Roxbury children have the opportunity to bond with college students, as a result of a recently formed partnership between the Yawkey Boys and Girls Club and Northeastern University.
According to Anita Yip, a coordinator of the program, a grant from the federally-funded Massachusetts Promise Fellowship has allowed the club to provide work-study jobs, service-learning opportunities and co-op positions for hundreds of Northeastern students. Since the partnership began in 2009, NU students have served more than 10,000 hours in various roles such as mentors and tutors, Yip said.
The partnership is the first that the Yawkey Club has forged formally with a university. Yip said the club had looked for ways to partner with a university in a more consistent way than it had been doing in the past.
“We want to be having kind of deeper, better and closer relationships [with universities], as opposed to 200 shallow relationships,” Yip said. “We think we can build deeper relationships when there is a commitment on both sides.”
The grant has allowed the Yawkey club to offer several programs in conjunction with Northeastern. Students work as tutors, mentors, recreation supervisors and even behind-the-scenes administrators at the club.
Some Northeastern students take part in a mentoring program that allows youths to have a one-on-one relationship with a college student. Adam Chaprnka, social worker at the club, said this program has helped youth learn about what life is like in a college setting.
“Most of the mentors in their first year live in (NU residence hall) International Village, so [youth] get to see the building, go to dinner, get the experience of what college is about,” he said.
Kristen Simonelli, associate director and service-learning coordinator at Northeastern’s Center of Community Service, said Northeastern’s involvement has helped create more positive perceptions of college students among the youth.
“Before they started working with us, they were scared of college students, and now after this partnership, they love them,” she said. “Students have really fallen in love with the organization. There’s a real commitment for everyone to making their service work.”
Nadia Alvarez, a senior at Northeastern majoring in psychology, began working with the club last spring for a service-learning requirement through one of her classes. She chose to stay with the club as a co-op from June through December, and now works at the club part-time while also serving as a teaching assistant for a service-learning class that sends students to Yawkey.
She said her work with the club has helped her to realize the possibilities that a career in social work offers and pushed her towards her decision to pursue a master’s degree in the field.
She said she never expected to stick with the club for as long as she has, but the bond she has with her students is far beyond anything she expected.
“I know the kids appreciate you being there. Some of the kids that I least expected to be upset about [my co-op ending] were actually the most upset,” she said. “It’s really amazing to see the kids grow. They really do look at you as a role model and as a friend.”
The Yawkey Club houses a teen center, fitness center, performing arts center, computer clubhouse and numerous other recreational facilities serving area children and teens.
This article was reported and written by Northeastern University journalism student Laura Finaldi, under the supervision of journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel, as part of collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.