Richard Wilson was removed from his home at 16 and put in a state home for boys. For two years he couldn’t see his family regularly. A local non-profit helped him find a way back home.
“I grew up a lot with the support of Tenacity. Ned, in particular, gave me a space to go to for his support, a place to hang-out at Thanksgiving and Christmas, a place to get away . . . to step back from the situation,” said Wilson.
“Ned” is Ned Eames, founder and president of Tenacity, a charity that he started in 1999. Eames was a management consultant with a special interest in organizational development, and, briefly, a tennis pro.
The non-profit serves the Boston public school system. With a combination of academics, life coaching, world experiences, and tennis, it gives at-risk inner-city students supplementary learning, life skill development, educational field trips, and athletics to help them make it through high school and college. It partners with five schools to provide in-school and after-school programs to about 1,000 students from elementary through high school and post-graduate degrees. In the summer it also provides reading and tennis instruction to thousands of children.
The purpose of the charity is to “give kids the loving support and structure that they deserve,” said Eames.
Tenacity “was a support system for every part of my life whether it be academically, financially, or emotionally… It’s made me a more independent person who can do things on his own. I really get that confidence from the support I’ve gotten through Tenacity,” said Wilson.
At 18 Wilson moved back home with his mom where he still lives today. He went on to finish high school. After trying several colleges, he will graduate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the spring of 2014 with a degree in communications. He has paid for his post-secondary degree partially through a scholarship from the charity.
Eames points to Wilson as exemplary of his hopes for the organization’s kids. Wilson was a student in the program since its beginning, and he participated throughout his youth. Today “he’s finding his way to digest and make sense of his world,” said Eames.
Wilson is one of many success stories. Over 95% of Tenacity students graduate from high school while 70% is the average Boston high school graduation rate. Also, 80% of their participants enter college.
Over his 14 years leading the non-profit it “has always been about two things,” said Eames. “First, it has always had a strong focus on the academic school year, life skills, and some tennis…And then we always had a big summer program.”
Tenacity focuses its educational programming on the middle school years because children are old enough to participate seriously in its intensive Middle School Academy and young enough to try a new sport, according to Eames. His staff works hand-in-hand with teachers and administrators in middle schools to create individual student study plans for reading comprehension, vocabulary, and journaling.
The help is appreciated by Michael Johnson, assistant principal of Mario Umana Middle School Academy, which partners with the non-profit.
“We certainly can only do so much in the course of a normal school day,” said Johnson. “Tenacity supplements and complements us…They attend regular meetings with teachers to develop individual study plans… And they link what is going on here to the home. They do direct work with the families.”
The organization’s family engagement program consists of two family visits a year, four family workshops, and regular calls home.
“The only way to do this is to build relationships with families,” said Eames.
Wilson found the family support important: “My mom has always been a definite advocate of education. But she also didn’t have all the resources and didn’t know many ways to find those resources. Without Tenacity I may not have been as successful as I am now.”
The non-profit fills in where parents need help. “Parents have a lot going on…We have a supportive role,” said Brian Tuttle, director of programming.
The overarching goal of the organization’s programming, according to Tuttle, is to provide kids with a caring adult in addition to their parents. Research shows that kids are looking for and will respond to positive reinforcement from a role model. With a ratio of one adult staff member to four students, Tenacity is in a position to help when parents don’t have the time.
In addition to its academic and family support roles, the charity gives students exposure to athletics, which they may never have had, through its tennis program. Tuttle noted that the tennis gives students much more opportunity to exercise than they get in most schools. Some schools provide only 40 minutes every two weeks.
Tennis is also a mechanism for how to be successful in school.
“It’s a big confidence builder,” said Johnson. “Even if you don’t have success in the classroom you can still have success in athletics. And if over time you keep working at it and improving the tide will turn. If you practice well in the athletic arena then you can take something from that and use it in the class room and vice versa.”
The tennis activities are enabling students to meet other kids. “It’s a great sport for networking and meeting people – the perfect game for both athletics and social,” said Wilson.
In the summer Tenacity expands the tennis program to 26 tennis court sites in Boston with 5,000 children participating. It’s combined with a reading program. The aim is to keep kids off the streets and to maintain their reading level between school years during the summer.
