Student's Fieldwork Led to Volunteer Program in Boston Public Schools

January 15, 2014

Stronger Communities Stronger Schools (SCSS) pairs Wellesley student volunteers with students in Boston Public Schools. The program, which grew from fieldwork by Amanda Wyatt ’11 for Assistant Professor of Education Soo Hong’s Urban Education Seminar, was recently featured in a video shown on several NBC newscasts across the country.

Wyatt, who was interested in developing a partnership between Wellesley students and Boston public schools and community organizations, started the program with just five volunteers. Today, Stronger Communities Stronger Schools has grown to more than 40 members.

The program began with Wellesley volunteers serving in Blackstone Elementary School classrooms as teacher aides, and supporting a project to rebuild the school library. At the end of the school day, volunteers walk across the street with students to St. Stephen's Episcopal Church to provide homework assistance, tutoring, and enrichment classes. The volunteers, according to an informational page on the St. Stephen’s website, “provide invaluable support for the Blackstone Elementary School and St. Stephen's after-school program, B-READY.” Over the years, Wellesley volunteers have developed new programs and curriculum to support girls' groups, peace education, and the visual arts.

Loren Cahill ’14, called the organization “unlike any other service organization on campus.” She continued, “We put Wellesley’s motto, Sed Ministrare, Non Ministrare, into action each day. We all view the service that we do as both an integral and important part of experience at Wellesley.”

Volunteers come from a diverse range of studies, ranging from economics to education to peace and justice studies. They join the program for myriad reasons. In the recent video, Katie McCann ’15 said, “I do this because I am really passionate about education and social justice, and working to improve the education for the students I work with.”

“My motivation stems from my being from Boston, and growing up in the community,” said Amber Dickerson ’15, who decided to participate in the program because of her personal connections. She added in an email, “I originally joined SCSS because I have always had a passion for volunteer work, particularly with youth, and I envisioned myself helping them realize their own potential in the classroom as well as slowly helping them as they worked to build self-confidence, when in fact that is what the students have done for me. They have helped me further explore my love for service and in doing so, helped me realize what role I have to play in the future of education.”

According to Hong, the organization has grown substantially and now serves communities in the South End, Chinatown, and Lower Roxbury. Her Urban Education Seminar continues to bring students into Boston schools: “Each student has a field experience in a Boston school, and I think that’s where the real learning happens,” Hong said.  

Professor Soo Hong’s research focuses on urban education, community organizing, and parent engagement. She was recently quoted in a story by the Seattle Times republished by the Chicago Tribune on the power of parents in schools.

Jerry Yu Qin, Swarthmore College, Communications and Public Affairs Extern, contributed to this report