Reaching out to kids just in time

Just two weeks after a group of young professionals started working with teens at the Egleston Square YMCA this fall, one of the youths was fatally shot feet from the Y, which straddles Roxbury and Jamaica Plain.

“It gave us a chance to come together and have a group discussion which wouldn’t happen otherwise,” said Jodi Nemser-Abrahams, who volunteers at the Y through a program called ReachOut! that places Jewish young adults with volunteering opportunities.

Instead of helping the students with homework or playing games in the Y’s teen center the next few weeks, the adults and teens just talked.

“It was an eye-opener for us,” Nemser-Abrahams, 28, said. “You can make a lot of assumptions or guesses but you don’t know what it’s like until you hear from them, hearing kids talking about being scared or knowing a lot of people who have been killed.”

The students were also troubled by the fact that the teen center was on the brink of closing just before violence increased this summer. Luckily, the Boston Foundation stepped in to support the teen center at least through year’s end.

“We’re going to remain open and we’re going to figure out a way to keep it open,” Kelley Rice of the YMCA said. “That’s a challenge for our development office and the community as a whole. We’re really happy to see more kids going there these days.

“It’s definitely a critical resource to helping keeping kids safe and having a place for them to go.”


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