Celebrating 20 years of Project D.E.E.P.

One of Dorchester’s most important institutions is marking its 20th year this week. Project D.E.E.P., the Dorchester Educational Enrichment Program based at the Leahy-Holloran Community Center, will celebrate this milestone at its annual Volunteer and Student Recognition Night on Friday evening at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate on Columbia Point.

Project D.E.E.P. was the brainchild of Dorchester’s own Brendan P. McDonough, who had the vision for an after-school tutoring program that has grown into a multi-faceted, highly successful model for enhancing academics in the city. What started modestly with about 50 children has grown to serve more than 250 Dorchester children each year.

What makes Project D.E.E.P.’s success particularly gratifying is that is a home-grown effort, with older teens and young adults reaching back to assist their younger neighbors who might need extra help in math, reading, or test preparation. The tutors are quite often helped as much as the younger kids, because their experiences as mentor are invaluable as they set off for high school and college. D.E.E.P. has helped to make our neighborhood stronger by forming bonds between Dorchester people who might not otherwise have connected.

The organization has also been instrumental in giving young people from our community a direct bridge to some of the region’s most prestigious private and parochial schools through regular events aimed at recruitment and financial aid. And D.E.E.P.’s annual calendar – featuring the artwork of Celia McDonough, Brendan’s talented mom – has helped to build civic pride while also supporting the program with holiday sales.

D.E.E.P.’s annual celebration has been a memorable occasion from the inception. In 1998, the Reporter covered one of the first such recognition nights, in which Travis Roy, then 22, spoke movingly about his battle to recover from a devastating hockey injury. D.E.E.P.’s then executive director, John Hanlon, wrote at the time: “If May 15, 1998, is still remembered 20 years from now, it will be this young man’s courageous speech to the children of Project D.E.E.P. that will hold a place in our memories.”

The Reporter has been pleased to document the consistent progress of Project D.E.E.P. since 1996. The program is a model that should be replicated in cities and towns far beyond our borders. We congratulate Brendan McDonough and his team for the continued success of Dorchester’s own Project D.E.E.P. Here’s for 20 more years.

Friday’s Student and Volunteer Recognition Night starts at 6 p.m. The keynote speaker will be Joe Andruzzi, a former New England Patriot and a cancer survivor. A donation of $25 per family is suggested. For more information, visit projectdeep.org or contact beth@projectdeep.org.

Bill Forry is the publisher and editor of the Reporter.