Camp Harbor View joins national movement, launches guaranteed income pilot with UpTogether

50 Families will receive $7,000 per year for two years

Boston, MA – A group of Boston families are the newest champions for the impact of direct cash investments on social and economic mobility. Camp Harbor View recently launched a near $800,000 guaranteed income pilot, in partnership with anti-poverty nonprofit UpTogether, that provides 50 Boston households $7,000 each year for two years. These families are able to use the funds however they choose and do not need to pay it back.

After just five months, families are reporting greater overall financial stability. A participating parent, who wished to remain anonymous, says the program is having transformative effects on her physical and mental wellbeing as well as her financial stability.

“As a single mom, I have worked two jobs for the last six years to make ends meet. With the GI grant, I have been able to focus on my full-time job,” she said. “The time I’ve gained back has improved my focus, given me more time with my children, and allowed me to participate in professional development, which led to a promotion.”

Rooted locally, Camp Harbor View is committed to addressing the pervasive racial and economic opportunity gaps that exist in Boston.

“This pilot is about trusting and empowering families,” Camp Harbor View Chairman Jack Connors, Jr said. “I believe this will prove to be an innovative and necessary approach to partnering with families, ensuring that economic mobility is possible in our city.”

Each of the 50 enrolled families receives $583 in unrestricted cash monthly for the duration of the 24-month pilot. The participants were asked to set at least one financial goal at the start of the pilot and then they are given surveys quarterly—along with a small group of families who are not receiving funds—to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. To measure the efficacy of this two-year pilot, Camp Harbor View engaged an experienced independent evaluator to collect data and study outcomes.

The results from the pilot will have an impact beyond Boston.  In partnership with the Economic Security Project, the Camp Harbor View learnings will be part of a growing body of national research on guaranteed income programs.           

“As someone who lived in Boston for 17 years, and still loves the city, I am beyond excited to see the impact this pilot will have on families here,” said UpTogether CEO Jesús Gerena.  “At UpTogether, we know it’s not just about the impact of unrestricted cash investments on individual households, but most importantly, the exponential impact those dollars will have on entire communities.”

 

About Camp Harbor View: Camp Harbor View works with 1,000+ young Bostonians and their families each year offering a one-of-a-kind summer camp for kids in grades 6-8, year-round leadership development for teens in grades 9-12, and comprehensive family services, including college and career planning, scholarships, clinical support, and food access — all at no cost to families.

About UpTogether: UpTogether is a community, a movement, and a platform that highlights, accelerates, and invests in the initiative people in financially under-resourced communities are taking to improve their lives and move up, together. Using compelling data and personal success stories to transform stereotypes, beliefs, and policies, UpTogether champions the effort to boost long-term economic mobility in communities that have been under-served for far too long.

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Making the season bright

From Thanksgiving dinner to gifts at the holidays, this annual tradition seeks to alleviate family stress and bring kids joy. It’s one of our most meaningful programs for families and donors alike, with both experiencing the generosity of spirit in the holiday season.

Take a look at this heartwarming video to see the Camp Harbor View community’s holiday celebrations with over 400 families from start to finish.

Thanks to the generous support of hundreds of donors, partners, and volunteers, we doubled the number of families reached this year, distributing $101,800 in gift cards for parents to use to purchase their children items on their wishlist, bins with household essentials, and festive holiday supplies. Happy Holidays for all of us at Camp Harbor View!

A guaranteed income program for a stronger Boston

In August of 2021, Camp Harbor View proudly partnered with UpTogether to launch a two-year guaranteed income pilot with 50 Boston families. The $735,000 program, which provides no-strings attached payments of $583 per family each month, is one of the largest funded by a community-based organization nationwide. 

A decade’s worth of peer-reviewed evidence shows that guaranteed income is a uniquely powerful tool in supporting families as they achieve upward economic mobility. This pilot program seeks to improve families’ emotional and physical health — as well as their economic security — by pairing direct income with community connections and resources. 

“Guaranteed income is a transformative tool to promote social and economic mobility and long-term financial sustainability. We are excited to partner with 50 Boston families in this pilot, while also contributing to the growing body of research nationally about guaranteed income,” Lisa Fortenberry, Executive Director of Camp Harbor View said. 

Camp Harbor View’s partnership with UpTogether — a national nonprofit that highlights, invests in, and accelerates the initiatives people in historically under-resourced communities are taking to improve their lives and move up, together — began in 2019.  The next year, the two organizations launched a Covid-19 relief fund that offered families emergency funds via direct transfer.  Over the past two decades, UpTogether has invested more than $135 million in guaranteed income payments to households in all 50 states, nurtured deep community connections, and proved that this strength-based approach can be a catalyst to drive long-term economic and social mobility. 

