The SCI Dorchester Youth Council (DYC) is a dynamic group of 14 teenagers that are committed to improving their community through community service learning projects, youth philanthropy, and peer education of community service learning. The program is voluntary, with no monetary compensation for participation. To date, the SCI Dorchester Youth Council has earned over 1,000 combined community service-learning hours since October 2005. This group of youths exemplifies the meaning of service through their dedication to their projects and their sheer will to change the stereotype of youth in the Dorchester, MA community.
Through a community needs assessment, DYC identified youth violence, peer pressure, sexual education, and bridging communities with diverse individuals. They chose to address these issues in a number of innovative and divers ways, such as youth philanthropy and community service learning. The youth council kicked off the service year with the second annual Trick-or-Treat Canned food Drive to benefit local food pantries; a project that collected over 300 cans to support local food pantries that suffered in donations after Hurricane Katrina. It was through this first introduction into community service learning work that DYC began to understand the crucial role in which service is essential to their community.
Their roles as youth representatives were solidified as planning aides for mayor Menino’s Dorchester Avenue Youth Summit. DYC members met every week with community leaders and the Boston Redevelopment Authority to plan an event that would gauge youth interest in how youth would like to see improvements along Dorchester Avenue, a main road in the city’s largest neighborhood. DYC youth also facilitated youth discussions around these topics at this event. Two DYC members were also nominated and selected by Mayor Menino to serve on the Dorchester Avenue Task Force, the first time in city history that youth have been appointed to a city task force.
In youth-led meetings, DYC also organizes and plans two major service-learning projects: Safe Love and the Mini-Grant. These two projects represent a bigger picture of service for the DYC members. In December, DYC wrote and distributed a grant application for Dorchester youth and Dorchester youth programs that complete community service learning projects. DYC receives $10,000 from the Massachusetts Service Alliance for this project, as well as an additional $10,000 from Sovereign Bank to supplement the funding as well as to provide support for mini-grant events. In December, DYC members hosted a community meeting to release the grant application, which was due in January. After receiving 28 grant applications, DYC facilitated interviews with applicants, as well as a 5-hour deliberation session in which members advocated for projects that they felt addressed an urgent community need.
DYC settled on 8 projects to fund, which were announced at Safe Love, DYC’s annual Valentine-themed party that promotes healthy relationships and positive alternatives for Dorchester youth in a safe and fun environment. The event was a great success, with over 200 Dorchester youth in attendance and 12 resource organizations.
It is through their commitment to bettering the community through addressing community needs that the SCI Dorchester Youth Council is an absolutely example of points of light in Dorchester.