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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMB Receives $50,000 in Grant Funding for Harbor Point Outreach Partnership

The University of Massachusetts Boston received a $50,000 Commonwealth Corps grant from the Patrick Administration last August for its Harbor Point Outreach Partnership (HPOP) aimed at rebuilding the Harbor Point community and addressing its unmet educational needs.

The grant facilitates mentoring, tutoring, technology workshops and access to higher learning by UMB students and residents of the Harbor Point apartment community.

Twelve low-income, first-generation college students of color attending UMB from every school and college at the university were recruited to the Commonwealth Corps membership to serve in the partnership for the 2008-2009 school year.

Aside from attending a service-learning course at UMB once a week, student members serve as weekly volunteers at the Harbor Point community tutoring and mentoring primarily young residents.

The student members must complete 400 hours of volunteer service and are eligible for a living stipend of up to $2500 over the course of the year, as well as a possible $500 completion bonus.

Senior Assistant to the Vice Chancellor in the Office of Athletics and Recreation Jain Ruvidich-Higgins said that since mentoring, tutoring, IT workshops and access to higher education are all needs that the Harbor Point community wanted addressed, the partnership differs from typical grants where universities impose their will on communities.

“A key part of our philosophy in all of our community outreach is that the community members identify the community needs,” she said. “When they [University staff] first started working with Harbor Point years ago, the approach was that we were the university experts and were going to tell you what you need and that creates a lot of tension and doesn’t solve problems. Now we’ve certainly taken a different approach at Harbor Point and made it a very democratic relationship.”

Joan Arches, the HPOP’s principal investigator-a term used to refer to the primary leader of any grant-who teaches the service-learning course at UMB, said that even though a similar program between UMB and the Harbor Point Community had been running for the last two years, the additional $50,000 received from the partnership grant will make a world of a difference for student members.

“Students have to do way more hours [than previous years] and they get the stipend from the Commonwealth Corp, which really helps, because there are expenses involved in tutoring.” said Arches. “Some of our students do additional work outside of this and some of them are parents, so this enables them to have a little extra money.”

Beth Barrett, a Program Officer from the Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA)-a nonprofit organization that serves as the state commission on community service and volunteerism which is administering the HPOP-said the partnership will benefit both UMB students and Harbor Point residents.

“It will not only address the need for computer technology development amongst youth and adult residents of Harbor Point, but will also provide its Commonwealth Corps members valuable skills through leading technology workshops, supporting volunteer generation, and reflecting on community service in their service-learning class at UMass Boston,” she said.

The grant, set to fund the partnership for one year, is supported by partners from the Walter Denney Youth Center and Housing Opportunities Unlimited.

UMB was one of 36 public and nonprofit organizations to receive Commonwealth Corp grant funding from the Governor’s office totaling $2.4 million.

Olesia can be reached at [email protected]