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Addressing social inequities by advocating for children and families – 2023

Boston, MA
Dates May 25 - July 20, 2023
Program Focus

Working with nonprofit agencies to organizations to support effective models of addressing issues important to children, families, and communities.

Dates subject to change

Program Leaders
Program Themes
  • Children & Youth
  • Education
  • Ethics
  • Public Policy



Information Session:

  • Wednesday, January 11,  4:00 PM – Perkins Library 217


For eight weeks in summer 2023 Duke students will work with local nonprofits to address challenges in the areas of social and educational equity – in particular the ways children, youth, and families are impacted by inequities. The community partners who work with DukeEngage Boston are all committed to addressing the needs of children and families while implementing solutions to the root causes of inequities. They include a Boston‐based national youth mentoring program; an early childhood literacy project; a non-profit focused on STEM education, medical and health disparities and their impact on children; and multiple organizations that address educational inequities. Thus, student participants in DukeEngage Boston will have exposure to a variety of innovative leaders and approaches to creating social change.

No day will be exactly the same for DukeEngage Boston students. Each student will be involved in all types of tasks in an effort to support our community partners. Most students will be involved in collaboratively designing projects that address community needs. One important program priority will be the development of a deep understanding of ethical community engagement by problematizing deficit mindsets and charity orientations to community service. Hopefully we will come to see our small cohort as a community of purpose and a community of learners. We will question notions of giving back, helping, doing for, problem solving, fixing, and saving – and we will dive deep into developing our skills in more critical justice-oriented approaches to community engagement and social change.

Given the combination of engaged students, active support, clear goals, accountability, and a sense of being a part of a cohort and community, we can create significant results, learn from the process, and have a meaningful and affirming summer experience.

What new skills, knowledge, and values might students gain from DukeEngage Boston? Students will enhance their ability to be self‐reliant, apply skills and knowledge to community problem solving, practice reflecting and making meaning from experiences, clarify social values and personal competencies, gain knowledge about social issues as well as different nonprofit models, deepen their understanding of the social change process, build important new relationships, realize alternative career options, and hopefully gain confidence and courage to pursue unanticipated passions and opportunities. We aim to have a shared transformative learning experience – one that disrupts in a positive way our notions of who we are and how we want to show up in the world. Come join us!


Community Partnerships

In summer 2023, students will work with a community partner to define, design, and implement projects important to our community partners that are beneficial to children, youth, and families. Some of the anticipated partners include:

  • MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership is the unifying champion for expanding quality youth mentoring relationships in the United States. In past years, students have worked on web development, designed marketing materials, edited blogs, and completed research projects to provide information and data needed by the organization.
  • Raising A Reader: Raising A Reader’s mission is to engage caregivers in a routine of book sharing with their children from birth through age eight to foster healthy brain development, healthy relationships, a love of reading, and the literacy skills critical for school success. In past years, students have worked on data entry, data analysis, curriculum development, and oral reading to children in Boston parks.
  • Citizen Schools: Citizen Schools partners with public middle schools in low-income communities to provide an expanded learning day and put young adults on track to succeed. In past years, students have worked on website development, database management, and HR tasks such as onboarding and training Teaching Fellows.
  • Union Capital Boston: UCB is rooted in grassroots community organizing combined with the efficiencies and power of social entrepreneurship and digital innovation. Individuals and families earn social and financial rewards for their community involvement and volunteerism through an innovative mobile-app loyalty program and Civic Engagement Framework. In past years, students have developed cell phone apps, made videos, recruited businesses to join the UCB network, and conducted audits.
  • 826 Boston: A dynamic nonprofit youth writing and publishing organization that empowers traditionally underserved students ages 6-18 to find their voices, tell their stories, and gain communication skills to succeed in school and in life. In past years, students have developed college prep resources, tutored youth, and assisted with equity and inclusion trainings.
  • Center for Collaborative Education: CCE seeks to influence the larger public’s view on education to better support change that fosters democratic and equitable schools through publications, advocacy/policy efforts, research, and technical assistance to teachers and schools. In past years, students have engaged in web development, edited training videos, and facilitated planning of major conferences.
  • The Leaders through Education, Action, and Hope (LEAH) Project trains Boston area high school students to become LEAH Mentors and teach inquiry-based science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum to elementary school students, creating strong relationships between students of all ages and increasing students’ STEM education.
  • Family Reach is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to removing the financial barriers standing between cancer patients and their treatment — such as loss of income, increased out-of-pocket expenses, and socioeconomic factors. When faced with these financial barriers, families have to make impossible decisions like choosing between paying for treatment or basic essentials like housing, food, transportation, and educational expenses. Family Reach works to support children, youth, and families facing cancer.

The types of tasks that our partnering organizations need assistance with vary from year to year – so students will not know for sure what they will be working on until they complete telephone interviews with the organizations in the spring.


Program Requirements

Coursework: Coursework in education, psychology, neuroscience, human rights, issues of race/SES/gender, and public policy will be beneficial. Courses in the humanities which engage students in thinking divergently, creatively, and analytically are essential. Language courses and cross-cultural inquiry classes which defamiliarize the normal and foster cultural humility and perspective-taking are wonderful. STEM courses that problematize access to STEM and under-representation of certain communities in STEM are helpful. This program is designed to engage students intellectually, emotionally, socially – coursework which demonstrates that you are authentically engaged in taking ownership over your own education is a plus.

Skills: Given the nature of DukeEngage Boston, valued knowledge, skills, and dispositions include passion for supporting, advocating, and promoting the healthy development of children and families; motivation to work for social justice and equity; desire to build effective empowerment models; marketing, event management, website development, database management, social media skills, and documentary experience. Most importantly we are seeking students who want to grow and learn – that have attitudes, understandings, and skillsets that effective nonprofit organizations value. Prior experiences working with children, youth, and families around educational and social inequities is important.

Personal Qualities: Openness to learn – to grow as a person  — to sit still with difficult questions — to share ideas and feelings with others is essential. Students who want to be a part of DukeEngage Boston should be highly motivated to be an active participant in a robust cohort learning adventure. There is a strong academic and intellectual component to DukeEngage Boston, which requires students to read articles and book chapters during the summer and to attend reflection sessions evenings and afternoons. Emphasis is placed on building a strong cohort and learning community in which everyone is fully engaged. We set high expectations for active participation and full immersion in all program activities.  DukeEngage Boston is not a good match for students who seek more of an independent internship experience. Being fully present and investing oneself in the living-learning community we create are essential to the program’s values, mission, and outcomes. Caring, curious, and growth-oriented students are the key to creating a memorable summer experience.



Housing, meals, and transportation: Students will reside at Suffolk University in multi-person shared dormitory suites – similar to dorms at Duke. The dorm is located in the center of Boston. Transportation will be by subway and bus. Students will use public transportation to travel to and from their workplaces. Students will not have a meal plan; they will cook their own food. It is important that students learn to budget, find local food deals, and use the kitchen that is provided. We will enjoy a group meal once a week.


Academic Connections

This program is open to all, and might especially appeal to students taking courses in Education, AAAS, Psychology, Public Policy, and Sociology.

Students who participate in this program might go on to pursue academic service-learning coursework; Bass Connections research projects focusing on themes of children, youth, education, and social change; Duke Immerse; and/or licensure through the Duke Teacher Preparation Program.

Professors Anderson and Malone enjoy find meaning and purpose in their Duke experiences. We will find time to talk with you about connecting your intellectual interests, personal passions, and career aspirations.


Potential Program Cancellations

DukeEngage cannot guarantee that any program will occur. Programs may be cancelled for various reasons, including COVID considerations.