Changing Lives, One Dorchester Teen at a Time

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Teens living in the Bowdoin/Geneva neighborhood of Dorchester are exposed to gangs and violent crime at an early age.  Coupled with a 32% child poverty rate, these youngsters can be quite vulnerable to the fear and intimidation of gangs. Catholic Charities of Boston believes in the limitless potential of every child, and that teenagers should be able to laugh, play and learn in a supportive and safe environment.

In 2002, Catholic Charities of Boston established the Teen Center at St. Peter’s. 

What began as a response from community members, elected officials and the police department to attempt to curb the rampant youth violence in the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, the Teen Center quickly became a safe haven for teens where they can build confidence in their abilities to make their communities a safer place to live.


When Joao Dos Santos, Director of the Teen Center at St. Peter’s, heard that the Cummings Foundation had named Catholic Charities one of the recipients of their $20 Million Grant Program for 2020, he knew the money would help the Teen Center team achieve some of their long-planned dreams.


“We’ve always had a lot of goals we wanted to accomplish, and programs we had hoped to create, but funding was always a roadblock,” Dos Santos said. “This grant will open up those roadways and allow us to create new programming within the Teen Center and bring in more resources for the kids.” 


The Cummings Foundation grant awards the Teen Center $20,000 a year for the next five years.  Annually, the Teen Center provides 400 neighborhood kids with quality sports, recreation and enrichment activities that support their social development, academic achievement, and future success. For many youths in the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, the Teen Center offers them a safe and secure place to be supported by adults and focus on positive self-development in a nurturing and protected environment. 


A group of people around each otherDescription automatically generatedAs a Teen Center alumnus himself, receiving this grant reminds Dos Santos that the work of the Teen Center staff serves a higher purpose. “Being able to watch the children who are enrolled grow and become responsible members of our communities is an honor. With this grant money, we’re planning to bolster the sports and recreation options available to youth participants and provide at least 100 teens with competitive sports opportunities.” 


Sports and recreational activities are available at the Teen Center year-round and include swimming, recreational basketball and soccer leagues. The Teen Center also hosts monthly basketball games between kids and police officers. “Sports gives young people a chance to be part of a team and practice communication and cooperation,” said Dos Santos.


“I love that I’m able toA group of people sitting in a roomDescription automatically generated give back to a program that made such a profound impact on me, and we are enormously grateful to the Cummings Foundation for their generous support. These funds WILL help us change lives, for the better.”  

To support the Teen Center and help Catholic Charities of Boston continue to encourage teens in the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, click here.