Community Engagement (CE) Groups Partner with Local Organizations

By Shad Sommers-Dehaney, Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator

It was an exciting and fruitful year for CSW’s Community Engagement (CE) program. Each of the 10-11 grade sections of CE was partnered with an organization in the community that is working towards equity, justice and awareness in a variety of different topics. The topics or global issues that CSW students showed most interest in were sustainability, food insecurity, access to mental health, health and wellness, access to STEAM education, immigrant and refugee assistance, tutoring, and global exchange.

Once placed into a section based on their interests, students learned about the history and background of their specific topic to give them context as to why the current landscape is the way that it is. From here, sections discussed with their partners and thought critically about ways to engage with their organization and create solutions that would allow them to utilize their skills while creating something beneficial for each organization. We wanted to highlight each organization we worked with, the amazing work they do, and share some of the creative and well-thought out solutions our students developed.


One section of sustainability partnered with two local organizations: Sustainable Weston Action Group (SWAG) and Weston Plant Pollinator Alliance. SWAG’s mission is to amplify discussion and inspire effective action on sustainability issues in the town of Weston by focusing on awareness and education, leading community-based, pragmatic actions and collaborations, and also by encouraging and supporting municipal, business, and residential cooperation. Learn more about SWAG here.

Weston Plant Pollinator Alliance collaborates with homeowners, schools, neighboring communities, local organizations, and the Town of Weston to protect native pollination systems critical to sustaining biodiversity, mitigating climate change, and maintaining the health of our natural ecosystems. Learn more about Weston Plant Pollinator Alliance here.

The other section of sustainability worked with Speak for the Trees Boston. Speak for the Tree’s mission is to improve the size and health of the urban tree canopy in Boston, with a focus on under-resourced and under-canopied neighborhoods. This is done by developing and co-creating projects at the community level (including free tree giveaways), partnering with local and national environmental organizations, advocating for updated municipal policies governing tree planting, and more. Learn more about Speak for the Trees here. 

The SWAG section deliberated and broke off into a few subgroups focusing on different topics within sustainability. One group focused on identification and removal of invasive plant species in Cat Rock. They cataloged the different varieties of invasive species and also mapped their locations within Cat Rock. Another group created and presented a successful plan to stakeholders on campus to add more native species of plants that support pollinators to the existing garden beds on campus. The final group worked to put together an art exhibit in Weston highlighting sustainability and environmental justice.


One section of food insecurity partnered with both Lazarus House and Healthy Waltham. Lazarus House aims to provide what is needed most by families and individuals facing material poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity in the areas of shelter, clothing, food, advocacy, and community resources. These core values work together to provide emergency care, holistic programming, hope for a good future, and life skills to gain independence and sustain self-sufficiency. Learn more about Lazarus House here.

Healthy Waltham works to alleviate health disparities that exist in the City of Waltham and to improve the health outcomes of the city’s most vulnerable residents. They do this through the development of programs that improve nutrition, encourage physical activity and increase access to healthy foods. Waltham is home to a high population of working poor, many of whom are service workers, low-income seniors and recent immigrants from Central and South America, Uganda and Haiti. The majority of Waltham Public School students qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches. These are the populations served by Healthy Waltham. Learn more about Healthy Waltham here. 

The other section of food insecurity worked with Food Link. Food Link is a community organization that rescues fresh food, alleviates hunger, and contributes to environmental sustainability. Learn more about Food Link here. 

The Lazarus House and Healthy Waltham group worked on a couple initiatives throughout the year. First, they engaged the CSW community by running a food drive to support Lazarus House. Throughout the ongoing drive, the section developed a competitive advisory challenge throughout campus to incentivize the engagement. This creative and critical thinking resulted in 263 food items and over $100 in monetary donations being collected. In addition to this, the section is supporting Healthy Waltham during their inaugural Healthy Waltham Day event on May 21st, by setting up, managing tents, and handing out information.


The Health and Wellness section partnered with Team Verge. Team Verge Inclusive Athletics, Inc. is an inclusive running club for youth and young adults of all abilities, with and without special needs, dedicated to improving the health and lives of their participants by helping them to expand their limits in a fun, safe, team environment with the individual support and challenge they need for success and athletic, social, and personal growth. They remove the barriers that typically prevent participation and growth for those with challenges. Learn more about Team Verge here. 

