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City, UMass Boston hope new billboards encourage youth mentoring

Posted by Patrick Rosso  March 7, 2012 02:43 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)

In Video: The new billboard at the corner of Bowdoin Street and Geneva Avenue is official unveiled to the community.

For the second year in a row, residents and students in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan will have eight new billboards in the neighborhood promoting a positive message.

The Community Billboard project, made possible through a partnership between the University of Massachusetts Boston, the city of Boston, the Cleveland Community Center, Bride to Excellence Mentoring Program and Clear Channel Outdoor, works to encourage residents, local business and organizations to take a second look at mentoring local youth.

Last year eight billboards were unveiled in the communities with the message, “Peace. What’s it to you? Your Message - Your Neighborhood.” This year the billboards, designed by youth from the Cleveland Community Center, read “Mentoring = Student Success”, and organizations hope the message will be equally as powerful.

“Every time I see young people doing positive things it blows me away,” said J. Keith Motley, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Boston. “You are the difference. Make sure to continue to do that and don’t let anyone pull you away from that.”

Clear Channel Outdoor donated the space, the billboard’s message of mentoring, its importance in the lives of young students and the need for mentors, is what organizers hope to generate a buzz around.

“If this message can inspire one adult to step forward and help mentor a student then all of the work and effort for the project will have made an impact,” said Daphne Griffin, chief of Human Services for the city of Boston.

The message of mentoring and its importance was not lost on the students of the Cleveland Community Center, who said mentoring is an important part in their development.

“It gives kids the extra push to help them be what they want to be,” said Tyree Facey, 14, a Dorchester student who helped design the billboards and said one day he hopes to become a neurosurgeon.

Dejon Rice, 22, the founder and president of Boston Bridge to Excellence, one of the groups that works to connect local youth with companies, said mentoring is extremely important to local at-risk youth and something his group thinks can make a major difference.

“We are working to broaden their [the student] scope of possible careers out there,” said the current Bunker Hill Community College student. “Most of these kids don’t know about the types of companies out there and we want to educate them about the opportunities open to them and how they can go about pursuing those careers.”

While the billboards will work to highlight the importance of mentoring, those in attendance said the real difference will be made by the businesses and individuals who step forward and help.

“The problem is that the youth often learn the violence aspect of things before they learn about the positives,” said Sandra Kennedy, executive director of Bowdoin Geneva Main Streets. “The community needs to get together as one and assist our youth.”

With new billboards in place, the organizations hope that not only do they find more mentors but that students in the neighborhoods know there are groups out there working for them.

"We want to get the message out that if you want to be a mentor, if you are looking for an opportunity, those resources are out there," said Rice.

Billboards will be at the following locations:

- Washington Street/Bowdoin Street, Dorchester
- Tremont Street, Roxbury
- Columbia Road/Stoughton Street, Dorchester
- Blue Hill Avenue/Harvard Street, Dorchester
- Dorchester Avenue, Dorchester
- Washington Street/Bragdon Street, Roxbury
- Blue Hill Avenue, Mattapan
- River Street, Mattapan

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)

Students, residents and onlookers checking out the new billboard on the corner of Geneva Avenue and Bowdoin Street.

Billunv123.JPG

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