in 9 different languages so more families are able to actively participate in the process. As a multi-cultural city, Boston’s families communicate in a variety of languages. For teachers, school leaders, and district leaders it is imperative to prioritize language interpretation so those we serve can communicate and share their thoughts on education issues. Parents and families cannot participate if they cannot understand, and leaders cannot lead if they do not hear from a diverse and representative group of stakeholders. 

To best serve our communities, we need to adequately reach them

This past school year has been an important learning experience around accessibility, especially for organizations that do not frequently facilitate multi-lingual meetings. We have learned the intricacies and limitations of simultaneous translation via video conferencing, and the importance of interpretation and translation services so information can be shared in multiple languages. Flexibility has been another aspect that has been illuminated a bit more through the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, families were often expected to arrive within a given time slot during the afternoon or evening for parent-teacher conferences. Video conferencing has allowed for flexibility in the timing of connecting, removed the barrier of travel for families and teachers alike, and allowed for more frequent communication between families and educators. 

Collaboration between teachers, school leaders, and families has been critical during the pandemic and we must collectively continue to build upon it. Parents always have, and will continue to be an essential part of the educational process. The Family Engagement panel made clear the importance of parent engagement, the role of teachers in communicating with parents, and the power of parent advocacy as well as a model for effective parent engagement that places parents into the classroom and enables their voices to be heard. From a teacher’s perspective, Ms. Lucien describes that “deeper engagement with families has helped more teachers to see the impact of collaboration” and that there is now heightened significance in finding ways to better communicate with parents and families.

Want to see and hear more from Showcase? Click here to view the recording and full Showcase playlist.

Karen Levin is the Director of Zeroing in on Math. Learn more about the Education Showcase here.

 

Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector: Worksite Experiences: Urbano Project

This blog is part of a series on Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector drawing from experiences managing the Bloomberg Arts Internship program in Boston through sharing the learnings and key takeaways for effective creative youth development and employment models.

 

A central factor in the success of the 2020 Boston BAI program was the strong worksites and work-based projects for the interns. The staff and supervisors at the 11 arts and culture institutions that hosted the interns provided thoughtfully planned work experiences that engaged the interns with interesting projects and responsibilities. The following is an example of a meaningful worksite experience.

Urbano Project

Urbano Project is a nonprofit that brings together practicing visual artists, local youth, and community members to learn and experiment through place-based projects. Urbano supports youth to become civically engaged artists as they are challenged to tackle current social issues in their community that directly affect their lives. 

Urbano is a small organization with just four staff so they planned to integrate their intern, Sara, into a number of different roles and projects within the organization. This was Urbano’s first time in the Boston BAI program and amidst the complexity of the summer, they were able to draw on their youth-centered, creative and flexible approach to programming in order to provide a high quality internship experience.

Given this youth-centered perspective, the staff dedicated time to relationship building and expectation setting at the outset: getting to know Sara, learn about her interests, and hear what skills she wanted to use and develop over the summer. As Pennie Taylor, one of the staff said:

“Urbano is a small team, collaborative in nature, everyone works together and wears multiple hats. This was how we approached the internship, identifying a number of projects that we wanted Sara to be a part of, conferring with her as to what aligned best with her interests, but also making clear there were some things we needed her to do that might not be at the top of her list.”

This youth-centered approach was central to every element of the internship at Urbano. A goal they had for Sara was to have her provide them with an on-the-ground youth perspective that they found enormously valuable. The staff benefited from her insights as she provided an important feedback loop and saw the summer project from a different angle than the staff. Pennie said, “It was like having a youth on our board, to offer an essential perspective to the decision-making and direction of the organization.”

At the intersection of cultivating good workplace habits and CYD orientation, Sara was treated like the other youth who participated in Urbano’s summer programs. All youth at Urbano are given clear messages about accountability (such as being on time), meeting timelines and accomplishing deliverables. As a result, the supervision and expectations for Sara were natural extensions of how they work with youth more broadly and cultivate skills that are needed in any work environment.

