All Things Eastie

Giving voice to the people who live and work in East Boston

February 28, 2015
by Colin Daniels
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Just Keep Going: Businesses during Winter Storm

These last few weeks have been brutal to the city of Boston and businesses are still trying to find a way to deliver packages and move about the city the best way as possible. People are struggling moving about the city due to the snow in the streets and how it is difficult to walk on sidewalks with mounds of snow everywhere. Customers are struggling getting to local businesses, like Duncan Donuts, because there is no place to park due to the snow. While the snow is causing a problem for customers and business owners, truck drivers are still doing their best to deliver food and supplies to the companies.

local waiting to cross the street.

local waiting to cross the street.

Dunkin Donuts customer struggling to leave the shop with pile of snow blocking the walk way.

Dunkin Donuts customer struggling to leave the shop with pile of snow blocking the walk way.

Truck driver making a delivery in the brew of another winter storm coming in.

Truck driver making a delivery in the brew of another winter storm coming in.

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February 20, 2015
by Emily Tadlock
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Suffolk Down: Closed for Winter or Closed for Good?

Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston. Photo by Siyi Huo

Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston.
Photo by Siyi Huo

By Emily Tadlock & Siyi Huo

Suffolk Downs is a horse racing track that has been a part of East Boston history since 1935. It has been an epicenter for entertainment and business in a community full of culture.

Many famous horses have raced at Suffolk Downs. Photo by Emily Tadlock

Many famous horses have raced at Suffolk Downs.
Photo by Emily Tadlock

Thousands of people have walked the grounds of Suffolk Downs and for many, like Jason Ruggiero, vice president of marketing and communications, it holds fond memories. “My father and his father were huge horse racing fans. Suffolk Downs was the place to be back in the day and it was a place where all were welcome,” said Ruggiero

A statue of a horse jockey stands inside Suffolk Downs. Photo by Siyi Huo

A statue of a horse jockey stands inside Suffolk Downs.
Photo by Siyi Huo

But, Suffolk Downs is no longer the “it” place. After the racetrack lost its bid for a casino last year it has been struggling to stay open. “Races cost us roughly $100,000 and without money stemming from gambling we will no longer be able to operate,” said Ruggiero.

Empty stadium seats within Suffolk Downs. Photo by Siyi Huo

Empty stadium seats within Suffolk Downs.
Photo by Siyi Huo

The City of Revere, Mohegan Sun, and Suffolk Downs employees are currently suing the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for “favoritism” in awarding the casino bid to Wynn Resorts in Everett. “The casino was supposed to be the boost to get Suffolk Downs back on its feet. Now there are over 100 employees out of work,” said Ruggiero.

A closed sign sits on the Bet & Cash counter at Suffolk Downs. Photo by Emily Tadlock

A closed sign sits on the Bet & Cash counter at Suffolk Downs.
Photo by Emily Tadlock

According to Ruggiero, Suffolk Downs is looking at all possible avenues to remain open, but if something doesn’t happen soon their starting gates could remain closed for good.

Suffolk Downs may not be opening its gates again. Photo By Emily Tadlock

Suffolk Downs starting gates.
Photo By Emily Tadlock

February 20, 2015
by Rachael Peart
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Maverick Station provides relief from the elements

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Residents of East Boston huddle inside of Maverick Station for some relief from bitter cold temperatures. Photo by Rachael Peart

by Rachael Peart

The past few weeks have been brutal for New England residents. Cold plus winds equals dangerously low temperatures. Valentine’s Day was no different. Hours before another blizzard – the second of the season thus far – hit the area, Maverick Station was bustling as people traveled in and out of East Boston. The station was one of the warmest places in Maverick Square simply because it blocked winds that caused temperatures to feel anywhere from the teens to near or below zero degrees. Those who live and work in Eastie wanted Mother Nature and Old Man Winter to break up this Valentine’s Day. The storm shut down the MBTA on Sunday, and as a result cancelled many plans for Eastie romantics.  Snow began earlier than expected and fell during this shoot.

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People rushed into the enclosed area, bundled up from head to toe. Photo by Rachael Peart

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Valentines hold each other close as they wait inside Maverick station. Photo by Rachael Peart

 

February 20, 2015
by Shahrzad Sajadi
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Brazilian Soccer House in Eastie

 

Brizilian Soccer House has been in Eastie for 20 years. Photo by Shaz Sajadi

Brazilian Soccer House has been in Eastie for 20 years. Photo by Shaz Sajadi

By Kelly Thomas and Shaz Sajadi
East Boston is known for its population of immigrants. Many who have come to this country and made Boston their home try to keep in touch with their roots.
Dayana Santos plays soccer every Saturday night at nine at a club in Chelsea.
Santos said, “There are a lot of Brazilian soccer players in East Boston, but where I play is for women only.”
She has come to the Brazilian Soccer House that has been in the area for more than 20 years to get a new pair of soccer boots.
Dayana Santos looking for new soccer shoes with the help of shop assistant Julian Torre Photo by Kelly Thomas

