Ana Isabel Cardona and Drew Faust

Harvard President Drew Faust lets Ana Isabel Cardona capture a selfie during the Harvard Allston Partnership Fund celebration. Cardona is a member of the Boston String Academy, which is supported in part by the fund.

Photo by Tony Rinaldo

Campus & Community

Harvard Allston Partnership Fund marks decade

7 min read

32 organizations have received $1M in funding during past decade

Despite a chilly and torrential rain, the mood was warm and celebratory at the 10th annual Harvard Allston Partnership Fund (HAPF) grant awards ceremony at Raymond V. Mellone Park in Allston on April 25.

Since its creation in 2008, HAPF has provided $1 million in grants to dozens of local organizations, supporting programs for thousands of Allston-Brighton residents.

HAPF, established by Harvard University and the city of Boston, in collaboration with the Allston community, was created to support nonprofit organizations providing neighborhood improvement projects, cultural enrichment, and educational programming for residents living in North Allston-Brighton. The awards support a wide range of programs from educational and enrichment activities, to arts and family engagement programming.

Allison Brodney-McDevitt (from left), Pablo Avila, and Jennifer Gamez of the Boston String Academy perform at the celebration. Photo by Tony Rinaldo

“Hundreds of people in Allston and Brighton benefit from the work of the nonprofit organizations that have been awarded grants this year,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “They bring to their work an extraordinary amount of energy and creativity, and we are honored to partner with them to bring more opportunities to residents throughout the community.”

“I want to thank Harvard for their commitment to Allston-Brighton. Boston’s identity is forged by the union of great global leadership with great local community,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “We have the best universities in the world and the best neighborhoods in the world. That’s an unbeatable combination and what this partnership and these grants are about.”

Listed among the 32 organizations to have received the annual $100,000 funding are its newest recipients. It’s estimated that more than 5,000 Allston-Brighton residents and families have been supported by the critical — and diverse — work being done by these groups.

Allston Fund graphic

Some of the organizations have provided public performance opportunities for young musicians; others have brought poetry programming into the Gardner Pilot Academy (GPA); while another has supported the creation of an intergenerational and culturally diverse sewing community.

The Boston String Academy, which performed at the event, is based out of the Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston and is composed of students in grades one through six.

“Many of our students are immigrants, or low income, and the [HAPF] funding helps us to provide scholarships — opportunities they might otherwise not have access to,” said Mariesther Alvarez, one of the directors of the Boston String Academy.

Among some of the other contributions are teaching literacy skills; offering citizenship preparation; providing financial security training to low-income adults; and supporting job placement services for North Allston-Brighton residents with disabilities. Some grant recipients have even provided home-cooked meals and diapers to North Allston-Brighton families.

“We are grateful to the Harvard Allston Partnership Fund for the support and generosity that helps us do the work that we do connecting with families, with young children here in Allston Brighton,” said Colleen McGuire, director of Allston Brighton Community Programs for the Family Nurturing Center. “This grant is enabling us to grow our programs and play groups, and ultimately serve more families. … One of the reasons why our partnership with HAPF is so strong is that we have a common goal: supporting families in Allston and Brighton. We’re all neighbors and we all benefit from the varied and diverse families that reside here.”

Youth programming opportunities such as ice skating, boxing, swimming, fishing, filmmaking, and community organizing were offered to more than 1,000 local youth, and more than 200 scholarships were provided for sleep-away summer camp, fishing instruction, and swim lessons.

“Youth hockey is traditionally not as affordable as other youth sports,” said Craig Cashman, president of Allston Brighton Youth Hockey. “The Harvard [Allston] Partnership Fund helps us keep it affordable for local families who wouldn’t necessarily be able to play hockey because of that cost. We’ve been fortunate enough to receive this grant a few times, and it’s really made a difference in our program. We’ve been able to engage more kids because of it.”

A capacity crowd filled the tent on a rainy April afternoon as the Harvard Allston Partnership Fund celebrated its 10th anniversary, marking $1 million in grant awards given to organizations throughout the community.

Photo by Tony Rinaldo

Other organizations offered health and wellness education programs, including free bicycle workshops.

“We are very grateful for the partnership, and the support from Harvard. The funding allows us to expand and offer our services to more of our community,” said Galen Mook, president and founder of CommonWheels, a nonprofit that provides free bicycle workshops and resources to residents. CommonWheels “is not just about riding a bike. It’s about giving someone an opportunity to ride to work. To be independent. To be healthier. To empower. We’re really grateful to be able to expand in the neighborhood and reach all sorts of new folks.”

The ceremony, which was also attended by Boston City Councilor Mark Ciommo and Boston Planning and Development Agency Director Brian Golden, was a celebration of the grant recipients, recognizing the impact of the work they do. Yet it was also a celebration of the partnerships and friendships that have formed since HAPF’s inception.

One particular partnership was emphasized by Walsh, as he took the opportunity to recognize and thank Faust for her leadership and service. Faust, who’s been Harvard’s president since 2007, is stepping down this June. Walsh acknowledged her work over the past decade, and thanked her for her unwavering friendship.

“During her time as president of Harvard, President Faust has brought the University to new heights, particularly in terms of its relationship with the community, and with the city,” said Walsh. “She’s helped open the doors of this historic institution to many people from across the city and all around the world, and Boston looks forward to continuing its relationship with Harvard through the years ahead.”

Faust too highlighted her relationship with Walsh, saying she was proud to call him a “good friend.”

In their remarks, both Faust and Walsh took the opportunity to recognize Raymond V. Mellone, in attendance at the event at the park named for him in a 2011 dedication ceremony. The 1.75-acre public park was designed through a community process, with construction costs and ongoing maintenance provided by Harvard University as a community benefit related to the University’s Science and Engineering Complex project.

Faust also spoke fondly of her years taking part in HAPF celebrations.

“When I became president of Harvard in 2007,” said Faust, “I could never have imagined all of the wonderful moments I would share with you, and how I have enjoyed watching this partnership grow. I have been so fortunate to meet so many engaged citizens, to see such a vibrant and caring community, and so many people who hold this very special place in their hearts and work tirelessly to see that it changes in ways that strengthen it for everyone. Your work — and our partnership — give me hope for everything that Allston and Harvard will undertake together in the future. So thank you for helping me along my journey as president and for being such a wonderful ally.”

A full list of recipients since 2008 can be found at or

Funding decisions are made by a volunteer board of community members following careful review of all applications received. For more information, please visit or email