Exploring Boston’s Neighborhoods with Education in the Community Students

By Spring 2018 Service-Learning Teaching Assistant for Education in the Community Lauren Silva

Boston, MA (photo source: Pixabay)

Exploring Boston’s Neighborhoods

This spring, students in the Education in the Community Service-Learning course, taught by Polly Attwood, completed a neighborhood walk, individual reflection, and group presentation for their Exploring Boston’s Neighborhoods project. The neighborhoods included Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, South End, The Fenway, Dorchester/Bowdoin-Geneva, and Egleston Square. Just a few weeks after students began their service among 10 Community Partners, they asked a staff member or young person at their site to identify three significant places to visit for their neighborhood walk. Through this process, students learned to move within their community, learned from the young people and staff with whom they work, and moved beyond “single stories.” In their individual reflections, students shared some new insights regarding what it means to educate in a community. Finally, students integrated these insights with research regarding the history and demographics of their neighborhoods in a group presentation.




Student Reflections

“This class, including this project, has taught me more about Boston in less than two months than what I have learned in the past eight years living in the area. I did not learn this history in school.” -Student from Cambride, MA

“Because Balfour is not made up of Fenway residents, I always saw it as part of the Northeastern community itself, which it is as well. However, now I recognize that Balfour represents the collaboration between public schools, universities, and families (on a meso level) in order to come together to strengthen the community and unite the people of Boston, even those of different suburbs and subcultures.” -Student from Montauk, NY

“I have to learn to ask more questions, to listen to what my students at St. Peter’s have to say, and to be open to gaining knowledge about topics I am unfamiliar with.Therefore, I have to take these new insights that I gained about the Bowdoin-Geneva community and ask questions about them. Perhaps I can try and learn what the teens at St. Peter’s think. For instance, just today I was helping a student write an essay on his experience coming from Cape Verde to the United States. Next week, I could ask him how the Bowdoin-Geneva community compares to his community back home. By asking this, I will gain knowledge from a completely new point of view and hopefully be able to understand the situation he is in a little better. If I do this with all the students, then I will be able to see through their perspectives much better and thus be a better mentor for them…. I believe that it means to work with those who are reaching towards the same goal as you. I have to educate my students and at the same time allow them to educate me. As I continue my time at St. Peter’s, asking questions and learning from others is something I will be more than willing to do.” -Student from Tyngsboro, MA

“When I heard the presentation of other groups in class today, I felt that the neighborhoods within Boston have such big differences. And when I was presenting, I saw many people surprised about the demographics of Roxbury and all the statistics. I found that Boston to me is not a big city, and every neighborhood is so different from others and there are so many things we can look into [to understand what] causes the phenomenon [of these differences] today. A place only 20 minutes’ walk from Northeastern is a completely different environment.” -Student from China

“As a Boston native, when I hear of Jamaica Plain, the immediate picture that comes to my mind is of a white and wealthy neighborhood. In thinking about how I viewed the Latin Quarter prior to this project, I had the tendency to cast the area off as the other side of Jamaica Plain. Why? Because it did not coincide with the predominately white picture of Jamaica Plain that I had adopted throughout my upbringing. While 54-percent of Jamaica Plain residents are white, I was using such information to create my own single-story of the community: white, rich, perhaps snobbish. However, by associating that one demographic as a representation of the whole community, I was inadvertently silencing the peoples of color who comprise the rest of the picture. Without acknowledging the racial complexities within Jamaica Plain, I deprived peoples of color within the community of the ability to advocate for themselves and make their struggles heard. If I continue to listen to the single-story I created, I am inclined to believe that everything is fine and dainty in Jamaica Plain.” -Student from Boston, MA


Interested in exploring Boston’s neighborhoods through an asset-based community development lens? Learn more about our Service-Learning Street Team! Additionally, check out our map of Boston to explore the neighborhoods and community partners Service-Learning has worked with during 2017-2018!

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