The City School Celebrates 20th Summer Leadership Program

On August 14, 2014, at the Summer Leadership Program's graduation ceremony, Jonathan Mendoza '14, a first-year SLP participant this summer, stood up to read a poem that he had written for the community. Here's an excerpt of that piece:

"This SLPY / this voice / this youth / this community / this never forgetting from / where we come / or from what we be / this knowing / that one world is not enough to defeat us / that a bond unseen is a bond unbreakable...with these hearts that we hold / that we hold / these hearts / -- this heart."

Jonathan's words capture the powerful spirit that imbued SLP '14. With 84 young people, this summer's SLP was the second largest in The City School's twenty year history. A total 95 percent of our staff were returning staff or graduates of SLP. This summer's SLP partnered with Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción and was based out of the beautiful Villa Victoria Center for the Arts. Young people engaged in an intensive curriculum around race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, and then in dynamic seminars on topics like Women of Color in Social Movements, Violence and Liberation, Environmental Justice, Health Equity, and Economic Justice. Chris Jimenez '14, shared, "As other schools do, my school doesn't educate its students on many of the systems I got to learn about at SLP like racism, classism, heterosexism, and sexism."

Highlights of SLP 2014 included a heightened focus on youth-led organizing and action and an improved structure for youth support. David Noiles, who taught Environmental Justice for the third summer, reflected, "This summer, I felt like we gave young people a real chance to lead. Marches, rallies, assembly, seminar etc..." In addition to seminars, returning second-year participants, called Emerging Leaders, led groups of their peers in Community Action Projects (CAP) to address issues that affect their lives.

This summer's Community Action Projects focused on gentrification, black intra-segregation, women in the media, capitalism in the media, hip-hop, and the prison industrial complex. A highlight for many young people was the entire program marching and rallying to City Hall in partnership with the Youth Justice and Power Union, where young people led a flash mob and die-in to highlight Mayor Walsh's unfulfilled commitment to increase funding for youth jobs. Additionally, young people led marches to Victoria's Secret and Starbucks, educating customers on those companies' use of prison labor, and to Whole Foods, highlighting the effects of gentrification in Jamaica Plain.

An additional change this year was a new structure for youth support called "Being Space." Young people were split into smaller family groups of 4-6 people that met for an hour each day to process and reflect, engaging in activities around connecting to ourselves, the community, the earth and our futures. Claudia Martinez, who returned as Youth Support Manager for the second summer and developed this curriculum, shared, "One of the main things that the program accomplished this summer was making sure that youth felt seen, heard and loved."

Or, in the closing words of Jonathan's poem, SLP '14 "felt like blood. It felt like family."