By Lauren Cowing, AmeriCorps member serving on the Westfield Capital Management team at the Mildred Avenue K-8 School

This is the third installment of a three part blog series on My Brother’s Keeper. In our first two posts, we explored a few of the societal challenges many young boys and men of color face in our nation as well as locally in Boston. In this piece, we’ll explore how one of Boston public school is participating in the initiative at the school level.

The Mildred Avenue K-8 School is a flourishing academic environment that has been making a valiant effort to improve educational outcomes for all students. With the fresh new faces entering the school, paired with the committed veteran staff, there is a lot of hard work being done focused on building school community and building upon the existing assets in the community. The Mildred has implemented many student engagement initiatives and is finding ways to get those connected with the school more involved.

One example of community relationship building that is being forged, would be the event that the school hosted for the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. This was a showcase for the program that reached out to male students, families, and community members who are interested in learning more about the initiative or seeking ways to get involved. The program supports male youth of color in an effort to keep them on track for graduation as well as pushing them towards being advocates and role models for their future generations.

This event included a panel including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green, Hall of Famer Bob Lanier, as well as Boston Public School Interim Superintendent John McDonough. To watch the panel on YouTube, click here. In this high-profile panel, the most significant speaker, in my opinion, was a Mildred Avenue alumnus who is currently in his final year of high school and preparing to go to college.

Current Mildred students were able to ask questions to the entire panel, but the students primarily directed their questions to the alumnus. It was very moving to listen to his answers because the students strongly connected with him. He spoke about school and hobby balance, the importance of setting personal goals, and about what motivates him. Students tend to look to famous athletes and celebrities as role models, but it was even more meaningful to see the example that was being set by one of their near peers.

Beyond that, it was important for my vision of the community. Hearing this student’s story and seeing the faces of so many eager students reminded me of why I chose to serve . It was inspiring to see the way that he spoke, the way that the students listened to him, and especially the way his words moved adults in the room.

That evening was just a glimpse of how the school empowers its community. It has been exciting to witness the way that the school, its members, and its neighbors have all been embracing each other. Ultimately, the collaboration of all will be necessary for this school to best serve our students and achieve excellence.

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