Member Spotlight: Brookview House

Member Spotlight Brookview House

Children in Brookview House’s Above and Beyond Program.

Oftentimes, a nonprofit’s clients are the best spokespeople for the organization. This is the case with Brookview House, a Dorchester-based nonprofit. Their mission is to provide women and children experiencing homelessness with safe, supportive housing, including programs on site to confront the root causes of homelessness and transform lives.

Here is what one former client of Brookview House had to say:

“A few years ago, I was a homeless mother with three children and realized that hotels, motels and shelters were not going to get us out of our situation. We needed additional support to help me get training and secure a job, and my kids the educational and emotional support they needed – and that’s what Brookview House does for families.

We were able to go out on our own after six months at Brookview. Because I loved it there so much (everyone there becomes family) and I was so grateful for what the organization had done for me and my children, I volunteered there to help others who were going through exactly what I had went through. As time went on, I was eventually hired at Brookview and created their Housing Program Department to assist residents ready to go out on their own find the right home.

Because of my experience at Brookview, I am now working as a Property Manager for a large property management firm near Boston, and my children are all thriving in life. With all my heart I thank all of the wonderful people and programs at Brookview.”

Member Spotlight: City Year Boston

Member Spotlight City YearAt the start of the school year, City Year Boston AmeriCorps member Derek Edmonds told his 8th graders, “If you ever need to talk, I got you.” Derek served in an English classroom at the McKay K-8 School in East Boston. He supported his students with their reading fluency and essay writing, but found his most important role was being a mentor.

Jessie* was one of the students who came to Derek to talk and they bonded over their families and personal challenges. When Jessie struggled in class, Derek would encourage Jessie to believe in themselves.

Slowly, Derek began to see a change in Jessie; they raised their hand more often in class and completed assignments without help. Recently, Jessie wrote an article for a contest judged by editors from the New York Times. The winning submissions appeared in Teens in Print Boston magazine – and Jessie was published! Derek was so proud to see Jessie’s newfound confidence in themselves. He knew Jessie had not only the writing skills, but the confidence for high school and beyond.

Today, Derek is serving a second year with City Year Boston, and leading a team of first-year AmeriCorps members as they mentor students at East Boston High. City Year understands that students can’t achieve what they don’t believe. They place AmeriCorps members like Derek into classrooms, where they mentor students and build bonds that facilitate learning. This year, City Year Boston is celebrating 30 years of service in the Boston community and is partnering with with Boston Public Schools to help empower student success.

*Student name has been changed to protect privacy.

Member Spotlight: Girls Inc. of Worcester

Member Spotlight Girls Inc.Our nonprofit members work tirelessly to open the doors to opportunity for people across Massachusetts. For Selam, MNN nonprofit member Girls Inc. of Worcester helped her to pursue her dreams.

Selam emigrated to America from Ethiopia after being adopted when she was eight years old. Selam joined Girls Inc. the summer after she arrived. She enrolled in the “Eureka”! program, a 5-year, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)-based capstone program that engages and empowers girls in grades 8-12 in a variety of college preparatory, leadership, and STEM opportunities.

Girls Inc. of Worcester works to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. Eureka! Helps girls prepare for and attend college. In 2017, the first group of 18 girls that went through the program were accepted to more than 80 colleges across the country. More than $600,000 per year in college scholarships were awarded to these girls, 73% of whom went on to major in STEM-related fields in college.

Selam was recently chosen as a 2018 Girls Inc. National Scholar and was awarded the prestigious $20,000 Girls Inc. Lucile Miller Wright scholarship. She was selected from girls across the country and Canada for her outstanding academic achievements, community service work, and dedication to the Girls Inc. mission.

In addition to opening the door to opportunity, Girls Inc. opened a different, yet equally important, door: the one to a community.

Speaking about her peers in Eureka! and the staff of Girls Inc., Selam says, “They became a second family to me starting on the first day I participated in their programs. They have provided me with unwavering love and support over the years.”

“Winning the Girls Inc. national scholarship is validation that I have so many people who believe in me and my potential to carry out my goals in life while having a positive impact on the world,” she says.

Success stories like Selam’s are happening everyday in nonprofits across Massachusetts. Nonprofits like Girls Inc. that nurture and leverage the hard work of young people are the key for many to a better life.

Member Spotlight: The Immigrant Learning Center

Member SpotlightQuynh-Anh came to the United States in 2007 to be with her husband. By nature, she’s an outgoing person, but it was hard to feel like herself in the States because she knew no English. She learned what she could by watching TV, going to a night class two days a week, and trying to talk to people. Because she knew how important it was to learn English and how valuable an intensive program is, Quynh-Anh went to The Immigrant Learning Center. She quit her day job at an electronics manufacturer and worked at a nail salon on the weekends so she could attend classes.

The Immigrant Learning Center, based in Malden, Massachusetts, gives immigrants like Quynh-Anh a voice in three ways. The English Language Program provides free, year-round English classes to immigrant and refugee adults in Greater Boston to help them become successful workers, parents and community members. The Public Education Institute informs Americans about the economic and social contributions of immigrants in our society. The Institute for Immigration Research, a joint venture with George Mason University, conducts research on the economic contributions of immigrants.