This pilot program runs through mid-2023, and the Camp Harbor View and UpTogether teams are working closely with families each week as they build community, listen, learn, and support one another. 

The Camp Harbor View team is excited to share more updates and to work with other partners in Boston to invest more deeply in the families that will be the future of our city.  If you’d like to discuss, please reach out to our team.

A Summer of COVID — Three lessons on leadership from the most challenging summer of my life

Friday, August 13th, 2021 8:15 PM — My phone rings. On the other end is a parent in our program at Camp Harbor View. “I’m calling to let you know that I’ve tested positive for COVID-19, and my daughter will not be returning to camp”. 

The call set into motion our protocol of contact tracing and quarantine. The camper had minor symptoms and recovered quickly, and we avoided further cases on our campus in the Boston Harbor Islands. In looking back, this call represents the kind of moment so many of us have faced over these past two years — challenging us to make quick decisions, with compassion and safety in mind, and to continue serving our communities amidst difficult circumstances. 

1. How you practice and prepare is how you’ll play the game: I have always prided myself on setting up effective systems. I have learned, through trial and error, that this is so important to success in every facet of both personal and professional success. Part of this, I must acknowledge, comes from being diagnosed with a learning disability at a young age and having to build systems that worked for my different way of learning (I actually do not see it as a disability, more as a badge of honor that says it is okay to be a little different).

This summer was a completely different beast. Preparation began around the holidays, giving us a six-month runway to develop systems and structures to serve hundreds of unvaccinated people on an island in Boston Harbor. I was tasked with leading our COVID protocols (or, as my staff would say to get a laugh in, the “COVID Czar”). We spent countless hours — with our internal team and external doctors, nurses, and engineers — mapping out scenarios, from testing practices to what we would do in the event of a positive case. Our 35-page playbook was the lifesaver that led to only two positive cases all summer, with nearly 500 people coming to and from every neighborhood in the city.

On my last call with our epidemiologist, she said, “Two cases with that many people, are you kidding me?” to which I replied, “nope, we started preparing for this in January, and I’m glad it paid off.” This process served as a helpful reminder that how we prepare is how we will perform in every aspect of work and life.

2. It’s always about the one-on-one connection: I have worked with many leaders who focus on impact numbers first. I get it, it’s what we are held accountable to as leaders and managers. I remember being a 22-year-old manager at City Year, with 95% of my brain focused on the data, ensuring that our dashboard looked good quarter over quarter, year over year. I’ve changed over the years, no doubt. While I am still driven by results, my approach has evolved.

This summer was a helpful reminder that so much of our work’s success as leaders is grounded in building a foundation and developing genuine connections with the people we lead. If we do this well, we drive greater results for our organizations by creating a culture of connection that brings out the best in our people. Coming out of quarantine this summer served as a helpful reminder that we have to be intentional about this every day and in every interaction.

On a 98-degree day, one of several brutally hot days on the island this summer, I sat down for lunch with one of the young leaders in our program. With that kind of heat, you could not find a person on the island who wasn’t either frustrated or exhausted (or both!). This turned out to be the most impactful conversations that I’ve had in a very long time. We talked about everything from Kobe Bryant to the worries of being a senior in high school. We also spoke about the organization, and I asked my usual range of questions aimed at trying to understand how we are doing as an organization and where we need to be better. One line that has stuck with me from her was, “Josh, people have to feel something to be led by another person, without connection, you got nothing.”

It all starts with that one-to-one connection — and this summer in the trenches of leading through COVID, that mattered more than ever. The young people in our programs never cease to amaze me, or in this case, teach and remind me of the things that matter and make me the best version of myself.

3. People may disagree with a decision, but a lack of clarity is far more detrimental to the success of the team and the organization. On the second-to-last day of camp, we were hit with the most challenging moment of the summer (and likely of my professional life). We had a positive COVID case the prior week, the second of the summer, and we had successfully executed our contact tracing and quarantining plans.

Around 10 a.m. on the last day, the nurses paged me over the walkie. I walked into the office. “What’s up?” I said. “Two kids with symptoms, inclusive of fevers and sore throats.” “You have got to be kidding me. We made it the whole summer, and now this?”. I collected myself, of course, and thanked the team. Our leadership team quickly circled up, and I explained the situation. Looking around that room, we all knew what we had to do, the unpopular yet best decision—pull the plug on camp a day early. We scrambled to communicate and tell staff, executing all of this in about two hours.

