Two Boston Area Organizations Worth Checking Out!

In today’s Activator, we would like to share two Boston-based organizations that are doing inspiring and impactful work in our community. We have a strong belief that all of us are not only interested, but strongly desiring to know about and be connected in some way to good and meaningful work that is truly making a difference in people’s lives. The challenge of course is the near constant flow of bad news and negativity we have coming at us daily. Also, it can just be hard sometimes knowing where to start or how to find some of the many “diamonds” that are right here in our own backyard “rough.” With this in mind, we are excited to introduce you to these two great groups. The Second Step is dedicated to aiding the survivors of domestic violence in a unique and comprehensive manner, while also focusing on preventative measures to end the cycle of domestic violence. The Phoenix Charter Academy Network is a rigorous academic program focused on both providing a high quality high school education for at risk teens and young adults, who face a gauntlet of obstacles in their lives, and offering much needed support while they pursue their education. Both of these organizations have deep ties to their communities and work every day, in their own ways, to create hope and give life to lasting change.

The Second Step 

The Second Step helps survivors of domestic violence transition from “violence to self-reliance” through a unique and comprehensive program based on healing and prevention. Their fundamental belief in aiding survivors and diminishing the root causes of domestic violence allows them to offer individualized programs that provide extensive services for each survivor.

Serving children, adults, and families through community and resident based programs, The Second Step seeks to provide “safety, stability, and well-being” to those who have experienced domestic violence. While survivors come from racially, economically, educationally, and socially diverse backgrounds, these individuals come together with the common goal of escaping domestic violence in order to become independent, confident, and self-reliant. The Second Step’s mission, aiding domestic violence victims, and their vision, a world free of domestic violence, blend seamlessly into an overarching message of care and support to their community at large.

Executive Director Sarah Perry stated she is pleased with the work being done at The Second Step because it captures both sides of the epidemic of domestic violence. She emphasized that the organization is equally focused on prevention and stopping the cycle of violence at its source. Perry stated the best way to prevent domestic abuse is by working with the children in their program. Out of the roughly eight hundred survivors they help each year, about five hundred of those are children, who require special care to help them recover from domestic violence experiences and also to prevent any of these behaviors recommencing in future relationships. The children’s program includes after school activities, therapy specifically directed at the child’s needs, and support to keep children from the isolating effects of domestic violence.

The children’s program is only one of many services that the organization provides. They offer a unique residential program where residents can live up to two years while having access to a wide variety of services including help: finding a job, finding housing, getting children into school systems, and finishing educational degrees. For the majority of survivors who participate in the community-based program, they gain access to resources such as: case management, peer groups and mentoring, a supportive community of survivors, and a legal program, Steps to Justice, which helps with any legal aid the survivors may need. For those specific needs that The Second Step cannot directly provide, they have crafted an extensive and complex network for referrals. They also work with the broader community at large in order to educate the public about the warning signs of domestic violence, information about the cycle of violence, and resources for all who experience it.

Executive Director Perry is happy to announce that The Second Step is now entering its 25th year of operation and she views this as a pivotal point in the history of the organization. While they continue to build on the stable foundation they have created, she believes this next year is critically important for laying the groundwork for the next 25 years. Perry finds that public awareness around domestic violence and sexual assault is growing and the tolerance against relationship violence, especially among teens, is severely diminishing. She is happy to see the conversation has shifted around this topic to bring it to the forefront as an important issue that needs attention.

You can learn more about The Second Step here

The Phoenix Charter Academy Network  

The Phoenix Charter Academy Network is dedicated to its mission of motivating at risk teens and young adults to earn their high school education and continue on to college by providing them with a new and unique way to receive their education. The Phoenix Charter Academy Network demands academic excellence from its students, but helps them make the transition through a comprehensive support system to help assuage the burden of returning to school. PCAN ultimately seeks to end the epidemic of high school dropouts in Massachusetts.

Rather than providing a traditional GED educational program, which is often lackluster and provides minimal benefits to its participants, the PCAN is an innovative program that offers a strict educational culture comprised of high achievers who wish to improve their futures through their education. Stated in its own words, “The Phoenix Network confronts the overwhelming obstacles facing older, high-risk youth head on, and proves that despite age, incoming academic skill level, and outside struggles, all students can graduate from high school and prepare for success in college and in life.”

The primary goal of PCAN is to challenge their student academically. By extending the school day and year, providing rigorous courses, such as AP classes, employing a dedicated and well-educated staff, and requiring a letter of college admittance for graduation, this program demands distinction and dedication from its talented and unique students, as they seek to realize their full academic potential. PCAN finds the best way to facilitate this success is through integrated support throughout the communities and schools they serve. Student support programs, on-site childcare, and college guidance instruction are all areas where the school actively seeks to support its students so they receive the best opportunities possible.

Founder Beth Anderson was profoundly upset when she saw so many students falling short of their potential and dropping out of high school. These were gifted and motivated young adults, who, faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges that life presented, were unable to finish their high school educations. Anderson realized that to fix the problem they had to start at the root of the dropout epidemic: education. She worked with the community to found the first school in the Chelsea neighborhood of Boston, to provide a different type of program, the “right educational environment,” to help these individuals succeed.

What began as one charter school in Chelsea has now expanded to several other areas of Massachusetts, such as Lawrence and Springfield, to create the Phoenix Charter Academy Network. These charter schools are dedicated to helping over five hundred students who face commuting, family, and working challenges in order to achieve their dreams of receiving a high quality education. Facing such hardships as: dropping out of high school, being involved in criminal activity, being a teen or young adult parent, and learning English as a second language, these students overcome these difficulties to attend challenging classes, to graduate high school, and to propel themselves toward a successful college career.

And the results tell a success story of their own! As this model has been adopted across the state and continues to grow, the improving test scores, college acceptance letters, and the personal growth of each individual student cannot be ignored. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this March, it is clear the Phoenix Charter Academy Network is improving the lives of young adults across the state and providing them with some of the most important faculties that any individual can acquire: a high quality education and the drive to be successful throughout the rest of their lives.

You can learn more about the Phoenix Charter Academy Network here


Regardless of one’s political views or concerns about the current and future greatness of our nation, the 2016 U.S. Presidential election offers no shortage of political theatre and drama.  Please be on the look out for our next post, in which we plan to throw our support behind a candidate that we believe would be ideal to lead this great nation (our candidate is likely to be quite the surprise!). A polarizing figure in his own right to be sure, our surprise candidate is also a person who we believe truly embodies the ideal and most pragmatic leadership skills we are in need of right now, if we are to successfully reunite our increasingly divided United States. If we have peaked your interest, be sure to check out our next Activator!


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