Quynh-Anh made the most of her experience at The Immigrant Learning Center. She participated in the Theater Class, worked on the student newsletter, and volunteered in the Senior Conversation Class. Her English improved enough for her to go to university and complete her BS in Biology. She’s currently working at Brigham & Women’s Hospital doing kidney research and studying for the MCAT so she can attend medical school.

Perhaps most importantly, because of the services of The Immigrant Learning Center, she feels more like herself.

Member Spotlight: Improbable Players

When it comes to talking about the impact of the nonprofit sector in Massachusetts, perhaps some of the best authorities on the subject are the people who work on the front lines to change lives and inspire hope.

This MNN member organization has brought engaging theatrical performances centered around the issue of substance abuse prevention and recovery to schools and communities throughout Massachusetts. Improbable Players uses theater to address addiction, alcoholism, and the opioid epidemic. They show what addiction looks like, what seeking help looks like, and what recovery looks like. In just 34 years, they’ve held shows in front of over a million people and have employed over 200 actors in recovery.

Meet Elizabeth. She’s an actor and board member at Improbable Players. In the video below, Elizabeth recounts the story of one student who made a profound change after participating in Improbable Player’s programming. Click below to learn more.

Member Spotlight: Thrive Support & Advocacy

Jmatthew i can thriveohn Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” This definition of leadership can apply to many who work in nonprofits, as well as whose lives are improved because of nonprofits.

Matthew is a 2017 graduate of MNN nonprofit member Thrive Support & Advocacy Leadership Experience And Development (LEAD) initiative. The LEAD initiative empowers young adults who live with intellectual and developmental challenges to better the world around them. Supported by staff who provide a dynamic range of activities such as public speaking tutorials and collaborative group projects, future “LEADers” that participate in the program gain the knowledge, practical skills, and confidence to become leaders in their communities.

Matthew has been participating in Thrive’s programming for more than six years and currently works part-time at Hannaford’s Supermarket in Marlborough, where he applies the leadership skills he learned in the LEAD initiative. “The number one thing I have gained [by participating in LEAD] is confidence,” he says. “This confidence has helped me take on more responsibility with my family and at work.”

In addition to applying the skills he’s learned in his work and family lives, Matthew is giving back to the program that gave him confidence by serving as a mentor for current LEADers. “As a mentor, I enjoy working with the LEADers to teach them about making good choices and setting goals. It’s been great to see them develop their skills as I have.”

Thrive Support & Advocacy’s LEAD initiative is revolutionary in that it challenges societal expectations of people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities by instilling them with confidence, purpose, and a sense of their own potential to improve their communities. Matthew’s story is one of countless others whose lives have been transformed because of a nonprofit.

Member Spotlight: Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership

Latoya in her new home. (cred: Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership)

“I’m so in love with my house.”

When Latoya’s friend Tara told her that she had an extra seat in Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership‘s Home Buyers Class, she decided to come along even though, at the time, she wasn’t thinking much about buying a home. Tara was ahead of her in the home buying process and when she saw the success she was having after taking the class, Latoya felt inspired to do it herself.

Latoya decided she was tired of renting and ready to buy a home herself. She took the classes very seriously. Being the first person in her immediate family to buy a home was a big deal and something she wanted to do for herself and her children. When looking back, she says “Everything I learned was crucial. I’ve been a student for a long time and I’ve never learned as much in one class as I did taking this course.” She benefited most from the real-life examples the class provided and meeting the real estate professionals face to face.

After the class, she felt confident to start the process. She scheduled a readiness assessment with counselor Ed Alcantara. Latoya appreciated that he “went above and beyond to help create a plan for [her].”

Latoya looked at 30 houses and made three offers before she found her dream home, and she wouldn’t have done anything differently. After taking the course, she said, “I don’t think I could have made such a smart decision without the confidence I gained from MVHP’s staff and class.”

At the closing meeting, Latoya was so excited to start life in her new home, she ran out before she even finished signing. As soon as the keys touched her hand, she was ready to start the next chapter in her life.

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Nonprofit members can click here to submit a Member Spotlight and share a story that best illustrates the positive impact their organization has in their community

Member Spotlight: Just-A-Start Corporation

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Haile and his classmates attend a class in the IT Careers program.

When Haile arrived in Cambridge from Ethiopia 10 years ago with his family, he struggled to balance multiple jobs while pursuing higher education. He had a degree and a background in construction engineering in Ethiopia, but found that the cost and schedule of continuing his education in Boston was prohibitive. “As a parent and working adult, it was difficult to continue my education in college due to overlapping schedules in both my class and work,” Haile explained. To sustain his family, each day he would wake up before dawn and arrive home late every night after commuting to several jobs across the city.

Haile’s hopes for education were dashed. But they were rekindled when his wife shared a flyer for MNN nonprofit member Just-A-Start (JAS) Corporation’s Information Technology Careers program.

