Sitting around the glow of a fake fire in a darkened room at the Harvard Allston Education Portal’s “Treat and Greet,” Harvard undergraduate Ed Portal mentors told a rapt audience of diminutive witches, ghouls, and hippies a story about a Nebraskan goblin that had trouble falling asleep.
The Friday event was the second installment of Harvard’s “Treat and Greet” at 175 North Harvard St. The community get-together offered a fun, festive occasion for Allston neighbors to mingle, meet Harvard students and staff, and learn more about the Harvard departments, programs, and organizations in Barry’s Corner.
The scary storytelling station in the Ed Portal was one of the series of activities undergraduate mentors hosted for their young visitors that evening. Just outside, Ed Portal mentors helped witches and “Star Wars” characters decorate pingpong “eyeballs” to place in spoons, which the youngsters then carried while racing, trying not to drop them. A short walk across the parking lot, the Harvard Ceramics Studio Haunted House delighted visitors.
Mentor Nick Perkons helped princesses and superheros mummify each other with maximum toilet paper coverage. “You might want to keep your hands to the sides. It will be easier,” he advised.
Inside, a 4-year-old princess kitty was busy at work at the dry ice station. “I’m watching an experiment and it’s going to EXPLODE!” she said excitedly as a bowl of colored soapy water transformed into a rapidly bubbling cauldron with the addition of dry ice.
Nearby, in a small conference room used for one-on-one science, math, and writing sessions, Harvard Achievement Support Initiative (HASI) staff showed two mothers with young children how molding sand can help children of all ages learn.
Raquel Almeida, mother of Beatriz, 3, and Luana, 1, brought her daughters to this year’s “Treat and Greet” event after enjoying it last year. “It’s nice for us to see what’s happening in the Ed Portal and the initiative Harvard takes in the community,” said Almeida.
Almeida, who lives in Brighton, said she loved having more things to do within walking or biking distance and is anxiously awaiting the opening of Stone Hearth Pizza and Maki Maki, the new sushi restaurant, which will be in Brighton Mills Shopping Center. She also got a sneak peek of the Ed Portal annex that will offer additional community programming space focused on arts and leisure activities for all ages. The annex is scheduled to open later this winter. “I’m excited about the whole thing,” she said. “It’s really nice to see more things happening in the neighborhood.”
Allston residents Jennifer and Mario Alvarez and their 9-year-old son, Sebastian, and 1-year-old daughter, Mia, walked to the party from their house two blocks away. Sebastian, who goes to the Gardner Pilot Academy, was dressed as a the character from “Scream.” He has been coming to the Allston Education Portal since he was 5 years old, originally to learn science, but now he works on his writing with a tutor. “He is a good student, but has many ideas and wants guidance on how to organize them,” said his mother. “We love the academic enrichment Sebastian gets from the Ed Portal.”
The lights of Stone Hearth twinkled across the street as workers made a final push to ready the restaurant for opening this week. Despite not being officially open, Stone Hearth still provided pizza for the occasion, which partygoers enjoyed while listening to the Boston Minstrels, who performed such classics as “Monster Mash.”
Tim McHale, Allston resident and founder and director of the Boston Minstrels, thought this year’s “Treat and Greet” was a real success. Harvard’s community events provide “great opportunities for families and children to come together,” he said. “Allston and Harvard have been growing together for the last eight years.”