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Cultural Corner

 Sociedad Latina's blog about youth, culture, and opportunities in Boston's Latino community


“Sociedad Latina fueled my passion towards working in youth development”

Heather Alcala is a mentor in one of Sociedad Latina’s programs at nearby Madison Park Technical Vocational High School. She works one-on-one with 12 students, helping them take the steps towards finishing high school and moving on to their postsecondary goals. “What I like about volunteering is that now there are 12 kids that don’t have to do life by themselves,” described Heather. “When I was growing up, I would have loved to have someone to talk to, so this is what I try to give to my students, without judgement.” Heather also explained how grateful the youth are to be able to talk about the things that are bothering them, rather than bottling everything up and having that affect their personal and academic lives.

Heather recently graduated from Bunker Hill Community College and is transferring to Lesley College to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. When she finishes, she wants to work with youth in the foster care system. Heather pointed out that “Sociedad Latina fueled my passion towards working in youth development. I really enjoyed learning about everyone’s particular story. We all have a story that we add into our community and each story has its own beauty. The beauty comes from what you have turned a hard circumstance into and how it has shaped you. I think it is so amazing to witness those that have come from a rough start and see them achieve their goals.”

Heather will continue to volunteer with Sociedad Latina throughout the summer and we’re glad to have her. Thank you so much, Heather, for your support!


Class of 2017 Celebration Recap

On May 11th, Sociedad Latina’s youth, families, partners, volunteers and community supporters came together for our favorite event of the year – the Class of 2017 Celebration! Each year at Sociedad Latina, we celebrate the graduation of our 8th graders and high school seniors who are finishing one important step and moving on to the next one. We also welcome back our Alumni who have become community leaders and role models for younger youth.

Will Morales, BCYF Commissioner, addressed the graduates and encouraged them to strive for success no matter what adversity they may face. He shared his story of how violence, poverty and loss could have defined his future, but he decided to break from that cycle, get an education, and work to make his community better.

Alex Oliver-Dávila, our Executive Director, also spoke and told the audience: “Sociedad Latina is very proud and inspired by our 8th graders, high school seniors, and Alumni college graduates who have shown resiliency, compassion, leadership, and humility (as well as many other qualities) over these past few years. Every one of our graduates is truly a Latino leader in our community. We are excited to see you grow and the incredible success that awaits you.”

Finally, Alumni Engel R. shared his words of wisdom and advice for younger youth as they embark on their next steps towards high school, college or a career:

“I want all graduates to follow their dreams and, no matter how bad things might get, find the positive side and use that to move forward. We Latinos have distinctive strengths: we know how to speak two languages and, because we come from another culture, we are able to view and appreciate things in a different way. I am proud of who I am, where I come from and what I have accomplished; and being a Latino is part of that.”

Sociedad Latina also awarded the third annual Aurea E. Beltrán Memorial Scholarship to Fatima I. and Leandro T., two youth who have shown exceptional dedication to Sociedad Latina and their communities.

 Puedes leer sobre nuestra celebración en español en el artículo de El Planeta aquí


Sociedad Latina Celebrates 2017 Graduates

(Press release)

Sociedad Latina and BCYF Commissioner William Morales proudly celebrated youth graduating from middle school, high school and college success programs.

(BOSTON-May 12th, 2017) Sociedad Latina’s Executive Director Alexandra Oliver-Dávila and Boston Centers for Youth and Families’ Commissioner William Morales hosted on Thursday the Class of 2017 Celebration, an annual event that highlights the accomplishments of Sociedad Latina’s youth graduating from middle school, high school and college. Last night, families, partners, volunteers and community members gathered for this special celebration at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Mission Hill.

Executive Director Alexandra Oliver- Dávila stated that “This is Sociedad Latina’s most important event of the year, where we celebrate all of our youth graduating from middle school, high school and college and express our commitment to support their future success.” She also shared, “we are so honored to be a part of the success of our youth and families, and look forward to partnering with them as they pursue their unique pathways. Latinos face a unique set of challenges to thriving in Boston, but this event is the proof that with the right support and a focus on skills and strengths, they can succeed.” Graduates will be pursuing diverse postsecondary options, such as two-year degrees, four-year degrees, technical schools, career ladder pathways, and service years.

“I want all graduates to follow their dreams and, no matter how bad things might get, find the positive side and use that to move forward,” stated Engel R., a member of Sociedad Latina’s college success program who shared his words of wisdom with younger youth. “We Latinos have distinctive strengths: we know how to speak two languages and, because we come from another culture, we are able to view and appreciate things in a different way. I am proud of who I am, where I come from and what I have accomplished; and being a Latino is part of that.” Sociedad Latina also awarded the third annual Aurea E. Beltrán Memorial Scholarship to Fatima I. and Leandro T., two youth who have shown exceptional dedication to Sociedad Latina and their communities.