I remember walking to the parking garage that evening and turning to my dear friend and colleague, Lisa, and saying, “Did we just ruin the summer for these kids? They didn’t get any closure”. Her response was something that I will never forget—”We may have just prevented an outbreak. We were clear and decisive, and people will look back on that knowing that we did things the right way”.

And this call also represents three lessons on leadership that became clear throughout the challenging — and wonderful — summer of 2021. I took time this fall to reflect on these key lessons.

As we look ahead to 2022, challenges no doubt will still come our way but the experiences and lessons from the summer of 2021 will last a lifetime and they have prepared us for whatever lies ahead. 

A year after George Floyd’s murder, white leaders like me still have plenty of work to do on racial justice.

One year ago this week, people across the world stared in horror at the video of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck until he died.  For some of us, horror at this murder on video was paired with shock. For others, including many people of color I know, the video was far from shocking or surprising. It was terribly sad, but it was also far too familiar.

As the leader of an organization committed to racial equity, I have long sought to be an ally on the path to racial justice in our city and our country. But this last year has taught me that allyship isn’t enough. The word “ally” can mean a lot of things, but I have learned that it doesn’t immediately suggest action and sacrifice. I’ve heard from BIPOC friends and colleagues that how white people like myself can really help is to become accomplices — by taking substantive action, and making real sacrifices, in the pursuit of racial equity. 

My journey toward action on racial justice started late in life — I grew up in a very white community, largely unaware of the privilege that accompanied just about every breath I took — my home, my school, my vacations, and access to adults who had the time and capacity to invest in my future. In college, I started to awaken to my privilege and to the ways that the systems of power in our country upheld and exacerbated centuries-old oppression. Relationships with people of color, and my work at Camp Harbor View over the last 14 years have played a central role in my deepening understanding of systemic racism. I’ll never feel even a sliver of the pain and generational trauma that people of color feel, but I’ll also never go back to a place of ignorance. 

These days, I’m doing my best to listen and learn from BIPOC individuals of all ages. I’m deeply indebted to friends and mentors — especially Black women — who are helping me understand more about lived experience in our city and our country for people of color and other folks whose voices have been marginalized for generations. 

But I’m also committed to go beyond listening and learning. If we read the work of Dr. Ibram Kendi and Isabel Wilkerson and go back to our lives without making significant changes, we can’t call ourselves allies or accomplices. We have to act. 

So I’m committing myself to focus on five key actions for racial justice. I may never fully arrive at the destination, but I’ll work at getting better and doing more every day, and every year. And I’m calling on white people — especially those who lead organizations, teams, and companies — to join me. 

Five ways white leaders can take action for racial justice: 

  1. Listen — The first step to good listening is showing up. Be present for everyone in your life, and especially people whose voices have traditionally been marginalized. If you build trust and invest in relationships, people will tell you what they’re feeling and you can start to find places where you might be able to partner.
  2. Know when to speak up and when to step back — Most white leaders, myself included, would probably do well to talk less. Center the voices of Black women and other BIPOC folks in the rooms where decisions get made. But I’m not giving you a pass to stay quiet, either. You have power, use it by speaking up and using your platform to advance systemic changes that bring about equity. Finding the balance isn’t easy. I’m sure I often get it wrong, but I’m committed to keep trying. (And I’m lucky to have at least a few relationships where BIPOC folks tell me when they need me to lead, when they need me to follow, and when I should step aside).
  3. Hire, promote, and trust people of color For the white folks out there who run organizations, I urge you to hire more people of color. Boston is 53% people of color. Is your leadership team more than half people of color? We’re not there yet at Camp Harbor View, but we’re committed to working on it. If you’re thinking the problem is a pipeline of talent, you’re either not recruiting in the right places or you haven’t built the trust for people to want to work for you.
  4. Give something up — If we are truly invested in pursuing racial equity, we must be willing to give up some of the power we have. Think of it this way, do you want your legacy to be that you held power throughout your career and life or that you made a significant (and selfless) contribution to a more equitable Boston?
  5. Commit to accountability — Make a plan for what you’d like to accomplish and share it with someone. It might be a friend or colleague. Or — even better — maybe you’ll publish the plan for your organization on your website. For me, writing this post is a step on that path. I’m committed to moving forward on these steps every week, and I’m putting this out there so you’ll hold me accountable.

Are you ready to join me in this work?

Committing to true learning and action means being vulnerable. I have put my foot in my mouth more than once in conversations about racial justice — it doesn’t feel great, but in retrospect I’m usually proud that I tried, that I spoke up and used my platform. (Sometimes I look back and wish I had just shut up and let BIPOC folks speak)

I’m writing today not to pat myself on the back for trying to be “woke” or for being “on a journey.” I’m doing it because if white leaders like me don’t make a commitment to take real action, we’ll fail to move the needle on racial justice — even a little bit — in our lifetimes. We have a real opportunity right now. The Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 were the largest demonstrations in American history. Cities, states, and the federal government are passing significant reforms to protect Black lives and create more equity for BIPOC folks. Some corporations and nonprofits are making real systemic changes that will impact thousands of lives (others are getting better at window dressing). 

I’m ready to keep working on this. It’s a matter of life and death for my friends, my community, and for me. Are you with me?

A Statement on the Attack at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021

We’d like to start by vehemently condemning the events that took place yesterday in our nation’s capital. The terror brought forth by a group of radicalized Americans was an attack on both our democratic institutions and our values. January 6, 2021 will be remembered as a dark day in American history, but one that we hope will serve as a starting point to bring about the kind of change that will improve the community, nation, and world around us.

Our work at Camp Harbor View is about partnering with young people and their families to bring about access and opportunity. In this uncertain and, at times, chaotic world, we remain committed to being a source of consistency and support for the young people, families, and communities we partner with. We recognize and acknowledge the pain and tumult that yesterday’s events sparked for many in our community. We stand as committed as ever to the work ahead – to listening, advocating, healing, and recovering.

Yesterday does not represent the America that we want for ourselves or our children. As we move forward in the days, months, and years ahead, we hope that the work brings about a more kind, just, and equitable country.

Camp Harbor Views

On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, Camp Harbor Views – a free online experience for families, supporters, and champions of our mission – celebrated the resiliency of our community and shared our views on the past, present, and future of the organization.

Hosted by Jenny Johnson of NESN’s Dining Playbook and Camp Harbor View’s Advisory Council, it was an evening full of surprises. Over 700 attendees heard from organization leaders, champions, and a few special guests sharing stories of joy, hope, and the community that made it all possible. The celebration was capped off with four impressive Leaders in Training sharing their 2020 experiences and why they’re hopeful for the future.

Watch the evening’s program from start to finish below to hear more young leaders share their perspectives.  We promise it will leave you energized and inspired.

Camp Harbor View is made possible by the generous support of donors. We hope you’re inspired to continue to invest in the future of Boston with us. Please consider donating to support our mission and share the magic of Camp Harbor View with family, friends, and fellow Bostonians by following us on social media. Thank you for being a part of this community.

Celebrate #BostonBlackHistory With Us

We’re excited to continue #BostonBlackHistory this February in celebration of Black History Month, posting stories on the legacy of Black history in our wonderful and culturally rich city across our social media channels and encouraging everyone in Boston to join the conversation by sharing stories of their own.

Leaders in Training in our program helped brainstorm and develop the stories we’re telling. History matters and representation matters – and through this project we seek to highlight the great diversity and character of the city of Boston.

Here are just a few of our favorites from the stories told by teens in our program and by members of this community so far. Do you have one to add? Post it to your social channels with the hashtag #BostonBlackHistory or send it our way via email at info@campharborview.org or Instagram @campharborview. Please join us in raising awareness of these important stories.

#BostonBlackHistory posts

#BostonBlackHistory posts

Camp Harbor View seeks to impact racial & economic inequality in Boston

At Camp Harbor View, we often ask ourselves if we’re doing enough. Are we doing enough for our campers, Leaders in Training and staff? Are we doing enough for the families of the youth we serve?  About six months ago, we decided that the answer to the last of those important questions was “NO.”

When the Boston Globe published its recent series on racial income disparity in Boston, one of the stunning statistics shared was that the average net worth of families of color in the city is $8.00.  That’s not a typo – $8.00.  Camp Harbor View has always been committed to promoting equity and opportunity in Boston, but this series stirred our desire to do more. Encouraged and supported by the Board of Directors, we decided to begin with Camp Harbor View families; to learn from them about the obstacles and hurdles they face with respect to economic mobility and to work with them to design pilot solutions to some of the most intractable problems they encounter.

We have taken the first step by engaging the services of the consulting team of Turahn Dorsey and Reverend Mariama White-Hammond to lead us through a process of information-gathering with families and LITs from our program, and then to work with family representatives and an advisory board composed of corporate leaders to create short and long-term solutions of varying size and scope.

Racial and economic inequality has long been the norm in Boston.  We know that we cannot fix a problem of this magnitude, but we believe that we might be able to have an impact on at least a small group of families.  Perhaps that grows into something more substantial and perhaps we will create a model that can be replicated.  We realize this is a tall order, but we feel a deep responsibility to the families who have placed their trust in us, so we’re off and running.  We’ll keep you posted.

