In the fall of 1999, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church provided a handful of neighborhood children with
a safe place to go after school. The
church is located in the heart of the Villa Victoria, an under-resourced South End community
unequally affected by unemployment, lack of affordable childcare, gang and domestic violence, teen pregnancy, and chronic health problems. Our students attend underperforming schools and have little access to cultural enrichment or safe, organized physical exercise. Our programs have grown to provide year-round programming for students in grades K-College at two sites, and summer programming at four additional ones. We serve approximately 800 low-income young people each year.
Our organization has also grown. In 2008, we established the Friends of
St. Stephen’s Youth Programs, a 501(c)(3) to provide independent fund
management. In 2011, we formed an
Advisory Board to oversee program content, personnel, development, property
management, strategic planning, and capacity building efforts.
To help young people become successful adults, we provide out-of-school time academic support and enrichment through two core programs: our afterschool program (B-READY) and our summer program (B-SAFE). Our program model features: long-term, year-round relationships with students, from K-12; collaboration with caregivers including parents and teachers; and leveraging and coordinating community resources.
Year-round learning prevents our students from experiencing insurmountable learning gaps due to cumulative “summer slide.” Long-term relationships keep students from falling through the cracks, give them a vision for the future, and provide them with the tools and direction needed to get there. Because communities are only as healthy as their schools, we work to support the schools our students attend, like Blackstone Elementary School, a fomer "turnaround school" in our neighborhood.
Our approach to supporting, empowering and training teens to be agents of change in their communities is unique. Beginning in middle school, we provide teens with a curriculum that promotes personal responsibility, self-care, life and leadership skills, and community organizing tools. Many teens work in our programs, tutoring and mentoring younger students. Employment keeps teens engaged with us, and allows them to be positive role models.
Most students are Latino/a and African American. Many are part of new immigrant households where English is spoken as a second language. Most live in public housing, at or below the national poverty level.
Although we were founded by a church and receive ongoing support from churches, we are a youth development organization with a separate 501(c)3 non-profit entity. We accept students without regard to their religious affiliation and we do not promote any religious agenda.