Dayana Santos looking for new soccer shoes with the help of shop assistant Julian Torre. Photo by Kelly Thomas

Santos is Brazilian and speaks Portuguese, but she can communicate with the Colombian shop assistant, Julian Torre who speaks a dialect of Spanish. He said he is happy to work in this shop.  “I love soccer. My favorite team is Brazil. I was upset when they lost in the World Cup, but you should have seen my boss. He was almost angry. I also like PSG but they have a lot of money, and you know it is easy to be good with a lot of money,” Torre said.
Dayana looks at different shoes at the Brazilian Soccer House. Photo by Shaz Sajadi

Santos looks at different soccer boots at the Brazilian Soccer House. Photo by Shaz Sajadi

Dayana tries on the shoes. Photo by Shaz Sajadi

Santos tries on the shoes.
Photo by Shaz Sajadi

Torre finds a pair of soccer boots in Santos’s size. Photo by Kelly Thomas

Close up of the colourful soccer boots. Photo by Kelly Thomas

Close up of the colourful soccer boots. Photo by Kelly Thomas

Swift Memorial United Methodist Church Hosts Blood Drive

February 20, 2015 by Jason Savio | 0 comments

By Jason Savio

Despite the snowy weather, the blood drive in Sagamore went on without a hitch.

Despite the snowy weather, the blood drive in Sagamore went on without a hitch. Photo by Jason Savio

The Swift Memorial United Methodist Church in Sagamore held its first blood drive in conjunction with Cape Cod Healthcare on Thursday. The event drew donors of all ages as they met for a common goal: To help friends and family in the community in need of blood. It was not overly crowded, but there was a steady flow of people walking in throughout the morning. Among them was Peter Monaghan, a nurse on his lunch break, and Jim Matthews, the husband of a parishioner.

 

Peter Monaghan, a nurse at a community health center, donates blood during his lunch break.

Peter Monaghan, a nurse at a community health center, donates blood during his lunch break. Photo by Jason Savio.

 

Jim Matthews, husband of parishioner Kathy Sharon Matthews, waits patiently while his blood is drawn.

Jim Matthews, husband of parishioner Kathy Sharon Matthews, waits patiently while his blood is drawn. Photo by Jason Savio.

 

Mr. Matthews squeezes the grip which helps release the blood into the pan below.

Matthews squeezes the grip which helps release the blood into the pan below. Photo by Jason Savio.

February 20, 2015
by Alexandra Prim
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East Boston Social Center provides support for local families

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Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s wheatpaste posters speak directly to the street harassment offenders that women face in East Boston. Photo by Christina Zolnierowicz

 

By Alexandra Prim, Christina Zolnierowicz and Stephanie Yang

After a spate of attacks in East Boston last March, the local police held a self defense class for the area’s women. However, sexual and street harassment are ongoing issues in Eastie and the police have had no such recent classes, nor any scheduled for the near future. On June 6, nationally known street artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh created a wheatpaste mural and series of portraits outside of the East Boston Social Center with the help of local activists. The center, which purports to build the community and strengthen families, will display the mural indefinitely. A diverse range of families are welcome at the center, which provides all kinds of programs: from health talks for seniors to summer camps for kids — a welcome thought on the snowy afternoon the below photographs were taken. The photos depict the comings and goings of the center, all under the protective eyes of the women in Fazlalizadeh’s mural.

 

 

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Fazlalizadeh’s Stop Telling Women to Smile mural sends a strong message outside of the East Boston Social Center. Photo by Christina Zolnierowicz

 

 

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A mother and her daughters shelter themselves from the snow beneath the Stop Telling Women to Smile mural at the center. Photo by Alexandra Prim

 

 

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A family of women: Three patrons of the East Boston Social Center huddle in the lobby. Photo by Alexandra Prim

 

 

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A man and his son ascend the stairs at the East Boston Social Center on a snowy afternoon. Photo by Alexandra Prim

 

 

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Mother and daughter leave the center amid snow flurries. Photo by Alexandra Prim

February 20, 2015
by Daniela Jusino-manzanero
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East Boston Community Centers: Reliable Resources for Immigrants

By Daniela Jusino and Lucas Hou 

With so much diversity in the city of Boston, many immigrants from far-off places have come to call East Boston their home. With many in search of a better life or better opportunities, this epicenter of diverse cultures is teeming with community resources available to those growing accustomed to their new home. Local community centers in the area offer the kids of East Boston the chance to grow up in an enriching environment, especially for those that are struggling to afford childcare. Sports programs, summertime swim lessons and babysitting are just some of the programs offered at the local level to residents. The residents of Eastie can also feel at ease knowing that their medical needs are taken care of. With several branches of the East Boston Health Center in the area, residents of the neighborhood are assured of a local, reliable medical care nearby – and even providing services in Spanish for the Hispanic population.

