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SCI Stories: Social Capital in Action
SCI's programming impacts lives in many ways, some of them immeasurable. We've compiled these short stories to demonstrate in words, rather than numbers, how building social capital can connect citizens and strengthen communities.
Giving a Voice to Immigrant Communities
"I’ve known since I began my service term at the Asian American Civic Association (AACA) that working with immigrant communities can be particularly challenging at times; for example, I often find that I need to start a few steps back when explaining concepts to my teens in order to provide them context so that they can achieve better understanding.
Many of my (youth) council members are from China and English is their second language. While they understand and speak English, it can still be challenging for them (and they speak Chinese with each other exclusively). The elementary-age children that my teens mentor are much more comfortable with their English language skills as they have developed them at a much younger age and use English more frequently (generally only speaking Chinese to their parents/grandparents). While reflecting on her volunteer service, one of the teens in my program shared that it is sometimes very difficult for her to understand the younger kids because they speak so quickly and she said she was very intimidated to speak to them at first. But since participating in the mentor program she has become more comfortable and gained confidence in her ability to communicate. I consider this volunteer’s revelation a HUGE success and a testament of the personal development that comes from actively participating in leadership development through community service-learning."
- Danni Jones, SCI AmeriCorps Member, Asian American Civic Association (2014-2015)
Connecting Families and Youth with Community Events
"When I was walking from the T to the South Boston Halloween party, I saw a boy walking the same direction as I was and I asked him if he was heading to the Club. He said no but he knew where it was, and I said he should come check out the Halloween party. He asked if he could bring his parents. I said, "Yes, definitely!" He seemed excited and said he was going to go ask his mom. Later, I was helping run a pin-the-nose on the Jack-O-Lantern game, and he came running up and hugged me and said he had been looking for me. So he came and had a fun night because I invited him!"
- Melissa Gordon, SCI AmeriCorps Member, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston (2014-2015)
Bringing Communities Together in Service
"The Volunteer Social Event, in which local volunteers met to brainstorm and network about volunteer opportunities in the area, was a really special example of what service and building social capital means to me. Though the group we assembled was small, we were able to bring in influential community leaders with whom we had already established relationships to engage community members who wanted to make a difference. I couldn't get over the friendly energy in the room as everyone sought out ways in which they could contribute to making the Woburn community a better place. Everyone learned something and left eager to be more civically engaged."
- Jordan Caress, SCI AmeriCorps Member, Social Capital Inc. (2014-2015)
Creating Opportunity through Social Capital
"One of the most satisfying experiences of this year was having the opportunity to connect Carol, a community member, with resources that enrich her life. Carol is a vivacious woman who is active with her local neighborhood association, Greater Four Corners, and she also volunteers her time to give free piano lessons to community members in the building where I serve.
Because she does so much for the Dorchester community, I was happy to be able to give back to her in some way. Lauren Anderson and I began a Spanish class in the community center where we serve with SCI because the center director had received requests from community members who wanted to learn Spanish to compete in the job market or to converse with their Spanish speaking friends. Carol was the first person to join the class and even though she struggled at the beginning, she’s become our best student, attending every single class. Through the class, Carol has learned to converse with her good friend Raymond, a native Spanish speaker, and she tells us that the class is the highlight of her day.
Through our relationship with Carol from the class, we recruited Carol to volunteer as a musician with Codman Square Health Center ‘s Black History Month celebration, and to volunteer as a greeter at the Codman Square Tech Center. Carol is an inspiration to me of how we as community members can improve our lives through social interaction and giving back to our communities, and she makes me proud to be part of an organization that works to foster social connections and connect community members with resources that can enriches people’s lives."
- Lauren Ames, SCI AmeriCorps Member (2009-2010)
Leveraging Community Talent to make Dorchester a Better Place
"One thing in particular our team is proud of is the story of Cornelia, a volutneer here at the Codman Square Tech Center. When we began, one huge need we recognized in our center was the lack of an organized Computer class that taught skills surrounding Word and Excel as well as the teaching how to construct a Resume. Cornelia, a woman with a Masters in Computer Programing, looking to serve the community while gaining experience, was matched up with this need, and has begun teaching a Computer class at a minimal cost to Dorchester residents. She has been teaching a class for the past 4 weeks [as of the start of November, 2009], twice a week, and has a committed group of 12 students. Cornelia is an ideal volunteer and great teacher, and has invested hours of her time to help the Dorchester community, while learning valuable skills and experience for herself."
- Scotland Huber, SCI AmeriCorps Member (2009-2010)
Our Youth Councils Prepare Students for the Future
One of our AmeriCorps members, Kevin McGravey, mentioned he'd been hearing several reports of former SCI Youth Council members who have attributed their success in college in part to the leadership experience they gained on the Youth Council. Sounds like this is an avenue we should think about for future impact evaluation. Meanwhile, this anecdote he relayed from a parent is compelling:
"My child was one of the first group of youth council members and just finished her second year of college. Her youth council experience gave her the skills she needed to succeed. When she was part of youth council I always thought it was a nice way for her to give back to the community but after a few years of youth council I noticed she was more independent, able to speak her mind and lead her peers. Those qualities have been so helpful for her inside and outside of the classroom."