Sara herself offered insight into why the internship was successful. She liked having multiple roles, working on communications projects such as updating the organization’s website using Instagram posts. She also helped to organize the photos in their google drive so they could publicize and post about their programs more easily. In addition to doing this work, she participated in their summer arts program, which gave her insight into how that program operated and helped her provide feedback to her supervisors. 

(See link for more information on the project Urbano youth worked on this summer)

Coming up in the next blog, Connecting Artistry to the Workplace.

Learn more about the Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston program on our youth-created website.

Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector: Worksite Experiences: Community Music Center of Boston

This blog is part of a series on Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector drawing from experiences managing the Bloomberg Arts Internship program in Boston through sharing the learnings and key takeaways for effective creative youth development and employment models.

 

 

 

 

A central factor in the success of the 2020 Boston BAI program was the strong worksites and work-based projects for the interns. The staff and supervisors at the 11 arts and culture institutions that hosted the interns provided thoughtfully planned work experiences that engaged the interns with interesting projects and responsibilities. The following is an example of a meaningful worksite experience. 

Community Music Center of Boston
Community Music Center of Boston (CMCB) is an arts education nonprofit with a mission to transform lives by providing equitable access to excellent music education and arts experiences. Serving over 4,000 students in their programs weekly, CMCB has programs in most neighborhoods in Boston, in-school, after-school, and in the summer.

From their experience in the 2019 pilot year, CMCB planned their 2020 internships with added intentionality and thoughtfulness to complement other BAI components. For example, key staff leadership began discussing how students could best fit into CMCB’s workflow 2-3 months prior to the program starting. They wanted their internships to be more student-centered and the structure for the intern positions were conceptualized with this in mind. They carefully planned what the interns would be working on but they also wanted to remain flexible so the work was built around each individual intern’s skills, interests and desired areas of growth.

During this time, CMCB was completing a strategic planning process, which included reflection on the topic of youth voice which was timely for the BAI design, according to Morgan Beckford, COO:

“Going through the strategic planning process had us turn up the dial on the need for more youth voice in our programming. It gave us the opportunity to discuss with the young people what worked and didn’t work for them in their schools and this factored into the experience we planned for the summer.”

Building off the organization’s CYD approach to working with young people, CMCB built in a regular weekly time for their 4 interns to meet and work with one another on a specific project. This time seemed to increase their engagement at work, giving more opportunity for their voices to be heard and for them to work as a team. At the conclusion of each 1.5 hour meeting they completed a project or task and saw a piece of work through to its completion.

Another key success factor for the summer was having 4 staff supervisors involved in the program. This model allowed each to take 1 week and meet with the 4 interns to share how they approach their work and what they like best about their work. This structure enabled the interns to access more adult mentors and observe that, as Morgan said, “while the 4 supervisors differed in their perspectives, they all have careers in art administration because they love their art.” CMCB staff reported that this model of shared responsibility worked well for the team and allowed for more efficient division of staff time.

CMCB staff also spent time thinking about the types of work they wanted the interns to carry out and thought about the projects that young people might be particularly well-positioned to complete. All 4 interns had tasks that incorporated technology, including building websites and creating videos describing CMCB’s registration process. BAI Intern Zorely built an online website with the goal of offering a place for students to connect more to their teachers and classes. She built the site using a google web platform with which she had prior experience.

From Zorely’s perspective, this was one of her best work experiences. She felt that the staff treated her with respect and listened to what she had to say. She reported that their goal was to have good communications with everyone, giving her the space to be herself and be comfortable asking questions. One of her favorite aspects of the internship was being part of the staff discussions at staff meetings. She felt the staff listened to the interns and were given the space to talk, and feel included. 

“They did a really good job of making us feel like we were part of the team and not just somebody on the screen.” 

Coming up in the next blog, Worksite Experiences: Urbano Project

Learn more about the Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston program on our youth-created website.

Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector: Developing Wrap-around Supports and Authentic Relationships

This blog is part of a series on Designing Virtual Internships in the Creative Sector drawing from experiences managing the Bloomberg Arts Internship program in Boston through sharing the learnings and key takeaways for effective creative youth development and employment models.

