2017-09-19T20:05:52+00:00

The Possible Project (TPP) uses entrepreneurship as a framework to close the skills and opportunities gap facing young people with untapped potential. The students are guided through a dynamic curriculum, including hands-on work experience and individualized career planning, developing the social-emotional skills necessary to work collaboratively and solve problems in a high-level career path.

Students come to TPP through a nomination process which gives TPP a strong tether to the schools and people who spend hours each day with them. More than 80% of TPP students fall into one or more of the following categories that research shows present barriers to achievement: low socio-economic status, recent immigrant/English language learner, recipient of an Individualized Education Program.

The Possible Project’s student entrepreneurs come from different backgrounds and cultures, but they soon find they have much in common. TPP’s Cambridge students come from Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, Community Charter School of Cambridge, and Prospect Hill Academy Charter School.

SANDRO’S STORY

Sandro came to Cambridge from Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. He discovered tennis, becoming the city’s second-ranked varsity player. At TPP he launched a business selling secondhand goods on eBay.

But Sandro was chronically late to school. TPP and the school worked out a plan: When he was tardy, we’d cut his paycheck. When he was on time all week, we’d reserve some donations for him to sell. Gradually that worked, but Sandro still struggled with his English – especially during pitch panels.

Things improved when Sandro moved into our We Sell Possible venture instead of trying to run his own business. In that position he had to mentor other students. He resisted, we insisted. In time he became the de facto leader of the group.

We helped Sandro get into college. He still struggles, but reached a turning point when he and his brother took charge of a TPP program to sell Radio Shack merchandise bought at a bankruptcy sale. Now he thinks of himself as someone who can succeed – and as an alumni manager, he comes to TPP every day.

NIAH’S STORY

Niah Carvalho is tall and uninhibited – and sometimes had a hard time in school. She got into programs for gifted students, but as one of few students-of-color, she suffered bullying and didn’t believe she could ever amount to anything. At TPP, she initially disrupted classes with loud singing. But once she hit upon the idea of making and marketing an all-natural skin scrub, she had her first taste of success. She could have been derailed by a blow-up with her business partner on the night before the product’s unveiling at TPP’s Marketplace. But a staff mentor convinced her not to quit and she became the day’s top seller.

After that turning point, Niah became one of TPP’s most popular students, was accepted by 16 colleges, and currently attends UMass Amherst. All the while she’s kept singing. At our 2016 gala she sang the lyrics to Andra Day’s “Rise Up”: “I’ll rise up like the day…I’ll rise unafraid…And I’ll do it a thousand times again.”

2017-09-13T13:54:17+00:00

Adolescent Consultation Services

A recent Foundation grantee.

 

ACS supports and empowers court-involved children and families by providing mental health prevention and intervention services to help them move forward in a positive direction.

 Jessie*: Understanding Herself

Jessie juggles the multiple roles that define her: teenager, adopted from a foreign country, child of divorce, and transgender.

Her life began in a Romanian hospital. Jessie was later placed in an orphanage. By the time she was adopted by an American couple, she had suffered serious emotional and physical neglect, the effects of which have stayed with her. Jessie is very small for her age. It is also difficult for her to develop meaningful attachments to others.

After joining her new family, the impact of Jessie’s early life experiences began to show. She began to act out at home and in school. These behaviors put a strain on her relationship with her mother, Amy. While a certain degree of turbulence often accompanies adolescence, Jessie was struggling to make sense of her past while also trying to come to terms with her gender identity. She had no idea how to explain this struggle to Amy or how to cope with everything on her own. She started to spend her time with older kids and began to smoke marijuana heavily.

Because Amy worried she could no longer keep Jessie safe, she filed a Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) application. Jessie and Amy met with an ACS clinician who conducted in-depth interviews, both individually and together. The clinician came to better understand Jessie’s present needs. Rather than diagnosing her with a list of conditions and disorders, the clinician considered Jessie in the context of her life experience and what required immediate attention. As it turned out, Jessie was pretty “tired of” talking about being adopted and how her parents’ divorce had affected her. What she really wanted support and guidance around was how to be true to her identity as a girl.

