IBA’s Youth Development Program
With its heart in Villa Victoria, an affordable housing neighborhood in Boston’s South End, IBA—Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción—a community empowerment organization, provides a wide array of humanities opportunities for low-income students through its Youth Development Program. By focusing on the education of the whole student, this program provides after-school and summer workshops and internships; college and career counseling; and educational, emotional, and social supports—all to prepare students not only to meet the day-to-day challenges in their lives, but also to launch successfully into futures brilliant with possibility.
IBA’s Youth Development Program workshops showcase the humanities in ways that allow 13- to 19-year-olds to practice civic engagement and social justice. During the school year, from October through May, students choose two workshops from an array that focuses on a variety of areas in the humanities and arts, including theater study, history, poetry analysis, and design study. Alternative Histories is one such workshop and features a media studies curriculum. First, students explore the connection between “culture” and “status” in the telling of U.S. history. Then, they analyze current media representations with the intention of retelling these stories, to give voice to communities of color.
Youth Organizing, a popular inquiry-based humanities workshop, enables participants to become actively involved in a campaign to study community issues and to create change. Past issues have included affordable public transit, climate change, and budgeting for youth jobs. IBA youth showcase their workshop projects at Boston’s Hibernian Hall, as well as during the annual Festival Betances, a weekend-long event that celebrates Puerto Rican culture and heritage.
Many students find their gift for leadership and voice for change through IBA’s theater and spoken-word workshops. Youth also take their stories and studies on the road, by competing in such high-caliber spoken-word events as Louder Than a Bomb. Some have even brought their messages to the Massachusetts State House.
The Youth Development Program began in 2003 and continues to be innovative. IBA’s powerful humanities workshops allow students to grow in and give back to the community, often returning as mentors. Many factors contribute to this program’s positive impact, including the creative development curriculum, success coaching, its focus on employment, and the dedication of its professional staff. In fact, IBA’s Youth Development Program boasts a 100 percent graduation rate for participants and placement in colleges and vocational schools.
The forms of expression the youth choose in a program cycle are not only ways to address the issues that they face, but to celebrate and feel pride in where they come from, as well. There is a lot of pride expressed about our cultures, histories, and languages; the color of our skin; and the backgrounds of our families. You have to feel that to be able to effect change.Vanessa Calderón-Rosado Chief Executive Officer, IBA—Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción