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Addressing social inequities by advocating for children and families

Boston, MA
Dates May 27 - July 22
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.

Program Leaders
Service Themes
  • Children & Youth Services
  • Education & Literacy
  • Public Policy
  • Race & Ethnic Relations
  • No Foreign Language Requirement

DukeEngage-Boston Overview

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

DukeEngage-Boston students will work to create significant results for their community partners. One important program priority will be the development of a strong sense of the students as a cohort – living and working together in a supportive, helpful, and engaged community.

Given the combination of engaged students, active support, clear goals, accountability, and a sense of living-learning community, students can create significant results, learn from the process, and have a great and productive immersive summer experience.


Goals for Students

  • Enhanced ability to be self‐reliant in a new community environment and highly productive in an organization
  • Experiences in applying skills and knowledge to community problem solving
  • Practice in reflecting, making meaning from experiences, and being contemplative
  • Clarified (and possibly enhanced) efficacy, agency, and identity regarding social values and personal competencies
  • First‐hand experiences and knowledge about important social issues, as well as different nonprofit models, organizations, and careers
  • Deeper understanding of the social change process – particularly as it relates to the healthy development of children and youth in and out of school
  • Important new relationships established with community partners, community members, and each other
  • Possibly, the realization of alternative career options and greater confidence and courage to pursue unanticipated passions and opportunities

For community partners and the community:

  • Real and beneficial results valued by all stakeholders
  • An established base for future DukeEngage‐Boston programs


Partnership Opportunities

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, a family independence initiative, and 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.

Students will work with a community partner to define, design, and implement a project important to the community partner and beneficial to the Boston community. As these team projects are most effective when they address a pressing community partner problem or active idea, the specific priorities and projects will not be defined until we arrive in Boston. Some of the anticipated partners include:

  • Mentor: The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) is the unifying champion for expanding quality youth mentoring relationships in the United States. For nearly 25 years, MENTOR has served the mentoring field by providing a public voice, developing and delivering resources to mentoring programs nationwide and promoting quality for mentoring through standards, cutting‐edge research, and state of the art tools. 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, rich with new opportunities. Citizen Schools creates deep partnerships with schools to put young adults on track to succeed by connecting the resources of communities, companies, governments, and philanthropies. 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: A nonprofit that engages in advocacy for educational equity – envisioning a just and equitable world in which every student is college and career ready and prepared to become a compassionate, thoughtful, and contributing global citizen. 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. LEAH focuses on addressing three things: STEM Education, Work Force Readiness, and College Readiness.

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. Also, tasks vary from week to week during the summer, so students need to be flexible and adaptive. Placements will be determined based on the alignment of community partners’ needs with students’ interests and qualifications. Student projects are likely to focus on contributing to the overall impact of the program and helping to shape the program’s future. More details will be shared with students once they are accepted into DukeEngage-Boston.

Students are expected to act with their community partners, in Boston, and with each other in a manner that reflects well on themselves and Duke University. More specifically, students are expected to:

  • Commit 40 hours per week to their placement (not including transportation time). Community partner schedules may require flexibility and sometimes night and weekend commitments.
  • Participate in pre‐departure activities important to a successful summer experience.
  • Participate in enrichment activities throughout the program, including conversations with alumni and social change leaders, cohort social activities, and cultural outings.
  • Participate in reflection sessions, group dinners, and a final debriefing.
  • Follow all policies, guidelines, and rules established by DukeEngage-Boston and Suffolk University where we will be residing.


Program Requirements

Language Requirements: None

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

Other 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/or weekend afternoons. Emphasis is placed on building a strong cohort and living-learning community in which everyone is fully engaged. Professor Malone sets high expectations for active participation and full immersion in all program activities. Most weekends include some type of optional and/or required program activity. DukeEngage-Boston is not a good match for students who seek more of an independent internship experience and those who wish to leave most weekends. 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.