Along with the regular strains on parent-child relationships during adolescence, Amy was facing the reality that she was losing her son and gaining a daughter. The clinician helped her process these feelings. She also educated her about some of the risks associated with being transgender, including bullying, higher rates of suicide, and mental health issues. The ACS clinician linked Jessie and Amy to separate support groups geared toward both of their needs.

Jessie is still involved with the court, but as subsequent court dates approach, she and Amy have reason to be hopeful. While Jessie still seeks out older peers and continues to use marijuana, her relationship with Amy is slowly improving. The support groups recommended by the ACS clinician have helped. Today, Jessie is happy and energetic. She feels accepted and supported by other kids in the transgender youth support group and her new therapist is a great fit for her. Her ACS clinician continues to check in and offer continued support to Jessie and Amy. Jessie is getting the support she needs to begin to build her self-confidence, make healthy choices, and work toward a positive future.

  

Ryan*: Driving Through Chaos

Ryan was raised amidst the chaos and violence that seemed to follow his mother, Cheryl. The men in their lives had been abusive and Cheryl was hospitalized more than once with severe injuries. They’d had to move around a lot so it had been difficult to put down roots.

Cheryl eventually found a stable job, a safe place to live, and it seemed like things were looking up. But Ryan had trouble adjusting to this new life. He began to exhibit emotional and behavioral outbursts. By the time Ryan entered high school, these outburst had become quite serious. Ryan disobeyed rules and routinely skipped school. Cheryl began to fear that she could no longer keep her son safe. She filed a Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) application with the court. That’s when Ryan was referred to ACS for a mental health evaluation.

An ACS clinician met at length with Ryan and interviewed his family members. She reviewed his school and medical records and consulted with his teachers. It became clear that Ryan’s behaviors were delayed symptoms of the chronic trauma he and Cheryl had experienced.

Ryan began the new school year at an alternative high school designed to support his needs. In time, his behavior stabilized, and he began to thrive. He even joined the high school basketball team. The structure and support of this setting, paired with the self-esteem he gained from playing his favorite sport, proved to be a winning combination. Because Ryan had made such strides, the school system began to plan for his return to the mainstream high school. Ryan’s clinician strongly advised against this plan, explaining that Ryan was at significant risk for losing the ground he had gained and reverting to old behaviors.

Upon completing her evaluation, the judge approved the clinician’s recommendation that the report be distributed to everyone who was invested in Ryan’s continued progress. His clinician is working with the Department of Children and Families to advocate for an expansion in the services Ryan and Cheryl receive. The family’s attorney informed the clinician that reading her evaluation helped him develop greater empathy for Cheryl. Ryan now has a larger team supporting him and rooting for his continued success.

 

Jayla*: Finding Home

 Jayla spent a lot of time on her own as a young child. Her father was incarcerated, and her mother, Maria, had to work nights. Frequently, Jayla would phone her aunt, who would talk her through making a simple dinner for herself. Maria also had men in her life who abused substances and at times, these men also abused Jayla and Maria.

Jayla was eventually placed in foster care. She found her foster parents to be good people, but “it’s like living in a foreign country.” She knew they meant well, but everything was just so different. First of all, the food was healthy – not the take-out that she was used to. And her foster parents expected her to eat meals with them, come home every night, and stop swearing. While their home was “nice” and the school was “good,” Jayla, a biracial child, felt out of place in the largely white, upper middle class school and community. She often skipped school to return to her old neighborhood in search of her friends. Eventually, Jayla’s school filed a Child Requiring Assistance (CRA) truancy application, which led to her evaluation at ACS.