From India to Woburn
"Steven moved from India and became a new resident to Woburn, Massachusetts 6 months ago. He heard about Social Capital Inc. and the Holiday House Tour through a poster at the YMCA and volunteered to help at that event. Steven met his neighbors, developed friendships and even got to see his first snow that day. Woburn was a strange new place 6 months ago, Steven didn’t know his neighbors and didn’t feel like he was a part of the community. Now Steven has developed a network of friends, become a regular volunteer with SCI and is even starting to get used to the frigid Massachusetts winters."
- Morgan Randall, SCI AmeriCorps Member
“Snowblower Story” as told by David Crowley (SCI President)
“Last year, around the time of the first snowfall, a distant memory on this beautiful day, I got a call from someone from out of state. She was worried about her elderly father, living alone in Woburn and recovering from surgery. Knowing that her Dad had a stubborn streak, she was worried that he’d still try to shovel his own snow if he didn’t get some help! We posted this concern to our community website & our weekly eblast. Within 24 hours, I was contacted by Jim, one of the gentleman’s neighbors who read about this need. Though Jim was a bit sheepish that he had never met this neighbor in the years he had lived on the street, Jim was more than happy to use his snowblower to take care of his neighbors driveway now that he knew of this neighbor in need.
Whether it’s connecting neighbors like this or mobilizing citizens to vote, SCI applies technology for civic purposes. We are very excited about the potential of our web technology to be a powerful resource for weaving the social fabric of our neighborhoods and our communities.”
Offering New Beginnings for Adults who Wish to Make a Difference
"I have been in the cosmetology business for over 24 years. I have been the owner of three hair salons. After many years of the chemicals having physical effects on my hands, giving me dementias eczema and breathing problems, I had also had my last one bad business partner after another. I knew my season was over in the hair industry. I needed to track myself in a new job market. It had to be something I enjoyed doing as much as I had enjoyed doing hair for twenty years.
I was at a community social function and met a lady by the name of Kathy. After many conversations it was evident that we had some of the same social views about our community. We could remember how people were more connected within the community we remembered; we remembered the community organizations which helped us stay focused on our journey in life. We remembered the positive influence all of these things produced in our lives. Kathy was also at a place in her life for a career change. We decided to do something about it. Kathy saw an opportunity for employment and volunteering on the AmeriCorps website and we applied.
The challenge for me was the computer skills. The Technology and Outreach Coordinator’s description required advanced computer skills. The fear of not feeling that my computer skills were updated enough for the job to be well done was overwhelming. I had even considered maybe leaving AmeriCorps. Kathy encouraged me to stay and work the computer skills dilemma fear out.
Joao, one of the AmeriCorps members who had gone to Wenthworth Institute for Technology, shared his knowledge of computer skills. Joao helped to equip me with updated computer skills. He gave me an extensive computer course on a daily basis, while we completed the E-Blast each week and kept the website updated. My Site Supervisor Marisa Luse gave me lots of support as I walked through some of my computer fears.
Now that it is two months into the AmeriCorps experience, I can say that I approach the computer with somewhat of a confidence. I actually enjoy working on the computer on a daily basis. I enjoy the doors of access to information that it has opened for me. I know that these new computer skills that I have acquired through working with AmeriCorps will definitely be a great asset towards my future plans. Thanks to the civic engagement within the AmeriCorps office in Dorchester, I shout out thanks to all who helped me along this journey; you know who you are. This is another day in the inner city and the beat goes on and on. To overcome your fears is to continue your journey and fulfill your destiny."
- Carlotta Richardson, November 6 2007
Terrill Johnson on the SCI Dorchester Youth Council:
“The SCI Dorchester Youth Council is a group of teens making a difference in Dorchester. We as a council engage in the community in any way that we feel will be most effective. When an opportunity becomes available, we are there to lend a helping hand. When there is an issue we would like to address, but there are no opportunities available, we create our own. We have already done this in many ways. This past February we hosted a “Safe Love” event. The event targeted teens and it was created to educate teens more about safe sex, abstinence, and general healthy practices when dealing with relationships. The event was a huge success, drawing more than 225 teens to the Dorchester YMCA. We also have $10,000 that we are in charge of distributing to other youth organizations. This is just one of the ways we help support the other youth who are getting involved throughout Dorchester.
It is so important for youth to give back to the community because we live in it, participate in it, and benefit from it. Every member of the SCI Dorchester youth council wants to see the Dorchester neighborhood thrive in as many ways as possible. Our passion for where we live and the teamwork that we have developed over the course of the year is what has made the youth council so successful thus far. If you ever want to get something done teamwork is the main key. All of the youth council members are dedicated to the community and want to see a change. We meet every Monday to make sure that the change we create today will surely last tomorrow, and the day after. Knowing that there is a dedicated group of youth willing to come together and spend a part of their busy lives once a week to improve the neighborhood we all are a part of is great. The teamwork we have all developed, and the amount of responsibility we are all willing to accept on a regular basis has been my favorite part of the council. I can’t stress this point enough. There is nothing a group of passionate teens cannot accomplish, and this council is just one example of just how successful we can be.”
- From "SCI Dorchester Youth Council," by Terrill Johnson, Boston Teens in Print. Spring 2005.