BOSTON, July 18, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- In what is believed to be the largest gathering of Boston teens focused on civic engagement this summer, 650 MLK Summer Scholars participants today met at Boston University's Agganis Arena to set a course for personal action in their communities. MLK Summer Scholars is a summer jobs program created by John Hancock, in close partnership with The Boston Globe, Boston University, and Partners HealthCare.
Kicking off the 2-hour seminar, one of the four personal and professional development workshops that are part of the teen summer jobs program, were Governor Deval Patrick and second-year participant 17-year old Connie Chang, an MLK Summer Scholar and a fierce advocate for young women's rights. Each shared their personal experience with social justice and challenged the teens to participate in the workshop activities, and then in their communities.
"These young people are the future of the Commonwealth and I am pleased that they have the opportunity to take part in this program and think about their role in developing community," said Governor Patrick. "Civic engagement and service are part of everyday life and critically important to the well-being of society. Even small acts can make a big difference."
As the executive editor of a youth-run feminist literary magazine and co-president of Boston Latin's social justice club, Chang told of the moment that launched her activism. "A few years ago walking in Boston with my younger sister one night, we were targets of an older man's racial and sexual verbal harassment," said Chang. "Passersby did nothing and we got away, but it fostered in me a desire to fight injustice. As teens, we are no longer children, but not really adults – but I don't believe we need to wait to do something that can make a change for the better."Following the speakers, Scholars participated in interactive exercises looking at ways that people deal with social issues on a daily basis, and how injustice is still a part of today's society. In closing, small groups looked at how to create change in issues that matter to them, and developed action steps they could implement in their neighborhoods, schools, workplaces or other community places.