Meet the interns keeping us healthy

Two Camp Harbor View alumni are interning this summer at local healthcare organizations. Check out Q&As below with Megan Michta & John-Michael Louis.

Megan Michta
Megan Michta
  • 10-week internship at MGH Liver Center
  • Rising Sophomore at UMass Amherst
  • Studying Public Health & Environmental Science

How long have you been a part of Camp Harbor View?

 I started attending Camp Harbor View as a camper when I was 11 years old and have participated every year since then – over 9 years now! In this time, Camp Harbor View made me the hard worker that I am today.

What are the most valuable lessons you learned during your time at Camp Harbor View?

I really appreciate that Camp Harbor View instills strong leadership values into all campers and staff. It’s so refreshing to see and hear young children discussing respect, courage, responsibility, character, and community. As a camper, I never thought much about it, but as a Leader in Training and staff member, I realized how important it is to talk about leadership with kids and shape them into active and engaged members of not only the Camp Harbor View community but also their own families, neighborhoods and schools.

What are you doing this summer at Mass General Hospital?

My internship at MGH combines my interest in public health and my love for patient care very well and it’s very exciting because it’s my first job in medicine. I’m learning about different liver diseases as well as researching what factors could be contributing to them and how they could be reversed.

How has your time with Camp Harbor View prepared you for this opportunity?

At camp, I challenged myself to be the best version of myself so that I could be a role model for my campers. I also learned to adapt and stay calm in stressful situations. The caring and patient nature working with the kids at camp has transitioned into effectively communicating with patients and treating them with respect and kindness. The healthcare field is intertwined between many different people – doctors, nurses, research coordinators, EMTs, insurance companies and more. The communication and teamwork skills I learned at camp are a great foundation for working in healthcare since there needs to be constant communication about patient care.

What have you learned so far through this internship?

Working in clinical research has allowed me to explore many different parts of medicine, including: going on rounds with the hepatologists, shadowing weight loss surgeries and liver biopsies, aliquoting blood samples, screening clinic schedules, going through patient charts and learning about the research process and institutional review board (IRB), and much more!

What’s next for you?

This summer I have decided that I have definitely found my place in the world through medicine. Nothing excites me more than hearing about a new clinical trial that is working to treat a disease or seeing doctors in the Emergency Room save lives. After I graduate, I’m excited to pursue a Master’s in Public Health and then eventually my MD!

John-Michael Lewis
John-Michael Louis
  • 12-week internship at Madaket Health
  • Rising Junior at UMass Lowell
  • Studying Computer Engineering

How long have you been a part of Camp Harbor View?

For eight years! I first had the opportunity to be a camper then a Leader in Training and then a member of the summer staff.

What are the most valuable lessons you learned during your time at Camp Harbor View?

Leadership and inclusivity. I met all sorts of people when I came to camp as a boy. I learned how to build relationships of all kinds and made lifelong friends. At Camp Harbor View I grew to be a man.

What are you doing this summer?

This year, through Camp Harbor View, I received the opportunity to intern at Madaket Health, a healthcare tech startup in Cambridge that is working on streamlining, automating and reducing errors in the Medicare system. This is my first internship and I didn’t know what to expect going into it. From day one at Madaket I’ve felt welcomed and included in the community. The work we do at Madaket is very much team-based and requires a lot of communication – similar to camp.

How has your time with Camp Harbor View prepared you for this opportunity?

At camp, I learned how to lead by example while also building up those around me. In the professional setting, this allows me to receive feedback well and act on it. On the island I also learned to take initiative in anything I do despite not knowing the outcome – taking that risky first step goes along way regardless of where I end up. Whether it was on the rock wall or swimming for the first time, Camp Harbor View really prepared me for uncertainty and taught me how to rise to the occasion in new situations. I’ve used this in meetings to find the courage to speak up and share my point of view.

What have you learned so far through this internship?

This summer internship experience has opened up a world of opportunity for me. Personally, it’s shown me what type of job, company and work environment suits me best. On a broader scale, I’ve learned about the structure of large corporations vs. startup companies and working on both the front- and back-end of the Madaket system has given me a new appreciation for potential impact of coding, artificial intelligence and software development.

What’s next for you?

This internship has reconfirmed that I want to get a job in coding and software development after I graduate. I’m so grateful to Camp Harbor View for connecting me with Madaket. I may not be at camp this summer, but I’ve definitely taken my Camp Harbor View experience and relationships with me. Not only did the program shape who I became but it’s shaping where I’m going.