At age 15, Jayla was quiet and thoughtful as she met with her ACS clinician. After meeting and interviewing Jayla and those close to her, Jayla’s clinician recommended that she be temporarily placed in a group home with the ultimate goal of reuniting her with her mother. Her clinician also recommended trauma-informed therapy for Jayla, and a parent partner, who could provide support and coaching to Maria as they worked toward reunification.

Upon completing her evaluation, Jayla’s clinician followed up with the family and learned that Jayla was already back at home with Maria. Jayla was attending school regularly and doing better overall. Maria continues to work with her parent partner and Jayla has continued with therapy. Their relationship is improving, and Jayla is moving in a positive direction, which is reason to celebrate.

 

Analisa*: Transforming Conflict into Understanding

 Analisa is a 14-year-old young woman who became involved with the District Attorney’s Diversion program. Her charge was domestic assault and battery, the result of a physical altercation between Analisa and her mother, Elena. Analisa was functioning well in all other areas of her life, but she and Elena had a difficult relationship. Elena had sought family therapy, but treatment was not yet scheduled due to long waitlists. An ACS clinician intervened at a critical time, providing family therapy at no cost.

Because even trivial conversations would quickly escalate, the clinician immediately focused on helping Elena and Analisa improve the safety of their communication. As their relationship improved, they both learned new skills and began to practice compromise. The clinician helped Elena to better understand normal adolescent behaviors and to see how her feelings of guilt about being a single mother were affecting her parenting. She helped Analisa learn to understand and gain control over her anger. Both mother and daughter worked hard in treatment and made meaningful strides.

Analisa successfully completed the Diversion program. She was truly diverted from the court: She has no delinquent charges and no permanent court record. Analisa remains at home with her mother, where they continue to build on their progress.

 

* To protect confidentiality, ACS does not use the names, photos, or identifying features of clients.

 

2017-09-13T14:36:16+00:00

Organized in 2014, the SNAP Match Cambridge Coalition works to make healthy, local produce at farmers markets more affordable and accessible to low-income shoppers in Cambridge. A unique joint fundraising effort for the SNAP Match program has doubled the amount of farm fresh products purchased by SNAP families and individuals at the three participating farmers markets in Cambridge.

The Foundation acts as the coalition’s fiscal sponsor.

2017-08-03T21:35:26+00:00

The city of Cambridge has arrived at a critical moment in its long and celebrated history. The center of a dynamic economy, our community is being tested as new wealth creates new social distances and stresses.

Can the city preserve a heritage of diversity and inclusion as it becomes a boomtown – the epicenter of a regional innovation economy? Will Cambridge’s prized combination of different backgrounds and perspectives survive?

These questions were among the topics at a forum presented by Cambridge Community Foundation March 1 at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square which included the release of a report titled Boomtown/Hometown: What the Numbers say about Income, Housing and Education in Cambridge Today.

This report draws attention to three powerful trends shaping our city’s future: increasing income inequality, rapidly rising housing costs and persistent educational disparities. Where are these trends taking Cambridge? Can our city-with its booming innovation economy and exceptional community assets-keep its historic commitment to social justice and create a future in which prosperity is shared across the entire community.

(Read the Report)
2017-09-13T14:54:53+00:00

Tech-cellerate is an initiative of the Foundation

CAMBRIDGE MA (May 23, 2017) – A program that provides laptop computers to low-income Cambridge residents celebrated an important milestone on May 23.  High school students as well as adults building job skills at the Community Learning Center were recognized and given computers at a gathering held at Google Cambridge’s Kendall Square headquarters. The program also honored partners and sponsors of the program. Speakers included Denise Simmons, mayor of Cambridge; Geeta Pradhan, president of Cambridge Community Foundation; and Liz Schwab, head of external affairs at Google.

 

“Increasing opportunity by creating pathways into the innovation economy is an integral part of our work at the Foundation,” said Geeta Pradhan. “This  program, which started with a generous gift from Google of 200 laptops, has grown through a partnership of organizations all committed to building skills and making connections for residents—high school students and adults—who can benefit from adding skills, access to tools and training.”