Program Details

Description of Community: As the region’s social and commercial hub, Boston is known for its world‐class educational institutions, entrepreneurship, and cultural resources, as well as its place at the very forefront of U.S. history. Students live and work in the heart of the city.


Housing and Meals: Students will reside at Suffolk University in multi-person shared dormitory suites. They will not have a meal plan; they will cook their own food. However, in previous years, Suffolk University has provided free breakfast and weekend brunch. It is important that students learn to budget, find local food deals, and use the kitchen that is provided. Program leaders will organize a weekly dinner for students and staff.


Local Safety, Security, and Cultural Norms: If you have special needs related to health, cultural, or religious practices, please contact the DukeEngage office,, to discuss whether or not your needs can be reasonably accommodated in this program.

For information related to how your religion, race, sexual/gender identity, ability or other aspects of your identity might impact your travels, we recommend starting with the Diversity, Identity and Global Travel section of the DukeEngage website.


Reflection and Enrichment: Students will meet as a group at least once a week for discussion and reflection. The program director and site coordinator will hold individual meetings with students for coaching and feedback, and students will contribute to a program blog.

The placements with community partners are supplemented by an enrichment program that will connect participants with Boston’s rich history, cultural diversity, arts, and intellectual life. We will also meet with Duke alumni and nonprofit leaders in Boston.


Curricular Connections

Students can benefit from taking relevant courses at Duke both before and after the Boston summer experience. Professor Malone has been an Undergraduate College Adviser at Duke for more than 30 years and enjoys helping students find academic courses that connect their intellectual interests, personal passions, and career aspirations. During the summer, Professor Malone will meet with each participant individually and discuss strategies for developing a coherent connected course of study for their upcoming years at Duke. Prior to going to Boston, students might want to take a course that focuses on issues of children, youth, and social/educational equity. The following courses and academic programs are very relevant to the theme of the Boston program:

Academic Curricular Programs: Minor in Education; Duke Teacher Preparation Program; Bass Connections research projects which focus on themes of children, youth, education, and social change; Duke Immerse; Certificate in Civic Engagement and Social Change; academic service-learning coursework.

Some of the many courses that are relevant to DukeEngage-Boston:

  • EDUC  101 – Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education
  • EDUC  201S – Introduction to Engaged Citizenship and Social Change (Gateway Course)
  • EDUC  209FS – Digital Documentary Photography: Education, Childhood, and Growth
  • EDUC  220 – Race, Power, and Identity: From Ali to Kaepernick
  • EDUC  240 – Educational Psychology (C, D)
  • EDUC  303S – De/Re/Segregation in Education: A Case of Back to the Future?
  • EDUC  310S – School Dropout and Educational Policy
  • EDUC  446S – From Reconstruction to No Child Left Behind: The Challenges of Reform in a Nation Divided
  • EDUC  542S – Schooling and Social Stratification
  • EDUC  338S – Race, Class, and the Rise of the American Charter School
  • EDUC  234S – Anthropology and Education
  • AAAS  549S – Schooling and Social Stratification
  • AAAS  551S – Race and Ethnicity
  • AAAS  548S – Poverty, Inequality, and Health
  • AAAS  420S – The Role of Race and Culture on Development (C, D, S)
  • SOCIOL  215 – Sociology of Racism in America
  • PUBPOL  235 – Gender, Race, and Ethnicity in Politics and Public Policy
  • PUBPOL  338S – Race, Class, and the Rise of the American Charter School
  • PUBPOL 290 – Race and Higher Education in the South


More Information

There are no required readings before applying, but there will be assigned articles during pre‐departure meetings. Viewing the films “The Lottery” and “Waiting for Superman” and reading the books Death at an Early Age and Common Ground will provide insight into the themes and issues that are central to DukeEngage-Boston.


Learn more about DukeEngage Boston from past participant & guiDE, Chloe

The guiDE program provides DukeEngage alumni a pathway to continue their commitment to service and civic engagement by providing leadership, mentorship and service opportunities that support wider DukeEngage efforts on campus and beyond.

Click here to contact Chloe