The IT Careers Program is a nine-month, tuition-free training program for low- to moderate-income adults looking to enter quality careers with opportunities for upward economic mobility. Through classwork, paid internship placements, and career counseling, students learn the hard and soft skills necessary for success in an IT user support position in an encouraging, supportive environment. In January, JAS launched their inaugural class with Haile and five other men and nine women from seven different countries.

Haile enthusiastically took the opportunity to further his education and develop his career while still being able to balance his work and family obligations. Today, Haile still juggles a busy schedule, attending the IT Careers Program in the morning and afternoon and continuing on to work for a parking company in the evenings, but his goals for his future are finally in sight. After program graduation, he hopes to secure a single steady job and continue his education by taking college courses at night in engineering and IT. “The beginning was hard, but I got through it with hope and hard work,” Haile said. “Now I have a bright future. I’m flexible, and I won’t give up.”

Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, JAS is dedicated to building the housing security and economic stability of low- to moderate-income people in Cambridge and nearby communities. The launch of the IT Careers Program is a step forward for increased access to workforce training programs in different industries, allowing JAS to help even more adults achieve their goals of economic stability and career growth. Modeled after their Biomedical Careers Program, graduates of JAS programs have increased their earnings, accessed new employee benefits, and earned promotions, securing their financial futures and helping them to achieve their long-term goals. This past month, JAS received a $500,000 grant from ECMC Foundation–the largest philanthropic gift it has ever received–to grow its IT Careers Program.

Nonprofits like JAS build a bridge to stable, sustaining careers for thousands of low-income Massachusetts workers every year. The dedication of JAS is seen in every MNN nonprofit member. They are essential players in efforts to build brighter futures and stronger communities.

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Nonprofit members can click here to submit a Member Spotlight and share a story that best illustrates the positive impact their organization has in their community

Member Spotlight: Jewish Family Service of Metrowest

War and poverty have displaced millions of people across the globe on an unprecedented scale. In Massachusetts, nonprofit organizations and the people that power them are working on the front lines with families living in our communities seeking refuge from this strife.

MNN nonprofit member Jewish Family Service (JFS) of Metrowest is engaged with Jewish Family Service Syrian Refugee Humanitarian Project. The project is a coalition across eastern Massachusetts that includes synagogues, Islamic centers, academia, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, HIAS, and the medical community to provide safety, hope, and opportunity to Syrian war refugees. These are stories of victims of war, including young children, who have experienced great hardship after fleeing for their lives to Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey.

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JFS of Metrowest worker (second from left) with children from refugee families.

Lucia Carballo Panichella, LICSW, is one of the people working to make refugees feel at home. She is the Director of Immigrant Services at JFS and the project leader for the JFS Syrian Refugee Humanitarian Project. Lucia leads the full operations team of staff and volunteers. There are over 250 volunteers working on the project at multiple synagogues, Islamic Centers, Syrian-American organizations, and JFS. Several dozen of these volunteers are directly involved with the lives of Syrian refugee families. All aspects of creating the various pathways to stabilization and success fall under Lucia’s capable leadership. Every parent, child, and volunteer has direct ties to Lucia.

Last spring, Lucia, Marc Jacobs, CEO of JFS of Metrowest, and Edward and Barbara Shapiro were honored with the Sharp Prize from the Joukowsky Family Foundation. The work of Sharp Prize recipients exemplifies the value that each individual has to step forward, transform, and even save a life.

Now more than ever, those involved with the support and resettlement of refugees deserve to be recognized. The number of people across the world forcibly displaced from their homes last year was at its highest level in recorded history: at present, it is estimated at over 65.6 million people.

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Nonprofit members can click here to submit a Member Spotlight and share a story that best illustrates the positive impact their organization has in their community

Member Spotlight: The Dignity Institute

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Siena is pictured above with Alex Diaz (center), champion break dancer and Dance Artist at The Dignity Institute.

“I want to be invisible.”

These were the first words that staff at The Dignity Institute heard spoken by 11-year-old Siena when they met her at a Boys and Girls Club. Hidden in the protection of the back row, sinking into the comforting cave of the hoodie that covered her face, it was clear that Siena meant every word.

Staff at the Dignity Institute are no strangers to hard-to-reach kids like Siena. Their mission is to connect underserved youth to college, a career, or entrepreneurship by awakening their purpose and passion through learning life skills and the urban arts. They approach this mission from the principle of respect: everyone, no matter their life circumstances or background, deserves to be treated with dignity.

Over the course of their 8-week hip-hop dance program, Siena was transformed.

Her hoodie was pushed back to reveal a contagious smile. Her spot in the back row was slowly abandoned in favor of a position at the front of the stage. Siena became a leader among her peers, offering suggestions for improvement and giving hugs of encouragement. By the day of the final performance, Siena had transformed into a vibrant, curious individual confident that her presence matters, her voice matters, and that she is worthy of being heard.

Learn more about The Dignity Institute at www.thedignityinstitute.org.

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This is the first in a new series, Member Spotlights, that aim to promote awareness of the impact of our nonprofit members. All members are encouraged to share stories that best illustrate the positive impact they have in their community. Nonprofit members can click here to submit a Member Spotlight.