Created by a BAI Boston Intern

Designing virtual internships with adequate wrap-around supports and structures is critical for interns to be supported personally and professionally. A coordination between EdVestors staff, families, program partners, and worksites ensures interns are in an environment where they can thrive.

Virtual youth internships are effective with the right worksite staff and wrap-around supports.

The necessity of operating an entirely remote summer employment program in 2020 presented a range of challenges that the BAI team had to address. In addition to ensuring each intern was equipped with the technology necessary to participate remotely, the program model also required additional staff attention to the quality of the remote internship placements and ongoing communication with the worksites to ensure the updated job responsibilities reflected the new reality of remote work placements. EdVestors staff developed clear criteria for selecting worksites that led to the identification and selection of arts and cultural institutions which were well suited to supervise and support high school-age interns. The worksite criteria included:

  • Being able to provide meaningful and fully developed work opportunities;
  • Having a clearly defined job description with an arts administration or production focus; 
  • Familiarity with and commitment to employing a Creative Youth Development approach in program design and implementation, and
  • Having experience working with and/or mentoring teens.

EdVestors staff recognized the potential challenges of working and supervising high school interns remotely and they worked closely with their worksite partners to acknowledge these challenges and provide support. Establishing a strong mentor-like connection with a new intern remotely was challenging and these relationships benefitted from the arts and culture worksite supervisors being warm, engaging and proactive in their efforts to make connections with their interns. 

When worksites encountered challenges, they did not hesitate to inform EdVestors staff so they could intervene and provide support as needed. This is reflective of EdVestors role as an arts education intermediary with more than a decade long tenure of partnership with the Arts and Culture community. In a year where everyone needed support, organizations and individuals alike, EdVestors with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies leveraged its vantage point as an intermediary to provide increased financial resources to worksites, both acknowledging the increased workload to redesign and providing critical resources to an industry sector deeply affected by the economic fall out of the pandemic.

EdVestors staff also held small group listening sessions, surveyed, and provided one-on-one assistance to worksites so that the resulting internship fit well within the organization’s capacity in a pandemic context and was still mutually beneficial to students and organizations. EdVestors modeled a similar relationship-building approach with worksites as they did with students, including supervisor check-ins and follow-up throughout the summer. EdVestors provided timely day-to-day technical assistance when worksites needed additional support connecting with students, resolving technology issues, and continued to adapt as the summer moved forward. Several of the supervisors mentioned how valuable they found the support from EdVestors in addressing any obstacles they encountered.

Furthermore, the central elements of the program beyond the worksite placements also had to pivot to utilizing a remote platform, while still ensuring that these essential elements added to the quality of the interns’ experience. Critical changes included restructuring the weekly schedule to provide more community building touchpoints facilitated by EdVestors staff and breaking the intern cohort into smaller groups in order to facilitate remote learning for both writing and coaching. The EdVestors staff also worked to incorporate independent time for the interns (referred to as asynchronous time) into the weekly schedule as a way of combating “Zoom fatigue.”

Structuring the program to have a wide array of adults involved in the program implementation enabled the interns to develop meaningful adult relationships and mentor-like support systems. 

By the spring of 2020, it became clear to the EdVestors staff that the BAI program would be entirely remote. With this in mind, the staff made a deliberate decision to develop additional mentor-like support from caring adults for the participating interns, given the inherent challenges associated with the interns having to work remotely. This goal was critical in the success of the summer, as the interns had an array of adults with whom they could connect and learn together. In addition to the consistent adults in the program, interns had access to one-time adult guests who added to their networks and offered resources such as career planning, mental health and financial literacy. With three active EdVestors staff, the addition of Muadi Dibinga as the personal and professional coach, and a new Alumni Advisory Council, along with their 826 tutors and CAC advisors, there were optimal opportunities for connections to be made. 

