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 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)
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.
Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (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.
Enroot (formerly known as Cambridge Community Services and the City Links program) 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
CitySprouts 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.”
Breakthrough Greater Boston (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.”
Central Square Theater (CST) was created with a unique collaborative culture and is dedicated to experimentation and innovation on stage – with their artistic vision and in their audience-building initiatives. As a result, it has afforded opportunities for Cambridge residents to participate in ground-breaking programs such as the Young Leaders, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Institute. It is also a founding member of the Massachusetts task force on creating Cultural Districts.
Two of CST’s exemplary programs are:
Community Connectivity (C2) is an audience development effort that connects the stories on the stage with stories in our communities. CST’s long-term goal for building audiences is to increase the diversity of their audiences not only for singular productions that may have a culturally specific theme or target audience, but also for all of CST’s work throughout the season.
Youth Underground is a socio-economic, culturally, and ethnically diverse youth Ensemble serving ages 13-25. Participating youth have stipend-eligible opportunities to create theater together and in tandem with community-based organizations; and to showcase their work across the City and at CST. Youth Underground provides a platform for members to understand the perspective of others, develop their own perspectives, and come to a deeper understanding of self as they cultivate their artistry. Above all, Youth Underground members define themselves as agents of change and emerging opinion leaders within their immediate neighborhood and beyond. As an alumni noted, “I love to see the world through different perspectives … helps you become more open minded.”
CASPAR (Cambridge and Somerville Program for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Rehabilitation) is a community-based human services organization founded in 1970, with the goal of providing prevention, intervention, and treatment for individuals and families whose lives have been affected by alcoholism and drug use. Dedicated to underserved populations, including individuals who are indigent and homeless, CASPAR’s vision is to reduce the harm associated with substance abuse and contribute to a healthier community.
To achieve this vision CASPAR has developed a comprehensive array of addiction services with integrated mental health and homeless services, including homeless outreach programs, an emergency shelter, addiction stabilization programs, and specialized residential recovery homes for both men and women.
Dan’s story (not his real name), as told by their FirstStep Night team leader illustrates CASPAR’s important work:
While doing outreach in Central Square on a September night, FirstStep staff walked up to Dan. He was laying down on the bench behind the library. They noted that his breathing was very slow and his skin color was light blue. They immediately called 911 for an ambulance and administered Narcan to address the overdose. Staff had to give two doses of Narcan to get a response. After the second dose of Narcan, Dan’s color started coming back and his breathing improved, but he was still non-responsive. FirstStep staff stayed with him administering First Aid until the ambulance arrived. Dan was brought to the hospital and he survived. Later, Dan informed staff that he had overdosed on pills and heroin intentionally, wanting to die. Now Dan always thanks FirstStep for stopping that evening and helping him. He says he knows that he would not still be here today if they had just kept walking.