Boys of BELL Summer Program | City of Ideas
Issue to be Addressed:
The Boys of BELL program addresses the unique academic and developmental needs of Black and Hispanic boys. BELL has a well-established track record providing academic instruction and enrichment learning to urban youth in Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury. Our first-hand experience supports the conclusions of a growing body of research, including The Urgency of Now (Schott, 2012), that Black and Hispanic males in particular face dire statistics on key indicators of academic achievement and educational attainment.
Designed to reflect best practices in single-gender programming, and rooted in current research, Boys of BELL is a high-quality summer learning program offering academic instruction, enrichments, and supportive community for Bl¬ack and Hispanic boys.
Boys of BELL seeks to combat summer learning loss, or the loss of academic skills when children are not engaged in educational activities during summer. Lacking equal access to educational opportunities, low-income and minority students are disproportionately affected by summer learning loss.
The program provides a nurturing, structured environment for young males at risk for grade retention at middle school, an early indicator of high school dropout. Instead of losing academic skills, participants make significant academic gains, build self-confidence, and engage in constructive activities to facilitate their development into successful young men.
Boys of BELL was launched years ago as a pilot for elementary school children. Last year, we launched a middle school boys program in New York City, and we plan to launch a program for middle school students in Boston this year, targeting 60 high-need male youth in grades 6-8 at the McCormack School in Dorchester.
We will provide a dynamic, enriching summer experience in a culture of high expectations to increase the academic and social skills of Black and Hispanic boys assigned to mandated summer school at risk of not being promoted to the next grade due to academic under-performance and other risk factors.
Operating for five weeks, the program will encourage long-term academic success, build social skills, and explore college and career paths. Literacy, math, and science instruction will be led by certified teachers and tutors at a 2:20 staff-to-scholar ratio. Enrichments will include martial arts, basketball, and the Dare to Be King violence prevention curriculum. An all-male staff will provide a supportive culture, a safe environment for boys to thrive, and strong role models who share their backgrounds. BELL will conduct rigorous assessment and evaluation. Participants will demonstrate improved self-confidence, attitudes toward learning, and cooperation with peers.
Role of Collaboration:
BELL recognizes the critical importance of working in close collaboration with strategic partners to better serve our students, whom we recognize as scholars, and to engage the broader community in addressing the issues facing Black and Hispanic boys. During the planning phase, BELL, Boston Public Schools (BPS) and the principal and staff of McCormack will collaboratively plan logistics, recruitment and enrollment for the Boys of BELL program. In addition BELL and BPS will engage ICE in formally planning the wrap-around involvement of speakers and leaders in the field who will join Boys of BELL throughout the five weeks. Further, the major partners plan to consult with leaders in boys programming such as Ron Walker of Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC), and Dr. Ronnie Johnson of P.S. 005 who launched B.A.D. (Believers, Achievers, Dreamers) – an after school program for Black and Hispanic boys in Brooklyn, and who helped design and oversee BELL’s own boys program in New York. These leaders will help us in planning community time, program activities, and behavior management; fostering a sense of belonging and community; and inspiring success. Lastly, BELL will engage a martial arts partner and other enrichment partners with a track record of reaching this population.
-BELL will be the lead partner, responsible for overall planning and operations, hiring staff, providing academic instruction, enrichment activities, community time, assessment and evaluation, and all elements of program delivery.
-BPS will provide space, recommend teachers, identify and help recruit students who are at risk of failure and would benefit from targeted intervention, help develop enrichment programming, and work with BELL to ensure high rates of attendance and family engagement.
-Dare to Be King will provide a proven program and curriculum for reaching Black and Hispanic boys specifically. In our partnership, Dare to Be King will help design training for BELL staff. The program engages urban, suburban, and rural youth around issues of violence and community life. Each day scholars will participate in activities framed around the Dare to Be King: What if the Prince Lives? Survival Workbook. Each class will participate in 60 minutes of instruction in youth development and interventions to facilitate the empowerment of Black and Hispanic males.
-Independent Consultants for Education, a group of experienced educators, will be responsible for workshops and guest speakers focusing on higher education and the importance of staying in school for long-term success in work and in life.
A Collaborate Boston prize would allow BELL to reach a new cohort of 60 high-need boys at risk of failure in school in a targeted intervention to build their academic skills, develop strong social skills, and establish high goals for success in school and in life through enriching experiences, support and affirmation from adult role models. BELL’s culture of both nurturing and high expectations will instill in these young men the importance of striving toward academic and career goals, and impart to them foundational skills to guide their development into strong, successful men.
Given that these boys are mandated to attend summer school, BELL is uniquely positioned to provide a transformational experience to this particular group of young men, who are otherwise difficult to reach through out-of-school time programs due to lower rates of enrollment and attendance. The program operates during summer to support male youth at a critical time when they are often unsupervised and at higher risk of engaging in risky behaviors. Funding from Collaborate Boston would allow BELL to design a program that effectively targets one of Boston’s most vulnerable youth male populations and transform what would otherwise be mandated summer school into a powerful life-changing experience.
