Hyde Square Task Force responds to the requests of community members and local organizations through arts, cultural, and civic engagement programming in the neighborhood. Our YCD youth and alumni design, lead, and advocate for these programs: a long-running Kennedy After-School Program, Learn Thru Dance in the Boston Public Schools, and the Music Clubhouse, which partners with Berklee College of Music and the Music and Youth Initiative to offer free vocal and instrumental music lessons to local children and teens. More than 20 active partnerships allow Hyde Square Task Force to provide resources that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible and/or available.
Youth Community Development Teams
Ritmo en Accion (REA) was started by a Hyde Square Task Force youth leader after she saw a lack of culturally-relevant dance programming in the community. REA engages 20 teens in Afro-Latin dance. Low-income, disengaged Boston teens who struggle in school, nearly all of whom are Latino/a or Black, learn contemporary and classic Latin dance, teach dance to hundreds of youth and adults in the community, and advocate for dance classes in public schools. Teens become more physically active and more artistically expressive. At the same time, they build self-confidence and perseverance, connect with their cultures, and develop leadership skills. Each year, more than 250 local children and teens get more than 84 hours of dance instruction. REA teens perform in front of thousands of people from all over the world and promote rich Latino culture. REA is a model for engaging urban teens through culturally-relevant art forms. In addition, many REA alumni start Latin dance groups on their college campus and in their community.
Youth Literacy Theater (YLT) troupe teaches collaboration, time management, communication, and encourages creativity and problem solving—skills essential to life beyond the stage. YLT youth train with theater specialists to cultivate skills as artists and art teachers. Youth Literacy Theater troupe members work with local children and build leadership skills and confidence while making an impact in the community. Each week, youth bring books alive for almost 100 local children aged 6 to 12. Teens adapt educator-recommended books into plays, many rooted in Afro-Latin heritage, and create literacy-extension activities. The YLT troupe also performs and distributes books to an additional 200 students through the Boston Book Festival and HSTF’s Three Kings’ Day Celebration.
Health Career Ambassadors Program (HCAP) youth work to create a healthier community through advocacy and education. Every year, HCAP trains 16 teens to lead peer workshops about sexual health and STI prevention. Each HCAP participant completes 60 hours of training, and then works eight hours per week as interns at Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center (an affiliate of Brigham & Women’s Hospital), during which they interact with community members become experts about the health and wellness issues affecting our community. HCAP teens design and lead 12 sexual health workshops each year to 250 local teens. They research and implement campaigns that address health-related policy in Boston, including comprehensive sexual-health education in public schools. Since 2011, HCAP has worked in conjunction with The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute United Way/Jimmy Fund Collaborative to protest big tobacco’s targeting of low-income communities of color. In 2013 youth petitioned local stores to keep tobacco products out of sight of minors—eight stores in Jamaica Plain have signed the pledge.
Musicians in Community (MIC) grew out of our community’s rich musical traditions and need for increased music education. MIC youth build confidence and personal management skills as they learn to play, perform, and teach all forms of music—with a special focus on Afro-Latin percussion. After intensive training in music principles they bring music into local preschools that lack arts education, leading 80 young children each week in music-based games and activities. We believe that music education is essential to a vibrant community, and MIC focuses on music that reflects the community’s Afro-Latin heritage. MIC has also performed their original Afro-Latin percussion pieces in front of hundreds of people to introduce them to this unique and vibrant art form.
The Rookie Runners Program engages 40 ninth-graders in physical activity using running as a catalyst for building personal management and leadership skills. To build healthier, stronger communities through exercise, Rookie Runner youth train to run long distances—each year, Rookie Runners collectively run more than 3,400 miles. They also engage close to 100 community members in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury by leading weekly physical activities. They work with local health centers and organize a community-wide 5K Run/Walk each spring that draws more than 300 participants. Running for exercise or competition is dominated by affluent, educated Americans—at Hyde Square Task Force, we strive to change the face of running in Boston by inviting those who normally may not choose it as a form of exercise to join us in becoming healthier.
Youth Community Organizers
HSTF community organizing program invites Boston youth to advocate for themselves, their schools, and their communities. Youth develop leadership and organizing skills, engage in social justice through organizing campaigns that achieve concrete victories, and improve conditions or make change. They participate in several months of intensive training and investigate critical social/political issues while developing critical thinking, communication, and organizing skills.
Youth and adults work in tandem to identify a problem that affects youths’ lives. They research the issue locally and nationally, develop a non-biased survey with professionals, and administer the survey to teens to gauge the severity of the problem and interest in the issue.
Youth develop crisp, clear, understandable, and attainable campaign goals and a strategy map with campaign tactics, actions, and timetable. They learn how to create power analyses and work on high quality, multimedia presentation materials. They present the plan to potential allies and seek written support and get the message out so there is certainty of a large turn-out for actions.
Youth participate in press conferences and legislative hearings and mobilize as many supporters as possible (usually between 100 and 500). They learn to utilize media including radio, TV, newspaper, magazines, blogs, and more. Further, they engage in quiet lobbying with powerbrokers. When appropriate, they negotiate or make changes to the campaign. Youth make sure that laws and policies are changed and guide the implementation process of promised changes. After the campaign, they monitor the changes to ensure that individuals and bureaucracies are held accountable. Click here to learn more about our advocacy and action campaigns.