What’s next for Tenacity? Within five years it would like to be serving 2,000 students and get more than 75% of its high school graduates to finish college. It would like to partner with more Boston schools, expand its academic programming to include subjects beyond literacy – such as math – and jointly develop with schools indoor multi-purpose structures to increase the space capacity for programs.
“We are growing the organization to the point where we used to be the ‘little program that could’ and now we are a little bigger in the city and we want to have a pretty big footprint,” said Tuttle.
Norm Williams is a graduate journalism student at Harvard.
Marie St. Fleur, an attorney, former state representative and Mayor Menino’s chief of advocacy and strategic investment, is joining the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children as president and CEO, according to the organization’s founder and outgoing president Mary Reed.
The initiative was founded in 2002 and conducts research, advocates for new policies and works with early ed providers and families to improve early education, especially in low-income communities.
"Marie is uniquely qualified to advance the agenda of the initiative in an era of increasingly complex local, state and federal mandates," Reed said in a statement.
Said St. Fleur: "We will be working not only with children, families and care providers, but with the next mayor, legislators, the governor and our Washington delegation to create an early education system in Massachusetts that prepares all children and families for the future.”
The state transportation board on Wednesday voted unanimously to reduce fares for The Ride from $4 to $3. The reduced fares will go into effect Jan. 6, 2014 and will collectively save riders $6 million a year.
“For two years now we have come before you. First we came to warn you of the consequences we would suffer if you approved such an extreme fare hike,” said Ann Stewart, the former president of Massachusetts Senior Action Council.
She said, “Let’s not stop here.” In 2012, when the MBTA raised fares an average of 23 percent to help close a budget deficit, fares for seniors went up disproportionately higher, and fares for the Ride were doubled to $4 with a new $5 charge for late-scheduled trips or visits to a "premium service area."
MBTA and state transportation officials are mulling fare increases that would go into effect next summer, as well.
- A. Metzger/SHNS
With his remaining time at city hall now numbered in days not months, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino on Tuesday morning reflected on his time in office, while outlining challenges ahead for the city he has led for two decades.
Menino said the “dramatic decline” in federal support for Boston will test not just city, but its non-profit and research industries. Menino also said he worried about the increase in income inequality and the rising cost of higher education, which has put a college education further out of reach for many students.
“The climate in Washington is poison and the problem-solving is rare,” Menino said.
Menino, who in January will give up the office he has held for the past 20 years, spoke to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce for the last time as mayor before a packed, reverential audience at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in the Seaport District that Menino has prided himself of reinventing.
In the shadow of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the ever-feisty mayor chided critics who once told him the facility would be a “white elephant” for the city, the same warning issued when he brought the Democratic National Convention to Boston. “They were wrong,” he said.
Challenging the business community to think about how it can combat income inequality in the city, Menino said, “If you aren’t talking about this in your boardrooms, you should be. If you aren’t worrying about what it means for your workforce and your customers, you are missing the boat.”
The mayor also made a final pitch, which had been anticipated by Boston Chamber of Commerce President Paul Guzzi. After Menino concluded his remarks by urging, “Please hire a summer jobs kid,” Guzzi presented Menino with a “significant check” worth $10,000 for the program next summer.
Menino used the speech to look back at accomplishments in the city, and look forward to Boston’s future with Mayor-elect Marty Walsh at the helm. Walsh did not attend the breakfast.
“Lots of things make a place a city - crowds, commerce, heights. But the thing that makes a city most is change, the fact that something new is always just around the corner,” Menino said, ticking through achievements such as guaranteed full-day kindergarten for all 5-year-olds, the construction of the Boston Convention Center, and the addition of office space and housing.
Since he won the city’s first open mayoral race in 20 years ago this November, Menino said his team has been working hand-in-hand with Walsh’s to ensure a smooth transition of leadership.
“I’ve told the mayor-elect that I’m here to help. But I won’t be hanging around to critique his work,” said Menino, who won’t fade into background after he leaves. The mayor is taking a job at Boston University leading a new institute on cities, insisting he has ideas on how to improve the city’s schools that haven’t been tried in the past.
“I’m not going to leave those kids,” he said.
From investing in green space to making Boston a welcoming city for gay couples who want to marry and immigrants looking to build a life, Menino ticked through his proudest accomplishments as mayor.
