South Boston Outreach Summer

The Problem

With 3 out of every 5 residents having lived in South Boston for fewer than five years, it is not surprising that South Boston is experiencing racial and socioeconomic friction. Despite its rapidly shifting demographics, the key indicators for the health of the community have remained relatively constant. South Boston’s substance abuse mortality rate has slightly increased between the years 2001 (50 deaths per 100,000 population) and 2006 (52.6 deaths per 100,000 population). Moreover, in 2006, the hospitalization rate for substance abuse in South Boston was 5.8 hospitalizations per 1,000 population, nearly double the rate of Boston (3.3 hospitalizations per 1,000 population). As the city neighborhood with the highest mortality rate, South Boston struggles with two of the leading causes of mortality, substance abuse and injury (including suicide). As a result, the South Boston community has made a concerted effort to focus on youth and community assets. More specifically, the South Boston Action Council has implemented a youth assets research campaign, highlighting assets present within South Boston’s youth. The results from the South Boston Youth Assets Survey reveal the importance of programming that contributes to a strong sense of personal power and opportunities for youth to feel valued by the community. Although more than 1 in 4 teens will have used alcohol and more than 1 in 10 teens will have smoked cigarettes or marijuana by the end of middle school, the survey also indicates that youth “with a strong sense of personal power are 34% less likely to use substances.” Similarly, the results point to how South Boston youth are an untapped resource; even though 73% of teens do some form of community service, only 45% say someone has asked them to help on service or volunteer projects in the past year.

Plan of Action

In order to benefit the youth who attend SBOS, the camp will use experiential-learning workshops that contribute to the campers’ sense of personal power and empowerment. This summer, for the first time in the program’s history, SBOS is incorporating an evidenced-based substance abuse prevention curriculum, Second Step, to better achieve our goal of deterring risk behaviors and substance abuse. This curriculum, Second Step, helps prevent substance abuse by reducing risk factors (peer rejection, impulsiveness, friendships with others who use substances) and increasing protective factors (social skills, school connectedness, adoption of conventional norms about substance use). Providing our campers the opportunity to safely share their experiences will encourage discussion among campers, their families, and the greater South Boston community. Also, the camp plans to implement an experiential-learning workshop entitled Media in the Community. With the active participation of community partners like the newspaper South Boston Online, Media in the Community will teach our campers six distinct skills: reporting, interviewing, communication, computer design, digital photography, and darkroom photography. After having learned those skills, each classroom will use them to report on their camp, field trips, and neighborhood experiences. This workshop culminates in the publication of a camp yearbook that will be distributed to families, friends, and community leaders, demonstrating to all that youth deserve to have a voice in South Boston.

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