A real ripple effect: summer program transforms teens into agents of change
Brandeis and BBYO team up for ‘Impact: Boston’
As Congress considers legislation that would provide $1 billion for summer jobs to help curb teen violence,
“Impact: Boston” is taking action and encouraging teenagers to not only be responsible for themselves, but for their communities as well.
Through the program, now in its second year (formerly called “Project Impact”), teenagers from across the country will team up with Boston-area service organizations from June 23 to July 4- but the experience is about more than just volunteering. During those two weeks, teens will develop the skills they need to become activists in their own right. When they leave the program, they’ll have developed a critical, “next action” they can take at home.
“Impact: Boston pushes participants beyond the notion that ‘feeling good’ is the key barometer of successful work in the community,” says Shimshon Stu Siegel, the program’s co-director. “Teens are eager for an immediate payoff- and we give them that, in the form of great hands-on volunteer work and the chance to meet other teens who are passionate about change. But the program emphasizes that in order to be agents of change, teens can’t simply think they are going to save the world through a few hours of volunteering a week; instead, they must dedicate themselves to seeing and treating society much differently than perhaps they ever have before.”
Impact: Boston participants will work with non-profit organizations focused on community issues from affordable housing, to sustainable agriculture, to aiding the homeless. Partner sites include:
- GWArc (Greater Waltham Arc)
- WCI (Work, Community, Independence)
- Waltham Fields Community Farms
- Youth Force (a program of the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation)
- City Mission Society of Boston
- Horizons for Homeless Children
- Spare Change News
- Waltham Police Department Community Policing
Also, through a new partnership with JChoice, a website that helps facilitate teen philanthropy, participants will gain a better understanding of both ends of the giving spectrum. They’ll not only raise money for the organizations they serve, but also decide how to allocate the funds.
“We want the participants to always be thinking, rethinking, reassessing the structures of society, community, education, and their own perspectives,” says Siegel. “Not in order to disdain, but to provoke deeper consideration of the realities of society, which are more likely to lead to long-term solutions to the issues they’ll become invested in.”
Through daily text study and reflections, the teens will be encouraged to view their service through the lens of their Jewish identity. “We don’t teach them that Judaism ‘says’ this or that about society,” says Siegel. “Rather we show them how the ancient texts were so aware of the inherent structures of society, and we encourage them to do the same.”
Impact: Boston is a collaboration between Brandeis University’s recently formed Office of High School Programs and BBYO. The program will be headquartered on Brandeis’ Waltham, Mass. campus from June 23 – July 4.
BBYO is the leading pluralistic teen movement aspiring to involve more Jewish teens in more meaningful Jewish experiences. For more than 80 years, BBYO has provided exceptional identity enrichment and leadership development experiences for hundreds of thousands of Jewish teens. Many of BBYO’s 250,000 alumni, who are among the most prominent figures in business, politics, academia, the arts, and Jewish communal life, claim it is BBYO to which they "owe it all."
About Brandeis University
Founded in 1948, Brandeis University is named for the late Louis Dembitz Brandeis, the distinguished associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, and reflects the ideals of academic excellence and social justice he personified. Brandeis is the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored college or university in the U.S. Located in Waltham, Mass., just west of Boston, Brandeis is a member of the elite Association of American Universities, and is consistently ranked among the world’s top liberal arts, research institutions. For more information, visit the Brandeis website.