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Jóvenes en Acción: Jóvenes en Acción (Youth in Action) is our intensive, integrated year-round program that combines three things: Afro-Latin arts, education supports and mentoring, and civic engagement and youth organizing. Through Jóvenes, youth in grades 8-12 join one of our Afro-Latin arts teams: Ritmo en Accion (dance), Musicians In Community, or Accion Community Theatre. They receive training in their art form and also work on creative projects such as writing and recording an album or devising a play about an issue in our community. Through these artistic experiences, youth develop all kinds of important skills like communication, collaboration, and flexibility– skills that will serve them well in other contexts.
Yet Jóvenes doesn’t stop there. All Jóvenes youth also explore college and career options alongside a caring adult mentor. During their senior year, Jóvenes youth work with their mentor on all aspects of the college application process, from drafting essays to submitting college applications, and ultimately making enrollment decisions. Lastly, Jóvenes youth receive regular civic engagement trainings, with a small group of these youth also taking leadership roles in community organizing campaigns that impact our neighborhood and our city. With this special combination of education and career pathways, Afro-Latin arts, and civic engagement and youth organizing programming, youth are challenged to grow as artists, learn 21st century skills, plan for their futures, and become the changemakers that our community needs.
College Success: Our College Success Program supports students as they transition into, persist in, and ultimately finish postsecondary education through workshops and college success coaching. HSTF college coaches facilitate Spring and Summer Academy workshops for rising first-year students aimed at better preparing these primarily first generation college going students for the opportunities and challenges of starting college. During these workshops, coaches cover topics like understanding debt and credit and work-school-life balance. Throughout the year, students and coaches also meet for one-on-one coaching sessions, both during on-campus office hours at colleges where students attend and at HSTF. Students often seek support from their coach related to financial aid, choosing courses, and balancing school with work, as most of our students have to work while taking classes. The combination of relevant workshops, individualized coaching, and long-term engagement makes our College Success Program unique. Each year, approximately a third of rising college freshmen have been part of our Jóvenes program. This means that those students could receive 8 or more years of ongoing, consistent support from HSTF.
Creative Development and Community Engagement: Our Creative Development and Community Engagement programs focus on creative place-making and place-keeping, advocacy and organizing, development of Boston’s Latin Quarter as a cultural district, and community-based Afro-Latin arts enrichment. Our arts enrichment classes provide children and youth access to Afro-Latin arts instruction. HSTF’s Learn Through Dance program injects the vibrancy of Afro-Latin dance into schools during the school day, with a particular focus on schools in Boston’s Latin Quarter. Community-based events and other creative place-keeping activities in the Latin Quarter create opportunities for residents and those throughout Greater Boston to experience Afro-Latin arts and culture. HSTF youth enrich, and are enriched by, connecting and working in partnership with neighbors in the Latin Quarter through Afro-Latin arts and advocacy.
All of this work connects back to Jóvenes by providing opportunities for youth to participate in neighborhood-based art and advocacy activities. Simultaneously, Jóvenes reinforces the neighborhood work and the youth become the next generation of community leaders. Their early introduction to civic engagement and advocacy supports these efforts going forward. A common thread and what makes our Creative Development and Community Engagement efforts unique is that they are grounded in a sense of place, aiming to ensure that Boston’s Latin Quarter continues to grow as a diverse, vibrant neighborhood, a hub of Afro-Latin arts, and a home for Greater Boston’s Latinx community.