Our History

Boston’s Higher Ground evolved out of the work of the Working Group on Nonprofit Stabilization and Recovery, which convened in 2008 in response to struggling nonprofit service organizations in high-poverty neighborhoods and communities of color in Boston. An analysis of the economic indicators related to neighborhoods in Roxbury, North Dorchester and Mattapan, commissioned by the Working Group revealed an alarming picture of negative outcomes for children and youth, particularly related to health and education.

These data led a coalition of nonprofit leaders, foundation program officers and academics to consider the need for new service paradigms to get better outcomes. Consequently, twenty-five Boston leaders visited the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City on May 1, 2009, to learn about its operations and results. They returned to Boston and decided to establish a place-based service program that would be relevant to Boston’s unique circumstances.

To address the impact gap, Higher Ground seeks to unite various service providers to affect actual, measurable results in one neighborhood at a time. The leaders of Higher Ground recognize that intergenerational poverty and structural inequality will only end with at least a generation of dedicated, results-oriented work. To affect change, Higher Ground engages communities as well as individuals, generating results that promote life-long community empowerment.

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Key Accomplishments to Date

Higher Ground is guided by a dedicated Board of Directors with experience in the fields of education, social work, finance, community development, health, law, data management and evaluation and community organizing and development and is supported by a dynamic and experienced staff. Working together as an effective team we are able to make connections between community-based organizations and the public and private resources needed for the successful delivery of needed programs and services. Following three years of start-up experience, Higher Ground stepped back and with the help of a consultant team assessed its early experience and developed a new program and business model focused on early childhood development and education. Following are key highlights of Higher Ground’s accomplishments to date.

•Helped build a strong, active network of local district and charter schools:

o Brought together principals and leaders of Higginson Lewis, David Ellis and Higginson district schools and Bridge, Brooke and KIPP Charter Schools to explore potential collaboration and mutual support;
o Brought together parent leaders from the six district and charter schools and building a strong network of parent leaders interested in supporting all the schools that are educating the children of the neighborhood.

•Connected the Higginson Lewis K-8 School to:

o City Year whose corps members work in grades 3 to 7 at the to improve attendance and English and math skills;
o Whittier Street Health Center and increased access to high quality primary care;
o Boston Architectural College (BAC) Gateway Program student team working under supervision of an experienced architect conducted an assessment of the school building and recommended improvements to make the facilities a more supportive learning environment;
o Foundation for Small Voices organized a chorus of 30 children during an 8-week pilot program to be followed up this year with a year-long choral program.

•Connected the Higginson K-2 School to:

o Friends of the Children whose mentors are working with 12 at-risk students starting in kindergarten and will support them through high school;
o Families First included the school in a four-school BPS family engagement pilot program;
o BAC Gateway Team will do an assessment of the school building this year.

•Connected the David Ellis K-5 School to:

o Generations Inc. who recruited local seniors and is working with students at in reading and literacy skills.
o Urban Edge provided $10,000 in funding to meet the Ellis School first- year match requirement for Generations Inc. The school’s Principal Cynthia Jacobs Tolbert has included the second year match funds in the school’s budget;
o GBAC Gateway Team completed building assessment and recommended improvements;
o Foundation for Small Voices organized a chorus of 30 children during an 8-week pilot program to be followed up this year with a year-long choral program.

•Facilitated connections between New Parents and Early Childhood Development Programs and a collaboration between programs:

o Families First conducted Parenting Circles for more than 100 new and expectant parents over three years;
oCollaborating with Crispus Attucks Children’s Center and Nurtury that will substantially increase the capacity and quality of services at the largest provider of infant toddler care in the heart of the City of Boston.

•Supported Warren Gardens Housing Cooperative resident leaders who invited Higher Ground to locate in the neighborhood and help create a safety zone around this major development facing challenges of violence and poor management practices:

o Co-located on Warren Street with Center for Teen Empowerment and brought to the neighborhood their nearly three-decade long experience of offering youth organizing and leadership develop skills to local disconnected youth and effective dialogues involving youth, police and community;
o Assisted the Warren Gardens Resident Association and Housing Board to overcome some of the conflicts that had divided them for years by helping conduct annual elections improving the Association’s financial tracking systems;
o Supported the residents as they transitioned to a new management company.

•At request of Court-Appointed Receiver for the RoxComp Health Center, served as the Receiver’s community outreach and communications arm and organized community meetings for former health center clients, staff members and neighbors. Over a two-year period, sent updates to more than 300 contacts to insure continuity of care for former patients, and to support former staff and keep everyone informed about plans for the facility, culminating in a community meeting to present Bridge Charter School and its plans to acquire the RoxComp property for the school’s permanent location beginning in 2017.

Advocated on behalf of homeless families with children who attend Boston schools — up from 1,700 in 2014 to 3,000 at the end of the 2014-2015 school year – by advocating for school-based access to affordable housing for these vulnerable families. Higher Ground helped organize a meeting of 30 advocates, providers and agency representatives hosted by the City of Boston’s directors of housing, health and education departments to develop policy recommendations to address this growing challenge and expect agreement on new policy recommendations by fall or winter.

•Met with officials at PEAR (Program in Education, Afterschool and Resiliency), a joint program of McLean Hospital and Harvard University, to bring their programs and resources to the three target schools.

•Continued as an active member of the Place-Based Initiatives Community of Practice.

•Helped launch and currently serve as co-leader for the education-focused Change Circle, formed following the release of report in the fall of 2014 related to poor educational outcomes for black and brown boys in Boston schools.

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