 

Those in the program wrote about how getting laptops touched their lives, “It is very hard to share one laptop with four siblings because they also need to use a laptop as much as I need to, wrote one student. “Even my younger brother, who is in fifth grade, has to use laptop to do his homework. I have to wait for my siblings. It is almost impossible for me to go to bed before 11:30 pm . . . .

 

Others were excited by the possibilities the tools created.

 

…Technology promotes interactivity and involvement. It makes everything easier to access. It helps us be more efficient and productive.”

 

Tech-cellerate started with the gift of 200 lap-top computers and a support fund from Google to the Cambridge Community Foundation. The Foundation built a network of community partners – including the City of Cambridge and Cambridge Youth Programs, Community Arts Center, Enroot, the Herbert and Maxine Jacobs Foundation, Kendall Square Association, the Lemelson-MIT Program, and Prospect Hill Academy Charter School.

 

“We are delighted to have a part in this program in our neighborhood,” said Google’s Liz Schwab. “Using technology to connect people to opportunities is critical—especially here in the heart of the innovation economy.”

 

Students who could benefit from access to laptops were invited to join Tech-cellerate through the community partner organizations. Training and individualized projects were developed to ensure recipients would be able to make maximum use of the computers. The program is managed by Romaine Waite, a community activist and entrepreneur.

He first saw the gap in technology among students in The Port, where he lived, and understood the impact that had on their lives. As the world becomes more wired, technology matter more, connecting students to the internet and the world of online knowledge and opportunity.

As the center of the innovation economy, the need to address this gap in Cambridge loomed large and he teamed up with the Cambridge Community Foundation to address it.

About Cambridge Community Foundation

Cambridge Community Foundation was established in 1916, making it one of the oldest community foundations in the country. The only foundation with the whole city of Cambridge in its purview, it is a key supporter of nonprofit organizations, distributing grants to meet local needs and support the aspirations of Cambridge residents. The Foundation provides advocacy and leadership support to deal with urgent local challenges and partners with donors to provide a permanent source of charitable funds for the community.

About Google in Massachusetts

 

Located in the heart of greater Boston’s technology community and across the street from MIT in Kendall Square, Google Cambridge is our second largest office east of the Mississippi River. We opened a small Boston sales office in 2003, joined a new engineering team in Cambridge in 2006, and opened our current office in 2008. Our Cambridge office has more than 1,000 employees working in sales and many product areas, including search, travel, Android, YouTube, networking infrastructure, and Google Play.

 

2017-09-13T14:23:29+00:00

Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership

A recent Foundation grantee.

MBHP is a nonprofit dedicated to connecting the residents of Greater Boston with safe, decent homes they can afford. Founded in 1983 by business, government, and community leaders, MBHP serves more than 20,000 households per year in the City of Boston and 32 surrounding cities and towns. MBHP combines hands-on experience with in-depth research to serve and effect system change.

MBHP received a call from Cambridge Inspectional Services department about a resident, Margaret, who was facing eviction because of severe hoarding issues. MBHP case managers went out immediately to the home to meet with Margaret. While there was clearly a hoarding problem, it also became clear that Margaret was a victim of domestic violence, and she was not ready to leave her husband. In addition, Margaret had cerebral palsy and her husband was also disabled. MBHP case managers connected with legal services and obtained a stay of eviction, resolving the immediate crisis. They continued to work with Margaret, and slowly helped her to find new housing. When she was ready to leave her abusive situation, they helped her apply for and obtain new housing. She is now living independently in a safe home.

 

2017-09-13T14:30:52+00:00

Enroot

A recent Foundation grantee.

Formerly known as Cambridge Community Services and the City Links program, Enroot is a community-based nonprofit with a mission to empower immigrant youth to achieve academic, career, and personal success through inspiring out-of-school experiences.

