On Friday, November 21, Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Harvard President Drew G. Faust joined nearly 150 Allston-Brighton parents and their children, as well as Harvard undergraduate student mentors, faculty and staff for a celebration of the Harvard Allston Education Portal.
The Education Portal is a gateway into Harvard teaching and learning — including access to Harvard undergraduate “mentors” and faculty — that is providing new learning opportunities for children and families in Allston-Brighton.
The six-month old Education Portal is a new City-university-community educational partnership that highlights the priority Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Harvard place on supporting local education. It complements and enhances Harvard’s deep, existing engagement around after school and life long learning, school improvement and college preparation.
“I want to thank Harvard for taking advantage of their resources to provide students with extra academic support,” Mayor Menino said. “We all know that their needs don’t end with the final school bell. After-school programs can provide kids with the extra support they need to reach their full potential. At a time when an educated workforce is needed more than ever, we must continue to partner with the impressive academic institutions that call Boston home.”
President Faust noted the discovery and inquiry that is drawing children to learn in the space and acknowledged the partnership helping to make it happen.
“This center was created to be a gateway for children and adults from the Allston neighborhood to access Harvard’s greatest strengths – teaching, research, and learning,” said President Drew G. Faust. “We’re proud to be a partner with the City of Boston and our neighbors in the important endeavor of supporting local education.”
Robert A. Lue, the Education Portal’s faculty director and professor of molecular and cellular biology and director of Life Sciences Education at Harvard said the Education Portal is an opportunity for Harvard and Allston to, “to share our circulatory systems; to come together in a place where we can explore exciting ideas and try to figure out what it is that really gets the hearts pumping and what sets the minds on fire for young people.” He added that the Education Portal gives Harvard an opportunity to “grow its community even further,” to explore together how to teach better and give local children a “rich life of the mind.”
At the Education Portal nearly sixty Allston-Brighton children currently receive science, math and writing mentoring by 16 Harvard undergraduates. The Education Portal is open from 3 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Harvard College students take the helm as mentors and — in a few cases — as tutors who help students with homework. The mentoring sessions – designed to foster curiosity, and built around hands-on experiences – started in July at the Education Portal’s one-story headquarters at 175 North Harvard Street just beyond Harvard Stadium. Students in first and second grades belong to science “clubs,” and third graders have that option too. In grades beyond, students get one-on-one learning sessions with their young Harvard mentors. Families take part in hands-on science demonstrations and discussions. Additionally, adults have access to workforce development training, and can attend faculty lectures.
The Education Portal builds on a robust partnership between Harvard and the City of Boston that is supporting learning. Programs include: Step UP: Harvard’s engagement with five Boston-area universities to deliver holistic, coordinated services aimed at improving student performance in 10 Boston Public Schools; the Harvard Achievement Support Initiative (HASI), which is improving learning opportunities for Boston children in after school programs and out of school time. The Crimson Summer Academy, a three-year consecutive summer academic program aimed at improving access to college for talented, economically disadvantaged students in Boston and Cambridge; science internships and mentoring programs at Harvard Medical School; and the engagement of Harvard students, faculty, staff and departments and schools through more than 300 outreach programs in Boston ranging from mentoring in public schools and support of after school education, to public health and arts programming.
The Education Portal is a key element of the cooperation agreement with the City of Boston associated with Harvard’s Allston Science Complex bringing new programs and improvements to the community. In addition to the Education Portal, the ten-year commitment includes the creation of new parks, public open spaces and walkways, and the support of job training and housing initiatives in the neighborhood. The Education Portal opened in July 2008.