Sociedad Latina celebrated youth and families affiliated with several Boston Public Schools, including Boston International Newcomers Academy, The English High School, James P. Timilty Middle School, Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, Margarita Muñiz Academy and Mario Umana K-8 Academy. The event also served to demonstrate the impact of Sociedad Latina’s positive youth development programming on Boston’s Latino community.

About Sociedad Latina: Sociedad Latina is a community-based organization that develops young Latino leaders and creates positive change in Boston’s Latino community. Since 1968, it has worked in partnership with youth and families to create the next generation of Latino leaders who are confident, competent, self-sustaining and proud of their cultural heritage.




Co.Lab Teaches 25 Girls Coding, Photography, and Collaboration over April Break

(This text was previously posted in Boston After School & Beyond's website)

This April vacation, RedHat Software, in partnership with Boston University, Boston After School & Beyond, and Sociedad Latina, transformed City Hall Plaza into a high-tech STEAM learning lab for 25 girls from the Timilty Middle School and the Mario Umana Academy, that participate in Sociedad Latina's STEAM Team. During Co.Lab, students learned the basics of computer programming and the importance of teamwork, creativity, and collaboration in the open-source tech world.

Over the course of this three day learning experience, students built digital cameras using Raspberry Pi computers, explored Boston through photography, and worked together to curate a visual setting of Hope is the Thing with Feathersby Emily Dickenson.

Co.Lab also provided students with opportunities to connect with female mentors from RedHat, Boston University, and CTP. By working alongside these role-models, students practiced important concepts in coding and photography and learned about the steps these women took to become STEAM professionals.

During the final day of Co.Lab, students presented their work to Mayor Marty Walsh, demonstrating how they converted Raspberry Pi computers into digital cameras and showcasing their final setting of Hope is the Thing with Feathers.

Mayor Walsh commended students for their work and their willingness to participate in this project during their April vacation, and congratulated them on taking a major step towards becoming the next generation of female software engineers, graphic designers, and photojournalists. Addressing the students and members of the media, Mayor Walsh also stressed the importance of project based STEAM learning experiences and made the case for offering more coding opportunities to students in Boston Public Schools.

Following Co.Lab, participating students took home their Raspberry Pi computers, Pi-Top Ceed monitors, and camera components. These tools, coupled with the knowledge and experience gained during Co.Lab, will allow students to continue pursuing coding projects beyond this three-day learning experience.

Co.Lab provided an opportunity for middle school girls to learn coding through an interactive, creative, and collaborative project and connect with role-models. Through this project, students developed an interest in STEAM that will guide them towards pursuing STEAM in college and careers. Special thanks to RedHat Software, Boston University, Sociedad Latina, and CTP for making this event possible.

Photos and video courtesy of RedHat Software


Nellie Mae Education Foundation Awards $110,000 in Funding to Address Rising Tension, Division, and Discrimination Post-Election  

QUINCY, Mass. – March 15, 2017 – The Nellie Mae Education Foundation (Nellie Mae), the largest philanthropic organization in New England focused exclusively on education, is pleased to announce eleven grants totaling $110,000 to organizations helping schools and communities address issues related to deep divisions and the rise in tensions, discrimination, and harassment that have surfaced since the 2016 election season. The grants will be used to fund programming that supports community members and helps to foster unity, healing, and information sharing in New England schools and communities. 

Students must feel safe, included, respected, and heard in their schools and communities to be successful. However, the recent national election was a setback for those in the region working to build stronger communities centered on the interests of all students. This has manifested differently across communities - from students feeling threatened inside and outside of their schools, to students feeling that they or their communities are being unfairly portrayed as racist or poorly-informed. Recognizing this, Nellie Mae created a fund to support the needs of its grantees and partners, including their work to increase understanding of divergent perspectives, promote nurturing school environments through programming and activities, and educate community members about the political system.

“Our public schools are an essential public asset – one that contributes to the preparation of our future civic leaders,” said Nick Donohue, President and CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “As stewards of this important public enterprise, we have a duty to provide safe, educational settings where young people from diverse backgrounds can express themselves without fear of hateful reprisals. We are proud to support these local efforts to do this important work across New England.”

While the changing political landscape has amplified new voices and messages, it also presents an opportunity for communities to come together in developing greater insight into the various components of diversity and addressing issues that are directly impacting students and other community members. These opportunities can contribute to creating healthy climates that nurture students’ social and emotional growth. Addressing such concerns in the near term allows schools and communities to avoid creating deeper inequities by facing issues directly, rather than allowing them to become a barrier to students’ future college and career success.

