By Sylvana Chan
For most teenagers, the summer means no school, no work and lots of goofing off. Yet Shihua Wu, 14, a sophomore at the Boston Latin Academy, spends part of his summer in the classroom: he is a full-time teaching assistant for six weeks at the Kwong Kow Chinese School in Boston’s Chinatown.
Wu is one of more than 800 young adults from ages 14 to 21 in the Action for Boston Community Development SummerWorks program. Continuing its longtime tradition of providing summer jobs to low-income youth, ABCD has accommodated 5,000 Boston youth in the past three summers with jobs at more than 500 partner worksites.
What makes SummerWorks unique, however, is the program’s commitment to providing youth with more than just a summer paycheck — but with a whole new opportunity to learn and grow.
Amy O’Halloran, director of youth services at ABCD, explained SummerWorks is a youth development program. “Youth receive mentoring from their worksite supervisor, as well as their youth service specialist,” O’Halloran said. “They also develop life skills like financial literacy, conflict resolution and post-secondary education through workshops and portfolio work.”
Benjamin Yu, summer program director at KKCS, echoed this concept. The six SummerWorks youth at KKCS “are working, but they’re also learning.” Wu, for example, helps third graders stay focused during their English, Math and Chinese lessons. He also watched over the children on field trips, such as the most recent “Boston by Little Feet” Freedom Trail Tour.
Teens like Wu learn to “take responsibility, stay organized and experience being role models,” Yu said.
Norman Zeng, 14, a freshman at the Boston Latin School, is also a SummerWorks teaching assistant at KKCS. He aids the older students in the 7th and 8th grades — a noteworthy challenge, as he is only a couple years older than his mentees. Yet the experience has been a rewarding one. “I learned a lot about how to interact with kids,” Zeng said.
This post is also available in: Chinese