BOSTON (CBS) – An organization that started here in Massachusetts 80 years ago to give kids from the city a “fresh air experience” has a new improved mission today. “Crossroads” is a program that gives children from economically challenged backgrounds the chance to experience camp and other opportunities that they might not have at school and for high school students that means the chance to be a leader and to learn how to give back.
An historic spot in Duxbury called “The Duxbury Stockade at Camp Wing” has been in operation since the 1930’s, so now it’s undergoing a renovation. Crossroads President Simon Hess says, “This building holds countless memories and it’s a very safe place for kids to be all summer.” Tens of thousands of children have come through the Crossroads program, and it now serves 1,000 children a year from Boston and Brockton.
Students like Greta Zukauskaite whose family came to the United States from Lithuania when she was five have been through the Crossroads program. After college and graduate school in London, Greta came back to work for Crossroads as Community Action Coordinator. She says, “I think it’s just so important to give everybody an opportunity and a chance to be a kid, have fun, but also focus on the things that are going to build your future.”
President Simon Hess is a veteran educator who spent ten years in the classroom as a teacher and then ten years as a school Principal. “At Crossroads,” Hess adds, “we’re able to provide students with those access to opportunities and experiences that they need to really develop those skills that are going to help them to be successful in school and their lives, and in their post-secondary pathway.”
He stresses that “C-5 students” who are in 8th – 12th grades undergo leadership training as well as help with college and career plans, but they also embrace community service; each cohort in C-5 will complete 10,000 hours of community service over the course of their five years in the program.
“So many of the messages that young people in this country receive is: you’re not ready yet or the contribution that you have to make isn’t significant. By explicitly saying to them: ‘you have value, you have a great deal to offer’ it really inspires them to realize that they can shape their destiny, they can build the future that they want to see.”
The C-5 Program is for highly motivated students and it is competitive. Hundreds of students apply to join the program and only about 100 are selected. They bond over camping trips in New England or out west with NOLS – the National Outdoor Leadership School. Students like Roxbury Prep Sophomore Jasiah Woodberry say the experience has changed the way they see themselves.
“At my school, I’m Vice-President,” Woodberry says, “and I could never see myself doing that when I was in the 8th grade, and I wanted to be a football player, and now I can do something different. That’s one thing C-5 really taught me how to do.”
Brother and sister Isaiah and Ava Satter-White who attend Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School in Hyde Park have learned to lean on each other, but also to forge their own path to college.
Ava says, “It’s helped me in being professional and standing up for myself, and being able to take on those leadership opportunities whereas I wouldn’t have done that before.”
Her brother Isaiah, a high school Senior, agrees: “This has opened up new areas for me to understand who I am as a person,” he says, “really just putting myself out there and understanding what I can be.” He’s deciding between Morehouse College and Brandeis University.
Hess points out that C-5 has helped these high school students realize how much they can accomplish: “I think kids really need to feel like they’re part of something larger than themselves….a powerful community where they begin to think people really care about them.”
Crossroads C-5 Program costs $3500 per year, and every family makes a contribution to make it work – a powerful statement, Hess says, about their commitment to their kids.
The Crossroads annual fundraiser- the 11th Annual Crossroads Urban Campfire is May 9 at the Revere Hotel Boston Common.
To find out more: https://crossroadsma.org/about/