Summer of Service: Working with underserved youth in Boston's South End neighborhood

Summer of Service: During the summer of 2013 the IOP is proud to sponsor and work with over 250 students who are spending their summers in politics and public service around the world. Learn more about this program.

Shaquilla Harrigan is a summer 2013 Director's Intern with the Keylatch Summer Program in Boston's South End.

So, I officially started my job as co-director for Keylatch Summer Program, a non-profit summer camp for students ages 6-13 in Boston's South End, at the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) right after finals ended. However, I have been preparing and planning Keylatch since I was hired in February. Time has flown by so fast that I can't believe that camp starts in less than a week!

I am really motivated to help fulfill Keylatch's mission to provide low-income or otherwise disadvantaged youth in Boston's South End with a fun, educational, and enriching summer experience. I am so excited to be a part of this program and leading an awesome staff of 8 senior counselors, college students from Harvard and other local colleges, and 8 junior counselors, high school students from the South End community.

I first got involved with Keylatch Summer Program through its partner programs, Keylatch After School and Keylatch Mentoring.  I am so excited to continue the work I started during the term in the summer. One of my most exciting moments during the past few weeks was seeing each member of my staff interact during Senior and Junior Counselor training.

One of my favorite things about working at Keylatch is all of the people I get to meet. Almost every day I am talking on the phone with parents, coordinating exciting field trips for all 80 of my campers, supporting my senior and junior counselors, and getting to learn more about the vibrantly diverse South End and Lower Roxbury Communities. While I don't know everyone's names (yet!), the South End is becoming more and more familiar to me.

Working with people who are so invested in their community and with college students who may have never even heard of the South End before this program provides a great space for learning and growth. This Sunday, one event that will allow Keylatch Alumni, South End heroes, and our current staff to come together and have meaningful discussions on some of the issues currently affecting the South End is the 13th Annual Mel King Brunch.  This brunch is one of Keylatch's biggest fundraisers that celebrate the Mel King's legacy. Mel King is a Boston civil rights activist who was not only the voice of people during Boston's urban renewal projects, but he was the first African-American to run for Boston mayor.

Aside from getting to work with Boston legends like Mel King, some of the people I am most inspired to work alongside are my co-direct Victor Flores, my director of programs Nicole Young, and the rest of the PBHA staff. Each of them pushes me to think more critically about the work I am doing and why certain divisions exist in society.

I hope to answer these questions and more over the course of the summer. I also hope to be able to tie them to my future career aspirations of becoming a journalist.

Over the next week, I am looking forward to have more staff bonding and doing final preparations before the campers arrive!