Central to this proposal is the partners’ ability to inspire empowerment and a sense of purpose among the participating boys. BELL will work with partners to adapt elements of BELL Summer to create a climate of success and a sense of brotherhood and community throughout Boys of BELL, expose them to cultural and educational activities throughout Boston, and increase aspirations for college and career success. Boys of BELL will engage community leaders and role models in the program’s success, and foster a close-knit community of inclusion, acceptance, and empowerment.
Boys of BELL will transform summertime for these boys, who will avoid academic losses and increased risk for exposure to violence and other risky behaviors. Research has shown that single-gender programming is not only positive but actually facilitates more effective learning. Improved academic performance correlates with lower risk of juvenile incarceration, high school dropout, and increases long-term earning potential. The program will help these young men instead to develop a strong sense of self and set standards of excellence in school and in their lives. The Boys of BELL program will provide guidance and nurturing to help these young men recognize their potential to be successful leaders in the Boston community.
BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) is a leading non-profit in the field of expanded learning time. Founded in 1992, by a group of Black and Hispanic Harvard Law School students, BELL has grown from a small after-school tutoring program for 20 Boston students, to operating after school and summer programs for over 10,000 children across the United States.
BELL exists to transform the academic achievements, self-confidence, and life trajectories of children in under-resourced, urban communities. BELL Summer and BELL After School serve children in grades K-8 who are performing below grade level and who attend high-poverty schools. The majority of participants are Black or Hispanic, and many are English Language Learners. Because we believe in the tremendous potential of all children to succeed, we recognize them as scholars.
BELL has a proven track record engaging the most academically-challenged students. Through the BELL Summer program, scholars have consistently gained an average of 3 months of academic skills in literacy and math as demonstrated by performance on pre- and post-program academic assessments. Rather than losing academic skills through summer learning loss, which contributes to continued academic under-performance, BELL scholars enter the school year prepared to succeed. By averting summer learning losses, scholars are more likely to stay on track for high school graduation and achieve long-term academic success.
BELL’s primary partner in this collaboration is Boston Public Schools and specifically the John W. McCormack Middle School in Dorchester. BELL has worked in partnership with BPS for twenty years to support students most in need of our academic and enrichment programming. As part of a district-wide partnership, BELL provides summer programming to Boston middle school students at risk of being retained in grade, replacing district-run, remedial middle school.
In this partnership, BELL and BPS propose to create a targeted program specifically for Black and Hispanic males at the McCormack School who are at risk of repeating a grade. This program will provide educational support and structure at a time when students are more likely to engage in risky behaviors due to a lack of access to organized activities during the summer.
Maureen Harris, Director of Extended Learning Services at BPS, works closely with BELL to guide all aspects of the program. Across the 13 schools where BPS operates summer programs for children at risk of being retained in grade, the McCormack School was selected as the optimal site for the Boys program based on the particular demonstrated academic and emotional need among the boys in this school community. The McCormack School has a population of close to 80% Black and Hispanic students, and 86% of students qualify for free/reduced-price lunch. The McCormack is a Level 3 school, which means it is among the lowest performing 20% of schools in the state.
Dare to Be King: What if the Prince Lives? is a program designed by David Miller to challenge the beliefs, values, and life styles that contribute to violence among young males. Youth violence, gang involvement, and crime are rooted in deeper problems within family, school, community, and society. The Dare to Be King curriculum serves as a “blueprint” for Rites of Passage/manhood development training programs and organizations working with Black and Hispanic males. This curriculum was created through hundreds of hours of observations of urban youth and conversations with many urban youths as well as parents who have lost children to violence.
Independent Consultants of Education (ICE), located in Mattapan, MA, will partner with BELL to provide workshops and guest speakers to our scholars. ICE is a consortium of experienced education consultants who conduct college preparatory workshops to motivate young people, including Black and Hispanic boys, to pursue higher education.
ICE has worked with BELL in the past to instruct our alumni scholars in several ways, including navigating the college application process and writing college essays. For the Boys of BELL program, BELL and ICE will identify positive role models to function as guest speakers, encourage college-readiness, and embody the core values emphasized each day at the BELL program.
BELL is also in the process of selecting additional individual and organizational partners to participate in the program planning and to function as guest speakers, host field trips, and engage in other activities, particularly during Friday programming, which centers on field trips, community service, and guest speaker sessions. Possible partners include COSEBOC and possible field trips include the MIT Museum and the Museum of Science. Enrichment activity providers will promote self-esteem, self-discipline, respect, and promote good sportsmanship, a sense of belonging, and a strong community through martial arts, basketball, and other group sports. Field trips, community service projects, and guest speaker sessions are designed to expose youth to resources and opportunities in the broader Boston community, help youth develop personal leadership skills, and introduce youth to positive adult male role models and to different pathways and career opportunities.