Thanks to a generous grant from Hood Park, LLC, five Charlestown students are making the most of this unusual summer, working at local nonprofit Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s Youth Environmental Education Programs.
They’re still fishing, crabbing, and teaching local families about the marine environment like they would during any other summer — but with technology like video and drones, they’re connecting with local kids and families completely virtually.
This is the second year of the partnership between Hood, Save the Harbor, and the Charlestown Coalition/Turn it Around, a community-based organization committed to improving the health of Charlestown residents.
In a typical summer, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s programs serve more than 30,000 youth, teens and families on Boston Harbor, the waterfront, the region’s public beaches, and in the Boston Harbor Islands.
However, this is definitely not a typical summer. Because the COVID-19 pandemic has forced youth development and community organizations to rethink their summer programs to prevent the social spread of the disease, Save the Harbor summer staffers have rapidly adapted to a new way of learning and teaching.
Instead of helping Save the Harbor share Boston’s spectacular harbor, islands and beaches with busloads and boatloads of young people face-to-face, these five summer staffers are working to create virtual Boston Harbor programming through YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, and on Save the Harbor’s blog Sea, Sand & Sky.
“Even though this summer looks very different from all the others, I am so thrilled to learn the history about other beaches and sites around Boston Harbor. There are many new sites this summer that I never have been to and can’t wait to learn so much about it,” says 20-year-old Fatima Fontes, who is a rising junior at Boston University. This is Fontes’ second year working with Save the Harbor.
Arianna Perez, 16, who attends Excel Academy, is also very excited about this summer.
“I am excited to work at Save the Harbor/Save the Bay this year because I’ve heard the people are very nice and throughout each summer you develop different skills,” she says. “I want to be able to tell my friends and family the different things I’ve learned and show them any skills I’ve developed.”
Fontes and Perez are joined by Che Hanks, Alex Solano, and Ariana Alarcon Flynn. Hanks is also a 16-year-old student at Excel Academy. Solano and Alarcon Flynn attend Charlestown High School.
In order to continue being the Boston Harbor Connection for the region’s youth and families, Charlestown residents Fontes, Perez, Hanks, Solano, and Alarcon Flynn are exploring Boston Harbor’s many beautiful views in small, socially-distant groups, including Charlestown Navy Yard, Castle Island, Malibu Beach, and the Harbor Islands. While there, they film videos, write lesson plans, and create other safe virtual activities for our community partners across the city.
“This year’s staffers have exceeded expectations as enthusiastic educators and hard workers,” said Youth Program Director Kristen Barry. “Despite unusual and challenging circumstances, their dedication to share Boston Harbor with the public, this time virtually, has not wavered.”
Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s Executive Director Chris Mancini says that even during a pandemic, the entire team of youth staff have shown true dedication to their work.
“Our summer staff of 34 has risen to the challenge and helped Save the Harbor/Save the Bay save the summer for kids from more than 100 youth development and community organizations who can’t be with us in person this year,” he says.