Nellie Mae is pleased to award grants of $10,000 to school districts and organizations across New England, including:


  • Boston International Newcomers Academy (BINcA) – Boston, MA - will extend and enhance activities, such as the Academy’s successful Diversity and Democracy event held on Inauguration Day, with workshops and lessons about cultural identity and democracy in support of BINcA students.
  • Revere Public Schools – Revere, MA - will train and provide support to Revere High’s students and community in understanding the post-election influence on their status as immigrants and citizens. The grant will educate the Revere community and students about the immigration process and help facilitate an open dialogue about its positive influence on the city.
  • Salem Public Schools – Salem, MA - will train the City of Salem's Youth Commissioners and selected youth leaders at Salem High School to facilitate discussions focusing on urgent topics relating to immigrants and their status as members of the community and the country at large and then leverage these conversations to usher broader social change.
  • Sociedad Latina – Boston, MA - will enhance support for the immigration-related needs of Boston's Latino youth and families. The organization aims to promote positive Latino and cultural identities to ensure that its intensive programming – which reaches approximately 1,000 youth ages 11-21 and their families annually through civic engagement, academic support, workforce development, and arts & culture initiatives – is inclusive and welcoming for participants with diverse migration histories and immigration statuses.
  • Write Boston – Boston, MA - will launch “Looking Back & Looking Forward: Writing to Defend Democracy,” a student-led conference that will culminate in a newspaper publication featuring the voices of Boston youth. Write Boston will bring leaders and topical experts together with passionate young people to participate in dialogue about the election and its impact. This dialogue will focus on understanding the facts of immigrant policy, combatting hate crimes, and distinguishing real journalism from ‘fake news.’ 

New Hampshire

  • Granite State Organizing Project (GSOP) – Manchester, NH – will train those involved with GSOP in “active bystander” skills in order to be able to safely intervene in contentious situations through nonviolent and peaceful means. The grant will also support relationship-building between GSOP’s Young Organizers United initiative and youth in Pittsfield, NH to foster shared understanding of social location issues influenced by gender, race, class, age, ability, religion, sexual orientation and geographic location.
  • Pittsfield Youth Workshop – Pittsfield, NH – will support deep relationship building and shared understanding of social location issues between GSOP’s Young Organizers United of Manchester, NH and the Pittsfield Youth Voice in it Together (PYViiT) initiative of Pittsfield Listens. Pittsfield Youth Workshop will also organize a two to three-day Train-the-Trainer workshop on these issues for Pittsfield youth and their adult allies.

Rhode Island

  • Providence Public Schools – Providence, RI - will create a learning series on the federal immigration process, identifying key challenges and questions, and providing third party referral supports, as necessary, for students and their families. The Providence Public School District will also provide opportunities for PPSD students and their families to receive pro-bono legal support from Roger Williams University School of Law on a small group basis.
  • Providence Student Union (PSU) – Providence, RI - will host a youth-focused workshop series on the ramifications of the 2016 Election, directly responding to students' questions and concerns about national politics, and educating them about civics and navigating the new political landscape. This initiative seeks to recruit new youth into PSU’s work, strengthen the organization’s training structure and create tested workshop curricula for free distribution online.


  • Voices for Vermont’s Children – Montpelier, VT – Parents and Youth for Change, an initiative of Voices for Vermont’s Children, will partner with key community organizations to establish youth community forums that explore divergent perspectives and discover common ground. This leadership opportunity would offer young people from economically disadvantaged and immigrant and refugee backgrounds the skills and experience that will serve them well into their futures, creating engaging environments for young people to learn how they can be agents of change.
  • Harwood Union High School – Moretown, VT - will work with the Anti-Defamation League's "A World of Difference" program to increase student understanding of prejudice along with racial, ethnic and cultural differences by: training student leaders in grades 7-12 to work with peers to lead discussions on bias-related issues pertaining to race and diversity; provide professional development anti-bias training for all Harwood personnel; and train students to facilitate an anti-bias workshop for parents and community members in the district.

About the Nellie Mae Education Foundation:

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation is the largest philanthropic organization in New England that focuses exclusively on education. The Foundation supports the promotion and integration of student-centered approaches to learning at the high school level across New England—where learning is personalized; learning is competency-based; learning takes place anytime, anywhere; and students exert ownership over their own learning. To elevate student-centered approaches, the Foundation utilizes a four-part strategy that focuses on: building educator ownership, understanding and capacity; advancing quality and rigor of SCL practices; developing effective systems designs; and building public understanding and demand. Since 1998, the Foundation has distributed over $210 million in grants. For more information about the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, visit