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Residents Find Another Form of Family at Dorchester's Bird Street Community Center

Every community has to find a way to provide for their children of their own accord. They need to provide and support education, afterschool activities, and a culture in order to keep children interested, involved, and most importantly, out of trouble. A rich community life can provide children the best start, and in turn, a successful life as they enter adulthood.

At Bird Street Community Center, they understand that. As an integral part of the children's community, Bird Street has one mission in mind: "To instill in youth and young adults the intellectual, social, and leadership competencies to deal effectively with daily challenges, strive for academic success, and pursue employment opportunities." They do this through several outlets, including afterschool programs, youth development, and personal development programs for all age ranges.

"We want to ensure that high-risk, inner-city children, youth, and young adults have the experiences, skills, and support to make healthy choices and succeed in all the 'next steps' of their lives: middle school, high school, college, vocational school, and employment," explains Jaclyn Barbarow, Development Director of Bird Street Community Center. "Rather than looking at how Dorchester helps Bird Street thrive, we look at how Bird Street can be a partner to the Dorchester community, and how we can help them thrive."

According to Barbarow, the facility was originally launched in 1902 as a public gym. In 1978, local community members banded together to form the non-profit organization, the Bird Street Community Center. It started out as a drop-in youth center located within the gym, and by the mid-eighties, began offering afterschool child care for elementary students.

By 1990, they merged their youth development programs with full academic support, leading to the structured programming they now offer. "Today, the organization has two departments," Barbarow states. "School-Age Child Care, which serves two hundred and fifty children ages five to twelve, through school-based afterschool programs around Boston; and Youth Development, which provides academic support, job readiness, and personal development programs to more than three hundred youth and young adults ages ten to twenty-two."

Programs offered by the Bird Street Community Center include the Homework Room and Tutoring for all students, Math Is Not My Enemy for young women, and Connections to College for high school students and graduates, Workforce Development, Arts Entrepreneurship, and Youth Councils.

There are athletic programs such as several structured basketball leagues, open gym time, Basketball Boot Camp, and drop-in activities like flag football, kickball, volleyball, dodgeball, soccer, and floor hockey. There are also additional activities like discussion groups, brain games, poetry groups, Yu-gi-oh Club, Chess Club, and much, much more.

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