Academics » Community Action Seminars

Community Action Seminars

Community Action Seminar

Community service is a donated service or activity that is performed by someone or a group of people for the benefit of the public or its institutions. 


Students must complete 100 hours of community service before graduation, which roughly adds up to 25 hours/year. Students join Community Service Seminars (formally known as advisory) that focus on different areas of service. Groups must explore an issue and develop a leadership project to address it. Through these Seminars, students earn community service hours but, even more importantly, support and a deeper understanding of their communities and leadership. 


BCLA Community Leaders and the Leadership Coordinator will approve hours. Students may use up to 10 hours/year for in-house work (e.g. helping with Open House, giving tours to guests). BCLA Community Days also count toward hours.


There are eight Community Days throughout the school year. At least two of these must be off-site service arranged by the CSS. The first is a whole-school event with an organizational fair in the gym, the fourth is a whole-school Diversity Day, and the eighth is a whole-school Leadership Expo, which includes keynote speakers and student presentations. A few of the vast numbers of contributors include Sociedad Latina, Cradles to Crayons, United Way, and AIDS Action.


Community Action Seminar (CAS) Descriptions


9th Grade CAS

The 9th grade Community Action Seminar seeks to provide all 9th graders with a strong foundation for leadership, and a clear understanding of BCLA’s Leadership Principles. Focusing strongly on, team building, a preliminary understanding of what it means to examine a community issue, and an analysis of their strengths and weaknesses—CAS becomes a safe space to explore “what kind of leader” they aspire to be. One of the primary outcomes of this course is to prepare all 9th graders for their 10th grade CAS selection, which narrows down to the exploration of just one topic.


Grade 10-12 CAS Class


Advocacy through Media

This seminar will give students the opportunity to explore the role media plays in our lives and our society. Students will examine media as a tool for activism and social change. As students become comfortable with different media, they will choose an issue of interest to them and start a campaign using appropriate media.

Objective: To develop media literacy skills and explore media, including social media, as a tool for social change


Central questions to explore:

  • What role does media play in our individual lives?
  • What role does media play in our society?
  • How can media be a negative force in society? How can it be a positive force?

Relevant Organizations: Youth Voice Collaborative, Media Literacy Project, National Association for Media Literacy Education, the Center for Media Literacy, Wheelock College – Department of Communications and Media Literacy, The Transmission Project.

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Engineering Social Justice: 

This seminar will build students’ skills in coding, programming, and mechanical engineering to investigate ways that engineering can serve as a tool for building social justice. Students will learn to program, use, and maintain the 3D printer built by the 2014-2015 Engineering students, and will host workshops for other interested students. 

Objective: To build basic software and mechanical engineering skills and explore engineering as a tool for solving social justice problems


Central questions to explore:

  • What does it mean to engineer a solution to a social justice problem?
  • How do we identify and refine problems to work on?
  • How do we use the tools of engineering to design solutions to the problems we identify?

Relevant Organizations: 

MIT D-Lab, Olin College of Engineering, PrintrBot

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Student Government Association: 

Students deserve the chance to act as leaders at the school- and city-wide level. Students serve on committees, meet with stakeholders and act as decision-makers. There are subcommittees within SGA based on student interest and needs of BCLA.


This CSS will work with all elected officials on the SGA board. They will work to advocate for BCLA students, Plan events for the BCLA community, involve the BCLA community in political happenings and reach out to local legislators for support. 

Objective: To facilitate student capability of leadership at BCLA and assist students in navigating the complex world of decision-making; to solidify a strong student-based government system for BCLA student; to train SGA leaders with 21st Century leadership skills; to have active recruitment for all students at BCLA



Central questions to explore:

  • What are the different levels of leadership students may participate in at the school- and city-wide levels?
  • How are students able to make change?
  • What are the big issues that BCLA students are concerned about and how do we act upon them with the appropriate people?

Relevant Organizations: BSAC, BYOP, ILT, Governing Board

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Cultural Diversity: 

Every day, the student population of BCLA becomes more and more racially and culturally diverse. Our students take great pride in their cultures and are eager to share their beliefs and customs. Our students also show great curiosity in the cultural backgrounds of others. This Community Service Seminar explores the attributes of racial and cultural diversity in Boston and BCLA.

