Despite hours spent in the hot desert sun making cement bricks, digging through the hard-cracked ground, and manipulating steel bars to reinforce a school’s foundation and infrastructure, students from Boston Community Leadership Academy, Community Academy of Science and Health, and Excel High School were still smiling. This year, a group of more than 20 students from select Boston schools traveled to Senegal for some eight days in June to help construct a school as part of the buildOn program. “The work was intense. But it all paid off when we saw the villagers’ smiling faces,” said Fabiola Michel, 17, who attends CASH. The nonprofit organization buildOn allows teens and adults to help spread education throughout the world by erecting schools. So far, buildOn says it has helped put up over 520 schools in developing countries. “This is the best experience I’ve ever had,” said Ngoc Vu, a 17-year-old student from Excel. “The feeling you get when you are helping people is the best feeling in the world.” To prepare for the job, volunteers had to go through various workshops throughout the school year, including volunteering at a homeless shelter and cleaning parkland. “The workshops were very fun, and they helped us get involved with the community,” said Manica Thelusca, 17, who attends CASH. After hours on the work site in Senegal, students were allowed to explore the village. During this time, they could get henna tattoos, play games with the local children, wash clothes, and take showers. “The bond that we built with the villagers was unbreakable,” said Michel. “This was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will cherish forever.” Jamal Young was a participant in the buildOn program.
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City Life
Hyde Park: “Everywhere you go leads to something new”
In my neighborhood, it is really loud and lively. In the summer, it is fun to be there, with its humor and crowded streets. A lot of people walk around. Sometimes they also take the bus or ride bikes. There are a lot of students. In my neighborhood, there is a community pool. It is really big and really deep. A lot of people go there to hang out. Many bring their kids. My neighborhood is huge. Everywhere you go leads to something new. The buses help you get places. They run like water -- straight down.
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City Life
Dorchester: “In my neighborhood, there are people from all over the world”
On a street off Geneva Avenue that’s hidden by a sharp turn is my neighborhood. Many old, almost run-down family homes line the place. You can see lots of different types of cats and dogs there. In my neighborhood, there are people from all over the world. Everyone speaks more than one language. If you take the time to listen, you can hear Spanish, Portuguese, Creole. I can always hear music from different parts of the world coming out of backyards and windows: reggae, religious pop, Spanish, and more. Up the street there is a hill, and on top of that hill is a playground. On this hill all the children meet up to enjoy themselves and play soccer, baseball, basketball, and run track.
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My neighborhood, by Warren Street, is friendly. There is laughter and music outside, people having a good time. There are cookouts in the housing development that everyone can go to. I have made a lot of friends. It’s a good place to live. Nice houses and fine people. Still, you have to keep your guard up. You never know what will happen. There is some violence, petty and pointless. I smell weed, too. Even though there can be problems some- times, we are all family inside.
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I live by Morton Street, close to Blue Hill Avenue. There are kids always sitting on my friend’s stoop, doing nothing but making noise, never listening, and riding up and down on their bikes. Some kid got jumped twice. My friend Melissa’s mother was yelling at the teens to get off the stairs. I feel as though during the summer I can’t walk to her house because they are always there and staring and trying to talk to me. One wrong look that was misread could turn into a fght. So we go to the nearby park, sit and play on the swings, and talk about life.
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