Here I am

Here I am, finally! It has been a long summer. I happily accepted this Coop at Sport in Society during the last leg of my sophomore year at Northeastern University. Since starting here, I have been trying to explain, and failing, what exactly my job entails. It has been nearly three weeks since myself and the other co-coops started here at SIS, and I finally think I am at the point where I can somewhat describe what I do.
My time here is split three different ways, two days a week, I am at the East Boston and the Wang YMCA, and on Thursdays I am at the Belvedere Sport in Society office. Our roles at the YMCAs are to work closely with guidance and direction with the Teen Directors of the Ys as consultants, resources, and program developers. Often times however, the directors at the Ys are so busy that I am forced to step up and follow through with my own projects; which I fully embrace. 
My schedule ensures every work day is different, which is great for me considering I’m generally not one for structure. I have been working closely with fellow Coop Rachel Shanley, as she is also stationed at the East Boston and Wang YMCAs. Working with Rachel has been great, we share similar interests and have been very successful in communicating and working towards common goals.
The Wang and East Boston are not alike, and the differences are very stark. East Boston has incredible amounts of space along with beautiful new facilities but smaller number of teens for programming, whereas the Wang is the opposite, boasting great numbers of teens while being completely starved for space; they also have much more antiquated facilities.  Initially, I focused on how I could partner East Boston and the Wang in a way that is mutually beneficial, but I have yet to come up with a solid solution thus far. However, I have been in contact with a number of different organizations in an effort to try to build community partnerships with organizations such as The New England Aquarium, The Boston Cannons, and The Reebok Foundation, among others.
This process has been extremely fun and beneficial for me. Talking to these large organizations under the strong brands of the YMCA and Sport in Society have allowed me to gain instant credibility when contacting them, and have aided greatly in my quest to broaden the scope of teen programming at the Wang and East Boston. Just yesterday I was contacted by the Reebok Foundation about a possible grant for the Wang.
The Chinatown Y is placed near the center of Boston, just a two minute walk from the Boston Commons. The facility has a large space on its roof with rubberized flooring that would be fantastic for a number of ball sports and activities, unfortunately the walling is only about 5 feet high, meaning there is great danger of sending balls over the side and hitting cars. Therefore, this space is wasted due to the lack of a literal “safety net” that would stop anything from flying over the edge. Without this space all the Wang has for physical activity is a basketball court, a pool and a spread out gym, which is simply not enough for the number of memberships they have.  This prompted me to give the Reebok foundation a call and left a message explaining the predicament and I am now in the process of working out a proposal that could potentially get the Wang a free net. I am extremely excited to keep working and making a noticeable difference at the Wang and East Boston.
So here I am, at Sport in Society, making a difference!

Getting to know Hyde Park

The start of my co-op here at Sport in Society has me at the Hyde Park YMCA.  I am working directly with another co-op, Demetrius Biggs.  Neither Demetrius nor myself were significantly knowledgeable about the area, so in our first week here we sought out to examine Hyde Park.  What is the community like?  Who are the members?  We wanted to better understand the area and people we will be working with for the next 5 ½ months.

A quick walk through Clearly Square, where the YMCA is located, gave us a snapshot of what Hyde Park is made of.  What we saw was encouraging.  A local pizza shop employee spoke highly of the community and the neighboring YMCA.  She knew YMCA staff members by name and went on to explain that she feels safe walking to and from work.  Beyond the pizza shop Demetrius and I observed a diverse collection of local businesses, along with a few chain stores, and members of the community walking around.  There did exist a couple empty storefronts, but we came to the conclusion that this neighborhood was on the upswing.

Inside the YMCA I was eager to know more about the teen members.  During the first couple of days at Hyde Park the teens were shy and hesitant to open up to us.  I guess I was also shy towards them as well.  After all, the Teen Center or “The Zone” is a special place for teens and we were the newcomers.  Eventually, Demetrius and I discovered common interests with the kids and communication really opened up.  Talking about sports, music and pop culture served as a sort of icebreaker.  Once we could get a solid conversation going it was easy to get to know the individual personalities of the kids.

I’m looking forward to talking and working out with the teens throughout the remainder of my co-op.  Each day I learn something new about them and where they come from.  Also, I think they are genuinely interested my role at the Hyde Park YMCA along with getting to know me, too. For tomorrow, a group of girls have expressed interest in doing a track related workout.  I’m excited to give them a glimpse of what I practice everyday and learn from the girls what they’d like to get out of their YMCA experience.

Posted by Courtney Mortimer

First week on site at the Wang YMCA

This past week was our first time looking at YMCA programming to observe how the Y runs.  I spent my first week at the Wang YMCA, where I learned a lot of valuable information about how YMCAs bring in the public to participate in programs, whether it be youth, young adult or elder related.  During the week, Liz and I observed and partially participated in the camp program at the Y, spending our first day with 7-8 year olds, second with 9-10 year old, third with 11-12 year olds and lastly our fourth day we spent with preschool  kids.

Having already worked in the aquatics department of my town’s YMCA, I knew a lot about YMCA programming, however, I had never observed the breadth of programming across all age groups, so it was interesting for me to see it in action. As a coop student at Sport in Society it will be exciting over the next six months as we learn how not-for-profit organizations, like the Y, create a structure that can build capacity and sustainability, and that can be used for the long haul.

Posted by Tom Demers

Two weeks through

As the two weeks of training come to a close I am still left with many questions. Being a BPS co-op in a field designed for the YMCA co-op has been a challenging but informative process. At first I had little knowledge of what I was at Sport in Society to do, or even what they did as an organization. I started to learn what the YMCA co-op needed to do and started to embrace their position as if it were my own. I find the Dodge motto “Grab life by the horns” lead me through this training. I decided to embrace what we were doing, and train as if the YMCA would be my placement for my 6 months at Sport in Society.

This initial period seemed tiresome at times but was helpful to open my eyes to a unfamiliar world of non-profits. BPS, being a huge struggling urban district, holds many problems of it’s own. Aristotle once said, “What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.” Many problems that the YMCA faces are common within those of BPS. Hopefully with what we learned, and Sport in Society’s support, we can make a positive change within BPS’ organization. Education of the logic model and organizational learning will be important to recognizing some of the goals that BPS should strive for, and how we as a team can meet them.

Posted by Brett Fink