Boston Mayor Martin Walsh was the keynote speaker at Project Dorchester Education Enrichment Program (Project DEEP ) Recognition Night on May 16 at the IBEW Hall. The event was held to acknowledge the accomplishments of the students who earned scholarships to a summer camp of the students’ choosing through Project DEEP’s tutoring program. It also recognized the efforts of the high school students who volunteer to tutor the younger students.
In his remarks, Walsh praised Project DEEP, which is based at the city-owned Leahy-Holloran Community Center, as a program that should be replicated throughout the Boston Public School system. “It is like the one thing that is missing as far as creating a strong after school program,” said Walsh.
According to Project DEEP’s president and founder Brendan McDonough, the program is currently working with “about 250-300 different families across all the different programs [exam preparation program,parochial and private school placement, Latin, tutoring].” The programs are funded on a $180,000 annual budget.
“It only works because we are able to leverage our volunteer network which you will see with all the kids here tonight, the resources of the community center,and summer camp programs,” explained McDonough. “If a summer camp costs $300 we might get it for $100 through our connections with all the different summer camps.
“We ask them to serve as an incentive to our students to go to tutoring, and to do their reading and writing assignments. Because if they do that then they will get to go to a baseball camp or a football camp or take piano lessons over the summer, whatever the students is interested in.”
Walsh directed most of his remarks to the young people in the audience. He spoke plainly about “bad decisions” he made when he younger, telling the students that he ignored his parents’ insistence that he pursue a college degree and worked in construction instead.
“I went and worked in construction for awhile and I was having fun. I was partying, I was doing all the things that I thought was fun to do. I started to develop a problem with drinking. ... It turned out to be a big problem for me and eventually that problem led me to have to go to detox and what that means is that you have to go to a place because you couldn’t stop drinking on your own,” Walsh told the crowd. “In that time that I thought I was having fun what I was actually doing was disappointing everyone around me. I was disappointing my parents, my friends, my boss. I was disappointing a whole bunch of people around me because I wasn’t listening to them.”
Walsh told the students he realized he needed to make major changes in his life. “I should have listened to my parents when they said to me do your homework, I should have listened to my parents when they said be in at a certain time, I didn’t always listen to them. When I went to detox I realized that my life was way behind where I wanted it to be.”
Walsh went back to school, working days and taking classes at night, ran for and was elected state representative in 1997 and earned his degree from Boston College in 2009. Last year, he was elected mayor of Boston.
“The reason why I told you that story is that success, being successful, whether it is in eighth grade, high school, college, law school, whatever it may be, it is a long road. It is a long road and there are going to be bumps along way on that long road.” Walsh said, “Never give up. Keep going you keep moving forward.”
Walsh also spoke of a visit he had made earlier in the day to a young boy who has been diagnosed with lymphoma. Walsh himself overcame Burkitt’s lymphoma when he was young. He told the audience how the boy has had to miss school and is unable to play baseball to remind the students to, “just be grateful for what you have, and for being able to do the things you do.”
The tutoring program is Project DEEP’s longest running program. This year, 88 out of 100 students who enrolled in the tutoring program completed the requirements necessary to earn a summer camp scholarship. Awards were given for the most academic points, most well-written essay, and most community service hours served. In total the students served 1,216 community service hours.
McDonough views the tutors role as a mentor to the younger students. “The [younger student] is getting academic training, learning study skills, and while they are being forced to write papers with their tutor, it is really a relationship being built. It is so nice to be paired up with someone who is a high school junior or senior.”
Hannah Buckley, a sophomore at Boston Collegiate Charter School, was awarded the Dr. Thomas S. Durant Memorial award in recognition of her extra effort. She tutored three students based on her positive experience as a Project DEEP student. “I was a student in Project DEEP in middle school. I know I really appreciated having older kids help me with my work,” she said.
Students earn academic points based on their tutorss assessments of their work during tutoring sessions. The students must earn at least 50 academic points to earn a summer camp scholarship. The winners of the 100 Point Medal included: (5th Grade) Brendan Kaszanek, Lilian Mannion, Dylan McDonough, Nolan McKenna, Ava Meaney, David Nguyen, Tim Pugliese, Regina Rescigno, Jaelyn Willett; (6th Grade) Madison Coughlin, Thomas Donahue, MaryKate Gaffney, Thomas Gillis, Will Hingston, Andrew McKenna, Erin Sheil; (7th Grade) Joseph Connolly & Kevin Mannion; (8th Grade) Sean Connolly & Sean Mannion.
The Bronze Medal went to fifth grader Nolan McKenna, with 154 points. The Silver Medal was awarded to sixth grader Andrew McKenna, with 155 points. The Gold Medal —and the Dottie Barry Memorial Award for most points overall — went to fifth grader Jaelyn Willett, who earned 241 points.
Sean Connolly was the recipient of the John F. Cunningham Graduate Award for the eighth grader who has been involved with Project DEEP since fifth grade and has the highest total of points throughout the entire four years. Sixth grader Thomas Gillis received the Alice C. Sweeney Essay Writing Award for highest scores on DEEP essays. Jaelyn Willett also won the Daniel A. O’Hara Community Service Award for most logged hours of service during academic year.