By investing in local youth-serving organizations in some of our most impacted neighborhoods, we aim to address the significant obstacles these programs have encountered during the pandemic.

Leslie Aldrich
Executive Director, Center for Community Health Improvement
Massachusetts General Hospital

BOSTON—Fourteen Boston-based youth-serving organizations have been awarded $350,000 in grant funding by the Massachusetts General Hospital’s(MGH) Center for Community Health Improvement.  Each organization will receive a one-time grant of up to $25,000 to support technology and other innovative methods to engage Boston middle- and high-school aged youth negatively impacted by COVID-19.

In 2018, MGH pledged $1.3M to support the Mayor’s Boston Youth Substance Prevention Strategic Plan. In developing the plan, the City, MGH and other partners placed an emphasis on ensuring that the strategic plan promote racial, ethnic, and economic equity. This $350,000 is a part of that total investment.

“It is important now more than ever that our young people are connected to networks of trusted adults and peers that counter social isolation, build sense of purpose and foster investment in community. The City of Boston launched The Youth Substance Use Prevention Strategic Plan in July 2018 in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital and we are grateful to continue our partnership with a focus on organizations that have been hard at work during the pandemic to meet the needs of Boston’s youth,” said Jen Tracey, director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services.

“The pandemic has created even greater challenges for young people living in the city, particularly in neighborhoods hard hit by COVID-19. School and program closures have resulted in increased social isolation, stress, and anxiety—all underlying risk factors for substance use,” said Leslie Aldrich, executive director of the Center for Community Health Improvement.  “By investing in local youth-serving organizations in some of our most impacted neighborhoods, we aim to address the significant obstacles these programs have encountered during the pandemic, including modifying programs to be delivered virtually, purchasing technology for staff and youth, and developing new initiatives to support young people and prevent substance use.” 

The fourteen organizations selected represent a wide range of innovative approaches designed to engage, empower, connect and build resiliency among young people from around the city, primarily in COVID hotspot neighborhoods. 

  1. Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) – William J. Ostiguy High School – Providing laptops/tablets and Wi-Fi hotspots for 20 students, online school needs assessment groups for 100 students, and virtual substance support groups for 100 students.
  1. Allston Brighton Substance Abuse Task Force – Providing stipends and engagement activities for neighborhood youth, including expansion of virtual peer education program to address youth behavioral/mental health and substance use needs, young adult speaker programs, and a social media campaign on positive coping skills intended to reach 2,000 youth.
  1. Charlestown Adult Education Center – Creating a coordinator position to connect youngest at-risk students with partnering agencies, based on identified stressors, barriers and needed resources, and developing individualized educational plans. Creating paid internships for five youth to assist with management of virtual programming.
  1. Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County – Developing a stipended youth leadership board of 15 middle- and high-school aged youth to discuss risks/rewards of online usage and providing consultation, expertise, and content to be shared in trainings on online exploitation. Anticipated reach – 1,000 youth and 2,000 caregivers and youth-serving professionals.
  1. DotHouse Health – Developing a Youth Advisory Council comprised of four stipended Teen Center members who advise on how best to serve their peers during a pandemic, stipended peer leaders engaged in outreach, virtual programming in creative arts, prevention workshops, and therapeutic small group discussions.
  1. Elevate Boston Foundation – Expanding the Peace Keepers Initiative, serving 80 to 100 predominantly Black and Latinx teenage males from the Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan sections of Boston through dialogue, mentoring relationships, reducing trauma and promoting peace. Assisting transition to virtual programming, providing laptops/tablets, stipends for youth, and extending programming from three months to four-to-six months.
  1. Friends of the Children-Boston -- Supporting enhanced virtual programming needs for 77 middle- and high-school aged youth, including offering additional social-emotional learning and group activities to help youth build emotional vocabulary to express feelings, identify strategies to cope with stress during pandemic, address interpersonal dynamics, and use expressive art.
  1. Maverick Landing Community Services – Funding to provide economic support to youth ages 14 to 19 from Maverick Landing and East Boston in the form of a meaningful job, supportive services for their families, emotional support through participation in youth-only and community-wide peace circles.
  1. METCO, Inc. – Funding a youth coordinator position that will recruit 10 stipended METCO students who will participate in the B.E.A.T (Boston Educational Activism Tour) and serve as activism ambassadors for educational equity in their suburban schools. These high school students will research civil rights and educational activist history in their own Boston neighborhoods, provide a walking tour for their peers, and become change-makers in their own academic communities.
  1. Shooting Touch, Inc. -- Supporting transition to virtual programming focused on reducing stress and isolation, and improving coping skills through a mental health/healthy relationships curriculum for middle and high school girls. Will establish a pilot photography expressive arts program and stipend five youth to be project leads, a peer mentoring program, and two paid high school internships in social media and marketing.
  1. Sociedad Latina, Inc. – Increasing capacity to provide a Youth Leader Program with greater virtual emotional and wellness support during programming that promotes healthy healing and reduces symptoms of stress, anxiety, fear and depression. Will also provide stipends to 35 Youth Leaders as they engage in workforce development workshops, career exploration activities, academic and post-secondary success workshops, cultural exploration activities, and tutoring/mentoring.
  1. Center for Teen Empowerment, Inc. – Funding the Boston Youth Organizing Initiative for the 2020-21 year, employing 50 youth ages 14-21 as youth organizers who will meet every afternoon online to plan events/initiatives for their peers and create original art and media to address racial equity, educational equity, community violence, and mental wellness.
  1. Young Merchants Club – Employing 10 to 20 youth in grades 8-9, and up to age 15, from Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and Roslindale in a youth therapy model of designing and selling high-quality t-shirts online and through a mobile app. Project will combine social/emotional education, art, technology and social entrepreneurship.
  1. ZUMIX – Supporting virtual creative youth development programming, employing three students as stipended course co-facilitators, 26 group programs will be offered over two semesters, including private lessons on seven different instruments, wrap-around services through the Pathways Program, and employment opportunities through ZUMIX.

About Mass General Center for Community Health Improvement: The Massachusetts General Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) brings together people and resources to address challenging health problems and foster sustainable improvement. Focusing on the social determinants of health, CCHI seeks to eliminate health inequities based on socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, leveraging prevention, early intervention and treatment approaches that are measurable and have proven impact.  MGH CCHI Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube