New fieldhouse an investment in the future
The vote Aug. 5 by the Boston School Committee to allow Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester to lease land across the street from the Denney Youth Center on Harbor Point is an investment in our young people. Unfortunately, what should have been a positive moment of progress for our youth was clouded by unbalanced discourse. We have spent the last two years working toward common goals and plans for how best to bring more opportunity to our community and more partners to the table to create a hub of education, programs, recreation and support for all young people and their families in Harbor Point, especially the Dever and McCormack students and our greater Dorchester community.
We’ve met with students, staff, school leaders, institutional partners, neighbors and parents, and hosted anonymous focus groups to get insight into whether our ideas and intended plans fit the community’s expectations. While we had no role in how the process to lease this land was established, we do feel that our collective efforts are aligned: to bring more resources, commitment and stability for the young people and families of the Harbor Point community.
The Aug. 5 vote allows us an opportunity to raise up young Black and brown voices and empower them to make big things happen in their neighborhood. We recognize that many feel angered and frustrated by a system that has not listened to their voices. Our commitment is clear: we are prepared to amplify these young voices in this process going forward.
We already have deep connections with the Dever, McCormack and Boston Public Schools, welcoming students every day. Times require us to no longer look at resources for children through the lens of ownership but rather shared responsibility. Our neighborhood is one community with many partners willing to help one another support youth and families. We know our children have greater potential when we work together.
It is known that investment spurs more investment, and in fact we have already seen the city commit $200,000 in new funding for this area because of the young people who have advocated for their community and the plans presented. The opposite is also true: doing nothing will lead to nothing. No significant investment has been made at the Dever and McCormack site for decades. We are at an inflection point. Together, do we do the work necessary to pour more investment and programming into the neighborhood, or do we do nothing?
We have received suggestions from individuals who urge us to stop the project. We are not going to do nothing and forgo this opportunity; rather, we are going to double down on the challenge before us to work more closely with young people and give them a place and voice in this process. We will do this through action, through investment, through leadership and through a shared responsibility to do this work right — together.
Today, we are calling on young people to join us. Our team will be establishing a youth advisory group for a participatory planning process that will help guide us. Our intention is to bring young people from the community, schools and Club together to help realize a collective vision for the future of the peninsula. We hope this group will be energized and inspired to think big. This work will include the naming of the site. We have heard some criticism about sanitizing the process with the name of Martin Richard. Let us be clear, this is a partnership with the Martin Richard Foundation, but the building is not the Martin Richard Fieldhouse. It is the Boston, Dorchester, Dever, McCormack and Harbor Point Fieldhouse and It will be up to young people, community, and future investors to decide what the name of this facility will be.
We know we don’t have all of the answers and have a lot of work to do. We won’t shy away from our shortcomings. Yet, we feel we are aligned on the most important goals: to raise up our young people and bring significant capital investment to our community.
Bob Scannell is president & CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dorchester.
Bill Richard is director and co-founder of the Martin Richard Foundation.