Two South Boston students are making the most of this unusual summer, working as Junior Program Assistants at local nonprofit Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s Youth Environmental Education Programs. They’re still fishing, crabbing, and teaching local families about the marine environment like they would during any other summer — but with technology like video and drones, they’re connecting with local kids and families completely virtually.
In a typical summer, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s programs serve more than 30,000 youth, teens and families on Boston Harbor, the waterfront, the region’s public beaches, and in the Boston Harbor Islands.
However, this is definitely not a typical summer. Because the COVID-19 pandemic has forced youth development and community organizations to rethink their summer programs to prevent the social spread of the disease, Save the Harbor summer staffers have rapidly adapted to a new way of learning and teaching.
Instead of helping Save the Harbor share Boston’s spectacular harbor, islands and beaches with busloads and boatloads of young people face-to-face, these two summer staffers are working to create virtual Boston Harbor programming through YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, and on Save the Harbor’s blog Sea, Sand & Sky.
Qalid Hassan talks about how he’s determined to continue his work even under the challenging conditions. He says, “Despite the pandemic, and all the circumstances not allowing for another summer of programming, I will keep going. I will work to provide educational content and marine science-based lessons for kids in the Greater Boston Area. That is my position here at Save the Harbor: to keep going.” 18-year-old Hassan graduated from Boston Latin School this year and will be attending the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in the fall. This is Hassan’s fourth year returning to work with Save the Harbor.
17-year-old McRae Wiederer, who attends the O’Bryant School, says she is “most looking forward to learning more about Boston’s history. I grew up in Southie and have been visiting Carson Beach and Castle Island my whole life, but I still feel like I know so little about them.”
In order to continue being the Boston Harbor Connection for the region’s youth and families, South Boston residents Hassan and Wiederer are exploring Boston Harbor’s many beautiful views in small, socially-distant groups, including Charlestown Navy Yard, Castle Island, Malibu Beach, and the Harbor Islands. While there, they film videos, write lesson plans, and create other safe virtual activities for our community partners across the city.
“This year’s staffers have exceeded expectations as enthusiastic educators and hard workers,” said Youth Program Director Kristen Barry. “Despite unusual and challenging circumstances, their dedication to share Boston Harbor with the public, this time virtually, has not wavered.”
Save the Harbor/Save the Bay’s Executive Director Chris Mancini says that even during a pandemic, the entire team of youth staff have shown true dedication to their work.
“Our summer staff of 34 has risen to the challenge and helped Save the Harbor/Save the Bay save the summer for kids from more than 100 youth development and community organizations who can’t be with us in person this year,” he says.
To learn more about what Save the Harbor is doing to virtually connect kids and families to Boston Harbor this summer, check out their blog at http://blog.savetheharbor.org/ and their website at https://www.savetheharbor.org/. You can see more of Hassan, Wiederer and the rest of their summer staffers on social media, where you can find them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @savetheharbor.