As an example, Julivic Marquez, Education Manager at Urbanity Dance, continues to focus on how the organization can support Ziane after the internship. They are supporting Ziane in the work she is doing at her high school on Diversifying Our Narrative, which includes diversifying the curriculum at her school. Urbanity remains committed to supporting her in an ongoing way, and she is having conversations with the organization’s management about accessing the Urbanity space for meetings (when they can be in-person) and also helping to promote her school project. 

Coming up in the next blog, Example of Worksite Experiences: Community Music Center of Boston

Learn more about the Bloomberg Arts Internship Boston program on our youth-created website.

Building Racial Equity into Grantmaking

By Derek Lin

Equity is at the core of our work at EdVestors and essential to our mission to: Advance equitable, meaningful education that prepares every Boston student to activate their power and shape their future. 

Over the last year, EdVestors’ staff and board engaged in a remote Strategic Planning process to build a path for the future of our work. 

Through our many conversations around our core values, strategic goals and strategies, equity rose to the top. Our first strategic goal in our new five year plan is Explicit about Equity: Equity is explicitly at the core of our decision-making and actions in pursuit of every young person in Boston having access to meaningful education. 

Key strategies toward this goal include:

  • Commit explicit resources toward our internal and external commitments to equity
  • Articulate and share our equity commitments in our partnerships and to our broader audiences
  • Make decisions with the voices, interests, and needs of those most impacted by our work at the center
  • Continuously refine and evolve our goals, approach, and commitments related to equity

With our renewed and sharper focus on equity, we began pushing forward on actionable steps, particularly around racial equity. Adapting resources from Center for Assessment and Policy Development, Race Forward/Center for Social Inclusion, and Equity in the Center, we define racial equity as a combination of:

  1. Equitable opportunities and outcomes for everyone regardless of race or ethnicity; 
  2. Meaningful involvement of those most impacted by racial inequity and racism in decision making and implementation; 
  3. Addressing root causes of inequities and systemic oppression, where we perpetuate them, and how we can work to eliminate them, leading to racial justice.

A first step for the organization was reimagining our strategic philanthropy by incorporating a more explicit racial equity lens into our grantmaking processes and goals related to several of our focus areas: BPS Arts Expansion, the School Solutions Seed Fund, and Zeroing in on Math.

With BPS Arts Expansion, we streamlined the application and modified criteria to explicitly state Culturally Responsive Instruction and Racial Equity as grantmaking criteria. Culturally Responsive Instruction aligns the proposed arts instruction with BPS’ Culturally and Linguistically Sustaining Practices (CLSP), reflecting multiple backgrounds and traditions that affirm students’ cultures and respond to their interests. The instruction can center on curriculum specifically curated for students with disabilities, English Learners, or students who have been otherwise marginalized educationally. Grants focused on Racial Equity will support projects that amplify Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) voices and narratives or entail student-driven projects that utilize the arts to advance anti-racism and racial justice.

The newly renamed Racial Equity Seed Fund is the reimagined School Solutions Seed Fund, focusing on tackling racial injustices within education structures. In Boston’s current education system, students of color, particularly Black and Latinx students, are disproportionately impacted by gaps in opportunity and outcomes. Through stakeholder conversations, partnership development, and desire to enact change, the Racial Equity Seed Fund is building an action-based learning community to implement, test, and scale solutions developed by those most impacted in schools to advance racial equity. The pillars of the learning community are to illuminate and be responsive to students’ individual backgrounds, communities, and strengths, while addressing the root causes of systemic oppression in our schools.

For Zeroing in on Math (ZioM), the newly released Request For Proposals seeks to create a cohort of schools that focus on increasing equitable enrollment and student success in math so that all students, especially Black and Latinx students, receive a meaningful math education that is affirming, relevant, and prepares them for postsecondary opportunities. Selected schools can focus on equitable math pathways, culturally responsive instruction and pedagogy, or math cultures as one of their goals.

Through our grantmaking, we hope to learn alongside our partners and communities who inspire us to drive toward racial equity and justice. There is much to do in the work ahead but we look forward to the learning we can do with peers and partners.

 

Derek Lin is the Manager of Communications and Programs at EdVestors.

Learn more about each application through the following links: BPS ArtsRacial Equity Seed FundZeroing in on Math