A Revere youth that worked this summer as a Waterfront Ambassadors participated in a nature-inspired art project in the city.
The Waterfront Ambassadors, a summer youth employment program run by the Trustees Boston Waterfront, is a summer team that consists of 11 Ambassadors.
Among these 11 Ambassadors was Revere teen, Kevin C., who spent his summer documenting some of his favorite places in and around Revere.
Kevin’s photos aimed at capturing some of Revere’s unique and beautiful spaces.
The program ran through August and Kevin collaborated with and learned from a variety of partner organizations doing work across the region and exposed the teens to a variety of potential career paths.
“Our Waterfront Ambassadors are an engaged group of local high school students, who are finding unique ways to explore and learn about the power of open space planning and development around the city,” says Managing Director of the Boston Waterfront Initiative Nick Black. “They are focused on what it means to design with access and equity front-of-mind, and are learning from landscape architects, artists, and community members from around the City.”
In early August teens had the opportunity to speak with Michelle Moon and landscape architect María de la Luz Lobos Martínez to learn about the benefits—and challenges—of building open, green space in a developed area.
“We focused on the Winthrop (greenway) extension,” explained Program Manager Sarah Plotkin. “The Ambassadors were then tasked with creating their own surveys for the Greenway and to share them with friends to see what feedback they might get, which they really enjoyed.”
Other guest speakers this week included Jason L. Burrell, a local resident and associate at the law firm Mintz, who spoke with the teens about setting goals, and his career journey; Trustees Director of Coast Tom O’Shea who detailed the organization’s coastal strategy and resilience projects underway; and Trustees Boston Community Gardens Engagement Manager Michelle de Lima, who gave the group a virtual tour of the Nightingale Community Gardens in Dorchester.
“The Ambassadors enjoyed learning about the different plants that were being grown and how community gardens operate,” said Plotkin. “A high point was getting to talk to one of the local gardeners who was working her plot at the time, and learning about her creative way of using shredded paper to help her plants grow instead of mulch.”
Over the summer Kevin took part in a rock painting beautification project in the area.
“One of our outside activities was to paint rocks that we were able to find,” he said. “I really enjoyed doing this because it was my first time painting rocks. And after I was done painting them, I went back and I put them back where I found them so that they can make my neighborhood look a little nicer and hopefully it can inspire someone else to do it too.”
Black explained that the program had to sort of reinvent itself as the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the country.
Black said in Summer 2019, the Waterfront Ambassadors worked with key grassroots and non-profit partners, lending a hand with local cleanups and stewardship projects.
However, the 2020 program, supported for a second summer by TD Bank’s Ready Commitment, has presented new challenges and necessitated converting to a virtual/remote work-learn structure to comply with social distancing measures.
Even with those restrictions Kevin still met with and learned from—virtually—a variety of partner organizations including representatives from the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway, Harborkeepers, the Boston Society of Landscape Architects, and other local artists, organizers, and educators.
“Getting outside and into the community was still a big focus for this year and finding a way to safely step away from the computer screen while social distancing was a challenge, but our Ambassadors have certainly risen to the occasion,” added Black. “Their projects this summer include regular, independent exploration of nearby public gardens and parks, to assess and think about what makes these places welcoming, valued spaces for the communities that surround them. Documenting their findings with photos, the teens are creating a postcard series to share their observations called ‘Greetings from my Boston’.”
As a 2020 Ambassadors Kevin also engaged with the Boston Waterfront Initiative team to learn about the Trustees-led project to create a series of resilient, equitable parks around the City’s vulnerable waterfront. To help inform this work as part of a robust community engagement process beginning in the fall, the Ambassadors will gather open space design ideas and input from the community, with a focus on Boston youth.
“The engagement projects are the Ambassadors’ main focus of the summer,” said Black. “The goal is for each of the Ambassadors to explore their own communities with fresh eyes and learn from the many organizations and partners actively engaged with open space planning and community engagement work around our waterfront city.”