Objective: To educate fellow advisees on customs and traditions of their own culture; to learn about cultures that they may not know about


Central questions to explore:

  • What is something unique/special about your culture?
  • What is a culture that you would like to know more about?
  • What are some similarities between your culture and . . .?

Relevant Organizations: Sociedad Latina, Consulates of various countries, various ethnic celebrations around Boston, i.e. Lunar New Year

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Social Justice: 

The Social Justice CSS engages in the exploration of possible options available to low-income populations in New England. 

Objective: To explore the social and economic circumstances affecting populations considered as low income in the urban areas of the city

Students will be able to:

  • Identify possible options to obtain clothing at inexpensive budgetary levels
  • Critically analyze options available to this bracket of the population
  • Explore source(s) to originate different options to aid low income populations 

Central questions to explore:

  • What role does society play in the lives of low-income populations?
  • What kind of help is available and how can we be part of it?
  • What role do I as a student play in providing help to low-income populations?
  • How can ignorance be a negative force in the way help is provided to low-income populations?
  • How can being informed be a positive force in the way help is provided to low-income populations?
  • How do we become a critical part of the options available to low-income populations?
  • How can we teach others to be a critical part of the options available to low-income populations? 

Relevant Organizations: Sociedad Latina

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Healthy Teen Relationships:

The quality of teens’ relationships has a huge effect on their lives. Positive relationships can help teens become happy, healthy, and successful. On the other hand, negative relationships can inhibit teens’ social and emotional development. This Community Service Seminar explores the attributes of healthy and unhealthy relationships.

Objectives: To explore characteristics of healthy teen relationships both within and outside of our communities; to build relationships that exemplify these characteristics; to support peers in developing healthy relationships


Central questions to explore: 

  • What makes teen relationships healthy? What makes them unhealthy?
  • How can we build relationships that are healthy?
  • How can we support other teens in building healthy relationships?

Relevant Organizations: Start Strong, Boston Public Health Commission, Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence  

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


LGBTQA+ Issues:

The exploration and discussion of LGBTQ communities in various spaces within our society and how many social, economic and legal factors that impact the access to resources and overall quality of life. 

Objective: To gain an understanding of LGBTQ communities, identify issues that are important, and create various methods to support and serve, in and out of the BCLA community; to think about ways to institutionalize safe spaces within our school for LGBTQA+ people through meetings, awareness campaigns, access to information, fundraising, etc


Central questions to explore:

  • What does it mean to be a part of the LGBTQA+ community? In our school, in Boston, in the United States? 
  • In what ways does the LGBTQA+ community intersect with other social issues like mental health, homelessness, access to health care, legal issues, and how can we address/help/advocate for changes?
  • How can students create safe spaces for not only LGBTQA+ people but also other disenfranchised populations? 

Relevant Organizations: BAGLY: Boston Alliance of Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Youth, Fenway Community Health Center, MA Commission on LGBTQ Youth, PFLAG

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Community Activism:

Community activism involves fighting to change critical community issues. Grassroots activists get their power from the people who care and are willing to fight about a cause. 

Objective: To explore what it means to be an activist, and how groups of citizens unite in order to make change in their communities; to learn how to organize a campaign, including determining who has power, affecting stakeholders, mobilizing allies, and organizing an action; to visit community activist organization, choose an issue, and organize a campaign, including a culminating action


Central Questions to Explore: 

  • What are the issues in our communities that affect us?
  • Who has the power in our communities?
  • How do we effect change?
  • How can we best mobilize our allies?

Relevant Organizations: Jobs with Justice, ACE, Boston Fair Housing Commission, Black Lives Matter

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Environmental Education and Justice: 

This seminar will explore topics in environmental education and justice, and work on ways to advocate and volunteer in this area locally. 

Objective: To explore topics in environmental education and justice


Central Questions to Explore: 

  • How do we identify and refine problems to work on in this area.
  • How do we identify and learn about local issues we can become part of. 

