On Boston and its Youth Organizers

Ah, Boston. Home of elite universities, state-of-the-art museums, extravagant shopping districts, a shiny new communal bike system, world-renowned hospitals, and champion sports teams. In a word, Boston is paradise. It is the perfect city, which explains the hordes of Yuppies migrating into Boston neighborhoods. 1

Unfortunately, however, living in Boston doesn’t spell perfect for all. Although this city is the capital of the state dubbed one of the best for K-12 education 2, the Boston Public School system lags behind as their schools consist primarily of low-income minority children, while schools in MA suburbs serve a majority of middle- to upper-class White students.

Here are some facts from the Boston Globe 3 about modern-day segregation in good ol’ Massachusetts:

  • MA now has 7x as many highly segregated (at least 90% student body are non-white) schools as it had 2 decades ago
  • In 1980, just 1 in 50 black students attended a highly-segregated school. Today, the number is 1 in 4.
  • Across MA, the average white student goes to a school where 23 percent of the kids are low-income. The average black student goes to a school where 59 percent are low-income.
  • 28%  percent of hispanic students are enrolled in highly segregated schools, which is higher than the share of black students and growing faster

These facts are not surprising due to the highly segregated nature of MA and the city of Boston itself. 4 This segregation has resulted in an unequal education between students who attend Boston Public Schools and those who attend the surrounding suburban public school systems.

The Boston Public Schools 5 are made up of 41% Hispanic, 36% Black, 13% White, 8% Asian, and 1% Other/Multiracial students. Despite the grandiose nature of the city as a “universal hub, ” 78% of the students are low-income. The BPS graduation rate is 65.9% compared to the 85% graduation rate of the rest of MA public schools. While the per pupil expenditure in BPS schools is roughly $11k, if you go half an hour out to the school systems of Weston, Lincoln-Sudbury, or Blue Hills, (etc.) per pupil expenditure is nearly double that.

Even outside of school, minority students are at risk of experiencing gang violence 6, high levels of concentrated poverty within neighborhoods, chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes 7, and excessive force by the police against citizens of color and other forms of racial profiling 8 than children in wealthier, Whiter suburban neighborhoods experience in their communities.


It is unsurprising, then, to see many Boston youth fighting to have their voices heard amongst the decision-making that goes on in the city. As evinced by the numerous groups you will find listed on this website, there are a multitude of youth organizations in the city  of Boston working for social justice. Many of these organizations are youth-run with the support of adult facilitators; some, however, are directed by adults to educate youth on issues and train them to become active advocates for themselves.

The campaigns of these youth organizations are very diverse. Some of the issues these groups have tackled include:

Youth jobs, youth train passes, ending excessive police violence against youth of color, ending youth violence and gang violence, student voice in Boston Public School policies, funding for Boston Public School programs, equal access to higher education for immigrant students, sex education and civics education in Boston Public Schools, lowering the voting age, more guidance counselors in Boston Public Schools, and environmental justice.

 While not all of the campaigns have been successful, many have; and even campaigns that have not been successful function as a learning point for young people. This website serves to highlight some of these organizations and the actions they have taken to improve their own lives as well as the Boston neighborhoods in which they live.


1. Kiersz, A. (2013, Nov 6). The Most Gentrified Cities in America. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/map-the-cities-with-the-most-gentrified-neighborhoods-2013-11

2. Klein, R. (2014 Aug 4). These are the States with the Best and Worst School Rankings, According to New Rankings. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/04/wallethub-education-rankings_n_5648067.html

3. Horowitz, E. (2014, May 19). Segregation Ended Years Ago How Come Its Getting Worse. The Boston Globe. Retrieved from http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2014/05/19/segregation-ended-years-ago-how-come-getting-worse/qbvuqM0yLcWrNObVlMC6zH/story.html

4. Lubin, B., and Jenkins C. (2011, April 1). The 22 Most Segregated Cities in America. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/most-segregated-cities-in-america-2011-3?op=1

5.  Boston Public Schools Communications Office. (2014). Boston Public Schools at a Glance (Data File). Retrieved from http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/cms/lib07/MA01906464/Centricity/domain/187/publications/At%20a%20Glance/BPS%20at%20a%20Glance%2014-1030.pdf

6. Vennochi, J. (2013 Jun 20). The Boston Globe. Retrieved from http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2013/06/19/bulger-trial-gets-attention-but-different-gang-wars-still-rage-boston/RK5R7hAyUR35SXXvt5vZ7K/story.html

7. Boston University: Partners in Health and Housing Prevention Research Center. (2012, Jan 24). PRC Assesses Health among Boston’s Public Housing Residents (Data Fiel. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/prc/prevention-strategies/health-surveillance-systems.htm

8. Choudhury, N. (2014, Dec 19). People in Your Hood Ride Bikes to Shoot People. American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform-racial-justice/people-your-hood-ride-bikes-shoot-people

Header Image: Youth Activism [Digital Image]. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bluntradio.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2014%2F09%2FYouth.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bluntradio.org%2F2014%2F09%2F08%2Fyouth-activism%2F&h=295&w=498&tbnid=81HQmtcPgDF19M%3A&zoom=1&docid=uUVzqnOTLSGVXM&ei=WFSXVK6rC67IsQSUyoKQCw&tbm=isch&client=safari&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=0&page=1&start=0&ndsp=16&ved=0CCsQMygBMAE