The group working with Team Verge approached different aspects of the organization introduced by the founder. Students broke off into three main groups focusing on awareness and advocacy, program expansion, and fundraising. The advocacy and awareness group attended a Team Verge practice to both document what practice looks like and interview families and coaches involved with the program. With this footage, the group created a promotional video that Team Verge can use to share the amazing work that the program is doing with potential participants and donors. The other side of the advocacy group created a sample website to build off Team Verge’s current design to streamline things and introduce more participation within the community. The program expansion participants researched and documented potential new locations and sites that Team Verge could utilize for upcoming seasons and presented it to their founder. The fundraising group created a proposal for a future fundraising event involving CSW and individuals outside of the community. 


The Immigrant and Refugee Assistance group partnered with Africano Waltham. The mission of African Cultural Services (Africano) is to use a holistic approach to lift African immigrant youth and their families to succeed in life through provision of a safe space, education, mental health assistance, visual and performing arts, and cultural connections. Learn more about Africano here. 

After having multiple discussions with the director of the organization, the biggest need was with marketing and promotional material. The class broke off into three separate groups to develop a pamphlet to describe the organization, what they do, and how others can get involved. The groups each developed their own version of the pamphlet and then presented them to the director of Africano to receive feedback and have her select her preferred design. Following this, the group looked to improve Africano’s current website by streamlining the layout and updating some of the current functionalities. 


This section partnered with Kids in Tech based out of Lowell. Kids in Tech strives to excite, educate, and empower children to acquire skills and confidence in technology through interactive after school programs. It was founded in 2016 in Lowell, Massachusetts to prepare disadvantaged kids with interactive, free after school programs in computers and technology. Kids in Tech has proven, demonstrated results, with over 90 percent of our participants reporting increased knowledge, skills, and interest in STEM fields. Learn more about Kids in Tech here. 

After gaining more insight towards lesson plans and curriculum used at Kids in Tech, students began to plan and create lessons around relevant topics. Some students in the section were able to travel to a partner Kids in Tech school a few times throughout the 3 mods to deliver their lessons directly to the students. One group led a lesson on videography that was very engaging and exciting for both the CSW students and the Kids in Tech students. Other students that were not able to visit Kids in Tech presented their lesson plans to their class to receive feedback and see what would be viable for future in-person lessons. 


The tutoring section worked with Learn To Be, an free online tutoring platform. Learn To Be brings free, 1-on-1, online tutoring to underserved youth around the United States. They aim to make the world a place where all kids have access to a great education — not just those whose families can afford one. Learn more about Learn To Be here. 


This section partnered with Doc Wayne, a mental health and youth services program based out of Boston. Doc Wayne provides access to brighter futures for youth around the world and strengthens the field of mental health by using revolutionary sport-based therapy and clinical initiatives. Using a theoretical curriculum, which incorporates social-emotional learning and life skills, Doc Wayne offers innovative mental health programming reimagined through the lens of sport. Clinicians and mentors are known as coaches and their offices are local gyms, fields, or other comparable safe spaces. Doc Wayne coaches harness the power of sport to address the need for mental health services amongst youth. Learn more about Doc Wayne here. 


The Global Exchange section partnered with the Affiliated Senior High School of National Taiwan Normal University. The students undertook a few different projects throughout the 3 mods, including English tutoring for elementary school students, giving a presentation to their partner high school, and providing assistance for teachers at the partner school in subtitling videos for promotion, creating an English resource page for their website, and more. 

We want to thank each and every one of our partner organizations who worked with our Community Engagement program this year. We would like to extend our greatest gratitude for your partnership. The meaningful work that this course hopes to do would not be possible without the participation and support of the community organizations we partner with. Each organization provides the students with a unique opportunity to engage deeply with global issues that they care about while learning directly from inspiring people working to make the community a more just and equitable place.  We look forward to further nurturing these partnerships in the future.

The Cambridge School of Weston is a progressive high school for day and boarding students in grades 9–12 and PG. CSW's mission is to provide a progressive education that emphasizes deep learning, meaningful relationships, and a dynamic program that inspires students to discover who they are and what their contribution is to their school, their community and the world.