“We built as much new housing as Somerville has altogether, and added more affordable housing than Wellesley has of any type,” he said.
He also thanked the business community for their partnership over the past two decades.
“The business community is the strength of our city,” Menino said, crediting the chamber specifically for working with his administration to create youth summer jobs
Angela Menino, who attended the breakfast with her husband, received a standing ovation.
The breakfast also drew a number of politicians, including City Councilors Bill Linehan and Ayanna Pressley, City Councilors-elect Josh Zakim and Michelle Wu, state Sen. Anthony Petruccelli and Reps. Aaron Michlewitz and Nick Collins, Massport CEO Tom Glynn, Treasurer Steve Grossman, and Democratic attorney general candidates Warren Tolman and Maura Healey.
“Thank you for 20 years. What a terrific run,” Guzzi said.
Robert Gallery, Massachusetts president of Bank of America, honored Menino in opening remarks for invigorating public education, renewing Boston’s neighborhoods and fostering innovative business.
“He has always been and always will be a champion for this city and is someone to whom we all owe a tremendous debt of gratitide,” Gallery said.
Starting in January, the chamber will be hosting Red Sox and Boston Globe owner John Henry, Attorney General Martha Coakley and U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy for similar speeches.
Realtor and Mass Maritime Academy graduate Chris Remmes, chairman of the Democratic Ward Committee in Charlestown, is exploring a run for the House seat long held by Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty (D-Chelsea).
Remmes, 48, of Keller Williams Realty, announced Tuesday that he’s formed a committee to examine a campaign.
According to Remmes, he earned his master’s degree from Boston University after working as a deck officer in the 1990s for Exxon and Texaco.
In a statement, he said the district needs a “forward thinking, active and accessible state representative to address the challenges that we face in the near future.”
Remmes touted “progressive” ideals and mentioned women and children, senior citizens and small businesses as key constituencies. - M. Norton/SHNS
This ain't your average Frosty.
Freaky the Snowman, or a guy named Brian in a snowman costume, took to the streets of our fair metropolis to film the latest installment of "The Scary Snowman" Youtube video series and terrorize the city's pedestrians.
The clip captures a lot of flustered jumping, several gaping mouths, and a few double takes, as well as some very entertained police officers. All in a day's work.
Not surprisingly, the snowman targeted ice cream franchise JP Licks' Cambridge store as one of the locations of its chilling prank.
The concept behind the Internet sensation is simple: Freaky, né Brian, stands still next to a storefront, assuming the part of large holiday decoration. With the help of the Scary Snowman crew, he targets unsuspecting passersby and moves to startle them. They react. And repeat.
It's a formula for comedic gold but not a perfect science. Jay Lichtenberger, one of the Scary Snowman guys who's not in the suit, said in a Facebook post that oftentimes the crew misses out on a great reaction because they fail to get permission or attract too much attention.
"We average about 10 to 15 great reactions an hour with a lot of not so great reactions in between," Lichtenberger wrote.
Since it launched four days ago, the Boston-based video has received more than 1.5 million views and nods from media organizations like Yahoo! News.
Note: This video features language that may not be appropriate for all audiences.
MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott is “not opposed” to new fines for fare evasion that would double the increases enacted into law in 2012.
“I’m not opposed to it,” Scott told the News Service Tuesday morning. “I think the people need to be very clear about consequences relative to fare-evasion.”
In 2012, fines for fare evasion had been $15 for a first offense; $100 for a second offense; and $250 for a third or subsequent offense. An MBTA bailout bill bumped those fines up to $50 for a first offense; $100 for a second offense; and $300 for a third or subsequent offense.
As part of a transportation bond bill (H 3763), the Transportation Committee included language that would raise the fines still further to $100 for a first offense; $200 for a second offense; and $600 for a third or subsequent offense.
Scott said MBTA officials have also discussed undertaking a “fare evasion review.” She said, “Personally, I’m supportive of making sure that there are consequences.”
- A. Metzger/SHNS
Wellesley is the first liberal arts college to offer Spanish-language estimates of expected costs, taking into account financial aid WELLESLEY, Mass., Nov. 21, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Wellesley College has released a new, Spanish-language version…
By Taylor HartzBU News Service WASHINGTON—First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed the winners of the 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program awards to the White House Friday – with the Boston Children’s Chorus among them. The chorus was one…