Alumni Land $100,000 to Help Two Public Housing Communities in Waltham
Research shows that afterschool programs inspire youth not only to learn and do better in school but also to reach their full potential in life. The study by the Afterschool Alliance goes on to note that for every child enrolled in such a program, there are two others waiting to enter.
Brian Shea ’14 does what he can to help open doors. Most recently, he and Gregg Grenier ’12 secured a Cummings Foundation “$100k for 100” grant that will support Bentley’s longtime partnership with two public housing communities in Waltham.
Every year, through the Bentley Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Center, about 100 Bentley students work with children at Chesterbrook Gardens and Dana Court. They provide mentoring, academic support and enrichment in structured afterschool and evening programs.
“Bentley mentors are role models who equip students to succeed — inside and outside the classroom — and prepare for life after high school,” explains Shea, senior associate director at the service-learning and civic engagement center and a board member of the Chesterbrook Community Foundation. “We want children and teens to fully understand the steps they need to take to realize a future they want.”
The Cummings Foundation's “$100k for 100” grant program benefits nonprofits based in and primarily serving Middlesex, Essex and Suffolk counties. The money will help pay for programming at Chesterbrook Gardens and Dana Court when Bentley students are not on campus — for example, during the summer or the break between semesters. Shea and Grenier co-wrote the grant proposal on behalf of the Chesterbrook Community Foundation, applying skills they had learned in the classroom and through service-learning opportunities.
That preparation included a grant-writing course taught by Joan Atlas, adjunct assistant professor of English and media studies. (In fact, a proposal that Shea co-wrote in his sophomore year secured $10,000 for the Waltham Boys & Girls Club.)
Twins from Chesterbrook Gardens Enroll at Bentley to Help Others
It was 1997 when Bentley Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Center students helped create the Chesterbrook Learning Center, partnering with the Waltham Housing Authority and Waltham Police Department, to offer free afterschool programming. Under Grenier’s direction, they added an evening program for teens in 2011 (the Chesterbrook Teen Center). Similarly, the Dana Court Learning Center and Dana Court Teen Center opened in 2011 and 2016, respectively.
Shea is quick to credit residents for the programs’ success.
“The students bring a lot of energy, whether in the way they approach their homework or a basketball game,” he says. “These are incredibly vibrant communities that invest in themselves.”
Shea and Grenier have worked with local youth since their student days. They collaborated on Bentley service-learning and civic engagement projects such as developing an anti-bullying campaign and starting the Chesterbrook mentoring programs.
“The grant from Cummings Foundation is a tremendous success that reflects the dedication of everyone involved with Chesterbrook,” says Grenier, whose own eight-year commitment included serving as president of the Chesterbrook Community Foundation in 2018-2019. The former Marketing major is development and communications manager at Boston-based COMPASS (Community Providers of Adolescent Services). “Now we can spend less time worrying about short-term funding and more time thinking strategically to enhance the program and set long-term goals.”
Shea sees the grant’s potential to “significantly close an opportunity gap” given the positive impact of afterschool programs.
“Our hope at the Bentley Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Center is to continue partnering with the Waltham community, so all students are able to succeed academically and grow in ways that help them meet challenges head on.”
(In the photo above: Gregg Grenier '12 and Brian Shea '14 on the playground at the Chesterbrook Gardens housing community. Photo by Kevin Maguire.)