Community in action: the Edison School connects with Boston College athletes

When Irina Shumway started working as a City Connects coordinator at Boston’s Thomas A. Edison K8 School last October, she felt “like a new kid in school.” The best way to make a new kid feel welcome is to be embraced by the community. 

The Boston College athletic department did just that. 

Part of Shumway’s role as a Coordinator is reconnecting with community partners who bring services and enrichment programs to City Connects schools, including Boston College’s student athletes.

After Shumway arrived, she made two connections: restarting a pen pal program and reaching out to the Eagle football team. 

In the pen pal program, Edison students in 12 classes write to Boston College athletes and the athletes respond. Next month, the kids and the college students will meet each other and put faces to the names on the letters. Fortunately, transportation won’t be a barrier because it’s easy to walk from the Edison School to Boston College.

Shumway also connected with Joshua Beekman, Boston College’s Director of Football Initiatives.

“Joshua said, I have these football players, and they would love to do something,” Shumway said. “We didn’t know exactly what it would look like. We thought we’d have the athletes come play football with the kids during recess.”

Their discussions grew into a day of powerful connections. Last November, the athletes visited the Edison and spoke to students in a number of middle school classrooms.

“They talked to our students about what it’s like to be a college athlete, about the path that got them there, and about the commitment it takes to balance academics and sports,” Shumway said. “This spoke to the team’s commitment, because they came during the middle of football season. They talked about their hardships and how tricky striking that balance can be.”

“Our school has a large African American population and a large Latino population, so it really resonated with our students to have college students of color come and speak to them. It’s a chance for our students to say, I can see myself doing what they’re doing. There aren’t a lot of community partners who can bring that much diversity to classrooms.”

Later that day at recess, the athletes also played football with the Edison kids.

“When I checked in with the teachers, they said the experience was really, really valuable,” Shumway said. “Our kids got a lot out of it because they were able to ask questions.”

Shumway continues to nurture this connection. She’s hoping to have the football team visit again and visit different classes before the end of this school year.

Beekman has also put Shumway in contact with BC’s baseball and softball coaches, and plans are underway to have Edison kids go watch the BC teams’ games.

“There are no barriers blocking our students from seeing the softball and baseball games because the tickets are free. All it took was making that connection with someone on the team,” Shumway says. “Boston College’s athletic department has been great about wanting to have a relationship with our school.”

Shumway is pointing to one of the most powerful aspects of City Connects, the ability to tap into community strengths and make connections, using existing resources to create helpful, meaningful, educational, and fun experiences for students.

And of course, we’re proud that Boston College, the institution that gave rise to City Connects, is one of our generous and inspiring community partners. It’s an example of how City Connects opens doors of possibility for students, helping them forge relationships and dream about their futures.

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