Relevant Organizations: Franklin Park Coalition, Charles River Conservancy, Franklin Park Zoo

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Engineering for Social Justice II

Currently, the group has decided that it wants to try to work on issues in Haiti. Based on preliminary research, the group has chosen three focus areas: water, energy and education. We have been trying to identify partners that can help us identify needs in Haiti and figure out the best ways we can use technology to meet those needs.  Knowing that whatever we eventually focus on, we will need significant funding, we have also been exploring fundraising ideas and options.

Objective: To design and build technology that can be used to alleviate social issues thereby using engineering as a tool for solving social justice problems


Central questions to explore:

  • What does it mean to engineer a solution to a social justice problem?
  • How do we identify and refine problems to work on?
  • How can we let the community inform us of its true needs?
  • How do we use the tools of engineering to design solutions to the problem we identify?
  • How do we partner with community members and bring community expertise to bear to create solutions?

Relevant Organizations: MIT D-Lab, Edem Foundation, 

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Children, Youth & Education

The exploration of what issues children and youth face while in contact with the Education System. This can include children and youth who don’t have access to the system or have left school. Issues around dropout, Lack of Head start funding for communities, and standardized testing can all be expected to be addressed. 

Objective: To explore the social, economic and psychological elements of children and youth involved in the education system


Central questions to explore:

  • How does education change when in different social, economic and spatial locations? How do these different spaces impact its students?
  • When looking at the state’s budget for education, does it make sense to you? Does it seem fair? What would you add or take out?
  • What are some of the biggest issues children and Youth face in urban communities? What is being done about it?
  • What do you think about the “No Child Left Behind Act”? 

Relevant Organizations: Local Elementary schools, Student Immigration Movement, ABCD , Cradles to Crayons

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Public Health: 

Public Health is the science of protecting and improving the health of communities through education, promotion of healthy lifestyles, and research for disease and injury prevention. Public health professionals analyze the effect on health of genetics, personal choice and the environment in order to develop programs that protect the health of your family and community.

Objective: To explore and research topics in health that affect society at large; to analyze how the government and organizations address these issues


Central Questions to Explore:

  • Public Health covers a wide range of topics. After searching “Public Health” online, which topic interests you? (For example, AIDS awareness, Healthy Eating, Fitness)
  • What are some of the biggest Public Health concerns that Massachusetts faces?
  • Have you ever been a part of a Public Health cause? (Given blood, participated in a “Breast Cancer” benefit walk, Safe Sex campaign)
  • Why do you think certain health scares exist as largely as they do? Lack of information? Money? Access? 

Relevant Organizations: AIDS Action Committee, SCORES, Brigham & Women’s Hospital at Faulkner, Museum of Science

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Hunger & Food Insecurity

Students will study either global or local food instability issues. 

Objective: To understand the social, developmental and psychological impact that food instability has on human life


Central Questions to Explore:

  • What populations of people suffer from hunger the most? And why?
  • How does hunger differ between America and the rest of the world? Is there a real difference?
  • What is being done in Boston to stop hunger statistics from increasing? Is it working?
  • After researching the Bill Emerson Act, how do you think local food businesses can be a part of the solution?

Relevant Organizations: Boston Food Bank, Community Servings, Casa Nueva

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Sexual Health & Wellness (1 & 2)

Students will explore topics from a comprehensive Sex Education curriculum, “Get Real”. Individual units are presented after establishing class rights and responsibilities. Topics include: Gender Responsibility, including harmful stereotypes; Sexual Identity; STI and HIV Prevention; Sexual Risks and Low-Risk Intimacy; Negotiating Postponement and Protection; Social Media Literacy and Sexuality; Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships; and culminate in a portfolio project.


Central Questions to Explore:

  • What is the Reproductive System and how does it work?
  • How can I participate in healthy relationships?
  • How can I decrease my risk of getting pregnant and/or contracting an STI?
  • What are the various ways people identify in terms of their sexuality and gender?

