July 14, 2017

Today we welcome 96 fellows and 14 platoon leaders of Charlie Class 2017 to a weekend of Orientation in Boston. We will be joining forces with the Boston 1st Platoon to help them kick off a new mission in the Dorchester area. These fellows and platoon leaders are veterans who have committed to serving their country again, this time in a different way. They have decided to use their leadership, discipline, and teamwork skills to combat homelessness, climate change, childhood poverty, and many other challenges we face here on the home front.

Our fellows will be embedding with local nonprofits in their cities for six months, while our platoon leaders will be leading groups of veterans to complete service projects to support places like nonprofits in underserved neighborhoods, national parks, urban gardens, and public schools.

The Boston 1st Service Platoon, a group of dedicated volunteers, have identified Dorchester as the best place to focus their efforts. Dorchester is Boston’s largest and most ethnically diverse neighborhood, as it is home to large Irish, Vietnamese and Cape Verdean communities. Dorchester has the second highest rate of child poverty in the Boston area, coming in at 39.2 percent, according to the Boston Public Health Commission. In addition, the Boston Police report that a few Dorchester neighborhoods are gang “hotspots.”

City Impact Manager Stephanie Grimes said that the platoon’s goal in Boston is “to expand athletic, nutrition and academic programming available to community members.” With this in mind, she found a partner in a nonprofit called All Dorchester Sports & Leadership.

The Boston 1st Platoon at a service project at ADSL

ADSL was conceived in 1983 in response to racial violence and growing racial tension in the neighborhood, and has been a unifying cornerstone for youth ever since. They provide at-risk youth an alternative to gang activity and other risky behaviors, where they can excel in sports, build self-esteem, and engage with positive role models and mentors.

The organization’s executive director, Candice Gartley, explains what it means to the youth to have a place like ADSL as a resource. “Many kids we serve don’t see themselves as being successful in life for so many reasons – socio-economic level, class status, racial background etc.” She continues, “To help empower them to be leaders, we need to make them feel unique; to help them feel that they contribute something very special to the community by being an active positively engaged citizen.”

ADSL’s focus on sports, regular physical activity, nutrition and academic success encourages healthy habits and choices for participants and families. With this spirit of empowerment, Charlie Class of 2017 will be working with the Boston and Lowell platoons to upgrade and beautify some of their outdoor facilities, building storage units for equipment, and renovate some of their indoor facilities.  

The platoon has already begun building a relationship with ADSL, and will continue service projects after this event is over. Gartley said she agreed to work with us because, “after our first meeting I knew that the Mission Continues was a serious group of people intent on improving the world around them in a meaningful way.”

There is much to be done, “especially when the building is falling down and there are no lights, or the green spaces are unusable because there is nothing there to engage with,” said Gartley.  “I still find myself holding my breath when I look at the project list that will be completed because it will surely transform this part of Dorchester.”

The Boston 1st Platoon at a service project at ADSL

Then she asked, “Can you imagine the impact on our neighborhoods if we paid attention to the middle-of-the-road kids who could be GREAT kids contributing mightily to our communities if we just gave them the tools and support they need to thrive?”

We can, and what’s more, we think it’s actually possible. To realize our shared vision for the leaders today’s youth can become, our investment starts here.

The veterans who are stepping into fellowships and service platoons with The Mission Continues also know this, because they too have an untapped potential to become leaders. We see it in them, and they are motivated to make it a reality. Hopefully, by our sustained attention to the youth of ADSL, they will be inspired and recognize their own potential for greatness too.

 

Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and Twitter.