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Addressing social inequities by advocating for children and families – 2021

Boston, MA
Dates May 10 - July 2
Program Focus

Working with Boston nonprofit agencies to implement innovative strategies and document effective and scalable models addressing issues important to children, families, and communities.

Dates subject to change

Program Leaders
Program Themes
  • Children
  • Education

Participants in the Boston program will have the option to live on campus during the majority of the program. Please note while DukeEngage will not pay for housing, students may use their award money to cover the cost.


Boston faces many of the challenging social problems and resulting needs of any major city: education, poverty, health, and social inequity. For eight weeks students will work with local nonprofits to address challenges in the areas of social and educational equity.

In response to social challenges, a vibrant nonprofit community has developed in Boston, with a variety of innovative organizations acting to create social change. The community partners who work with DukeEngage-Boston are all committed to addressing Boston’s needs. They include a Boston‐based national youth mentoring program, an early childhood literacy project, and multiple organizations that address education issues. Thus, student participants in DukeEngage-Boston will have exposure to a variety of innovative leaders and approaches to creating social change.

DukeEngage-Boston students will work to create significant results for their community partners through collaboratively designing projects and completing tasks which address community needs. One important program priority will be the development of a deep understanding of ethical community engagement by problematizing charity-orientations to community service. As a learning community, we will question notions of giving back, helping, doing for, problem solving, fixing, and saving – and instead develop our skills in more critical justice-oriented approaches to social change.

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

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 possibly gain confidence and courage to pursue unanticipated passions and opportunities.


Partnership Opportunities

In summer 2021, students will work remotely with a community partner to define, design, and implement a project important to the community partner and beneficial to the Boston community. 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 on-boarding 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.

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.

Keep in mind when applying that Boston is on Eastern Time.


Program Requirements

Coursework Requirements: Coursework in education, psychology, neuroscience, human rights, issues of race/SES/gender, and public policy will be beneficial but are not required.

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, and documentary experience; and other attitudes, understandings, and skillsets that effective nonprofit organizations value. Students from a wide variety of disciplines are encouraged to apply.

Personal Qualities: 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 some evenings and afternoons. Emphasis is placed on building a strong cohort and learning community in which everyone is fully engaged. Professor Malone sets 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.