Relevant Organization: Marita McPhail at Boston Health Commission, School Nurse, Planned Parenthood, The Get Real Teen Council

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Women’s Empowerment Group:

In this program we seek to create a healthy and empowering environment for young woman at BCLA to develop the skills and support needed to accomplish their dreams and goals. By spending a large amount of time discussing our values and histories, we hope to prepare them for the world ahead. This is a group that seeks to transform and inspire young women to be strong, driven, and intentional in purpose. 

Objective: To have each girl identify something unique and special about herself; to have each girl identify some differences in others and celebrate those differences; to help each girl identify what she currently considers valuable and how this relates to how she values or “devalues” herself; to help each girl learn how to identify and follow a plan to reach her goals

 

Central questions to explore:

  • How does being young women in the 21st century affect how we see the world? 
  • How do stereotypes about women and media images affect our self-esteem? 
  • Why is public health and knowing our bodies and power so important? 
  • What are the struggles that lie ahead for young women of color and how do we prepare ourselves for the win?

Relevant Organizations: My Sister’s Keeper, We Are The Ones, YWCA, Science Club for Girls, Girls LEAP

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


BCLA Men’s Group:

This group’s main focus is to empower emerging men through education, volunteerism and social responsibility. We will also strive toward students determining their own destiny, growth and esteem. 

Objective: To empower young men to pursue their dreams through dialogues about their future and values. 


Central questions to explore:

  • Who is a male you look up to and why? What are some of the qualities they possess that inspire you? 
  • What is “Male Aggression” and how do we express ourselves in a world that does not promote men expressing their feelings? 
  • Are you afraid of failure? What does success mean to you? 

Relevant Organizations: Concerned Black Men of Massachusetts

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Health & Wellness

According to Michelle Obama's Let's Move Organization, "Thirty years ago, most people led lives that kept them at a healthy weight. Kids walked to and from school every day, ran around at recess, participated in gym class, and played for hours after school before dinner. Meals were home-cooked with reasonable portion sizes and there was always a vegetable on the plate. Eating fast food was rare and snacking between meals was an occasional treat. 


“Today, children experience a very different lifestyle. Walks to and from school have been replaced by car and bus rides. Gym class and after-school sports have been cut; afternoons are now spent with TV, video games, and the internet. Parents are busier than ever and families eat fewer home-cooked meals. Snacking between meals is now commonplace. By making just a few lifestyle changes, we can help our children lead healthier lives–and we already have the tools we need to do it. We just need the will. www.letsmove.gov

Objective: To understand the importance of fitness, nutrition, and good mental health; to create opportunities for members of the community to be more physically and mentally fit


Central Questions to Explore:

  • How does fitness and nutrition impact our ability to perform at work and school?
  • How can we teach others or provide others with opportunities for a healthier lifestyle?
  • What are some strategies people can learn to become more fit both physically and mentally?

Relevant Organizations: www.letsmove.gov YMCA

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


Hip Hop “Rap-a-demics”

This CSS explores many components of Hip Hop as a culture. It seeks to provide a solid foundation of the history of hip-hop, especially important considering the ways hip-hop cultures are marginalized and misunderstood in the broader public sphere. We will take a look at lyric decoding, graffiti, songwriting, performance style, dance and whatever the class is most interested in. 

Objective: To use hip-hop as an avenue to discuss pressing issues in culture and politics; to empower emerging artist and music historians or music enthusiast at BCLA. 


Central Questions to Explore:

  • What is Hip Hop?
  • What is its relation to politics in the U.S.?
  • How has the musical art form addressed social issues in our society?

Relevant Organizations: Project Hip Hop, The Foundation Movement, ICA, Mass Art, Harvard Hip Hop Institute and more 

For other relevant organizations please see the Community Service Booklet.


BCLA Leadership Corps

The BCLA Leadership Corps is a group of students who specialize in BCLA’s Leadership Principles. They are trained to lead workshops and discussion groups based on this knowledge, and their work aims to educate and motivate their peers in the hope that all students will acquire an understanding of BCLA’s unique culture. The Leadership Corps seeks to engage all 550 BCLA students through a student made and student driven curriculum, to prepare their fellow students with the basic tools needed to thrive and change our communities.