Enroot’s goals are to help students: 1) Improve academic performance; 2) Demonstrate a greater sense of community and belonging, self-confidence and advocacy; 3) Develop a clear and inspiring pathway for higher education and career; 4) Build a marketable skill set through real-world, paid internships; and 5) Graduate high school prepared to successfully transition to and graduate from post-secondary education.

College degree holders earn nearly $1 million more in a lifetime than those without degrees in the US, yet only 21% of low-income Cambridge youth go on to graduate from college. The achievement gap grows even more significant when factoring in the additional linguistic and cultural challenges that face immigrant students. “Limited-English-Proficiency” students are the lowest performing cohort at CRLS with the lowest on-time graduation rate. Enroot recruits students from the English-Language-Learner Department at CRLS and over 90% of Enroot students are low-income and all will be the first in their families to attend an American university. Program alumni graduate college at twice the rate of their peers with demonstrated increases in self-confidence, advocacy, and leadership skills.

A volunteer mentor admires Enroot’s holistic programming approach:

“What excites me the most about [Enroot] is that they care about the whole student – not just grades or test scores. Through mentoring, tutoring, job opportunities, field trips, and seminars, students get 360 degrees of support on top of their typical school day. The students want to be there, the volunteers keep coming back, and the entire experience is positive, productive, and powerful.” – Ariella, Volunteer Mentor to CRLS Student

2017-09-13T14:27:58+00:00

CitySprouts

A recent Foundation grantee.

Middle School Program is an out-of-school time program that engages Cambridge’s young people in science, engineering and math through a garden and food systems lens. Program activities reflect the current Massachusetts science and engineering standards.

Research indicates that young people need out-of-school time experiences that support what they learn in school. More data reveals that middle-class children spend an average of 6,000 more hours than their lower-income peers in out-of-school time learning. Cambridge needs more high quality, accessible STEM opportunities for its less-resourced youth if it is going to close this gap. CitySprouts is committed to rigorous, high-quality STEM programming.

CitySprouts’ curriculum is designed to give students opportunities to practice STEM skills in tangible, relevant contexts. By the completion of the program, youth have had multiple opportunities to make qualitative and quantitative observations, take measurements, engage in aspects of the engineering design process, and produce a product. They have consistently heard language that parallels what they hear during school, reinforcing key STEM content and practices.

Because CitySprouts approaches STEM education through a garden and food systems lens, they often attract youth who don’t think of themselves as scientists. These young people may not have experienced being successful in science and math class in school but CitySprouts sparks an interest  by building on young people’s natural interest in food systems. As one principal stated, “For some of our students who struggle academically or with behavior, the garden has served as a powerful incentive.”

2017-09-13T14:32:27+00:00

Breakthrough Greater Boston

A recent Foundation grantee.

BTBG transforms urban education for students and teachers through its unique Students Teaching Students model.  Serving traditionally underserved middle and high school students in both Cambridge and Dorchester, BTBG changes students’ academic trajectories and supports them on the path to college.  They key is six years of intensive, tuition free out-of-school time   programming.

Below is a reflection from Elmer, one of BTBG’s recent high school graduates, who is currently a freshman at Harvard University.

“One of the first lessons my Breakthrough teachers taught me was that I did not have to choose between learning and having fun. Dan’s social studies class focused on the history of baseball. This became one of my favorite classes ever as Dan combined the passions of baseball with a high standard for every student. He took the idea of an agonizing research project and gave us, the students, the opportunity to turn it into something exciting where we pushed ourselves. Who would have thought I could take someone like Barry Bonds and write an entire research paper as my final project?

Breakthrough is an experience, one that stays with you for the rest of your life.  I now have long term goals of great heights and I feel capable of reaching them because I have the confidence, leadership skills, and the willingness to do so. I want to obtain a degree and make myself and especially my family proud because they have worked so hard to give me all the opportunities they didn’t have. I have become the driven, optimistic individual I am today because of the teachers in the program.”