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The Paris Street Community Center in East Boston is just one of the many resources in the area that offers affordable childcare with an array of after-school activities. 112 Paris Street, East Boston, MA. Photo by: Lucas Hou

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Located just off of Bremen Street, the East Boston YMCA provides reliable childcare for families in the area. Also provided are gym services, basketball courts, and exercise classes. 215 Bremen Street, East Boston, MA. Photo by: Daniela Jusino

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The inside of the YMCA provides helpful information on programs for local Eastie residents 215 Bremen Street, East Boston, MA. Photo by: Lucas Hou

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Located at the intersection of Emmons Street and Paris Street, this East Boston wall provides helpful insightful history to a community made up significantly of immigrants. Photo by: Lucas Hou

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Right in the heart of Eastie, locations of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center help provide reliable healthcare for residents in the area 20 Maverick Square, East Boston, MA. Photo by: Daniela Jusino

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With over 60% of East Boston being made up of Hispanic immigrants, it’s very helpful to that local resources are available to non-English speaking residents 20 Maverick Square, East Boston, MA. Photo by: Daniela Jusino

February 20, 2015
by Miranda Bethune
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A Hispanic Community at Cactus Mexican Grill

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Spanish signs are sprinkled throughout Cactus Mexican Grill, a lively and colorful restaurant in Maverick Square. Photo by Miranda Bethune.

By Miranda Bethune and Natasha Abellard

At Cactus Mexican Grill in Maverick Square, a community of Hispanic immigrants bonds through Mexican and Salvadoran traditional cuisine. The family-owned business employs mostly Salvadoran immigrants, like 21-year-old José Marin, who came to East Boston when he was 12 and now works for the restaurant as a dishwasher and line worker.

Even the customer base comprises mostly Hispanic immigrants. Ernesto Rivas, who came to East Boston from El Salvador, and Rogelio Ros, who came from Guatemala, eat at Cactus Grill almost every day. They both say it has fast service and low prices, and the traditional food reminds them of home.

The Spanish language also reigns supreme in this restaurant, with Spanish-language signs and even a primarily Spanish-language menu. Whether workers or customers, Spanish speakers feel like they belong when they’re at Cactus Grill.

Cactus Grill line worker Lidia Marin doles out a piping hot bowl of “atol de elote” (sweet corn pudding) for an eager customer. Photo by Natasha Abellard.

Marvin Villanueva, the Salvadoran owner of family business Cactus Grill, works right alongside his employees. Photo by Miranda Bethune.

Marin answers the phone in rapid Spanish, while helping out a customer in the checkout line at the same time. Photo by Natasha Abellard.

Employee Jose Marin, an immigrant from El Salvador, takes a quick break from washing dishes at Cactus Grill. Photo by Natasha Abellard.

Ernesto Rivas and Rogelio Ros tuck into their plates, with a coffee to wash it down for Mr. Rivas and an ice-cold Jarritos (Mexican soda) for Mr. Ros.

Ernesto Rivas and Rogelio Ros tuck into their plates, with an ice-cold Jarritos (Mexican soda) for Ros to wash his meal down with. Photo by Miranda Bethune.

February 20, 2015
by James Anderson
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Dogsitting in Eastie: Stopping by The Dog Port

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Jill Annese, owner of The Dog Port in Maverick Square, plays with pups. Photo by James Anderson

By James Anderson

The location is perfect, nearby from the Maverick MBTA Blue Line train stop and the East Boston Greenway, on the corner of Breman and Sumner streets, for dogs that are looking for a place to stay while their owners are away. The Dog Port Doggie Day Care, owned by Jill Annese, has grown from an idea of dog-walking and looking for an escape from corporate America.

A comfy (big) pup relaxes with a chew toy at The Dog Port. (Photo Credit: James Anderson)

A comfy (big) pup relaxes with a chew toy at The Dog Port. Photo by James Anderson

“I started off three and a half years ago as a dog walker, and grew from there, started up in East Boston with my own business, and there’s just so many dogs in the neighborhood, and there’s nowhere from them to go…so it’s always been a dream of mine.” Being the only doggie day care in the neighborhood, it’s not all fun and games necessarily for Annese.

Jill Annese, Owner, smiles as she plays with a canine visitor at The Dog Port. (Photo Credit: James Anderson)

Jill Annese, Owner, smiles as she plays with a canine visitor at The Dog Port. Photo by James Anderson

“There’s a lot of work involved, it’s more than just playing with dogs. Organizing staff, keeping staff, hiring reliable people, and just really keeping a close eye on the dogs, just making sure they are all behaving.”

Annese has high hopes for the development coming into the neighborhood. “I grew my business here so I want to stay here. I don’t want to leave this location, it’s a ideal location, so hopefully in a year or so, i’d love to take over the space next door…I think we’ll end up outgrowing the space in a about a year and a half.”

Potentially more room for more pups to roam and play, at The Dog Port.

February 19, 2015
by Yining Chen
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Snow sweepers work hard in East Boston

By Yining Chen

As a snow sweeper, Daniel Vasquez never works so hard, and so long. He shovels eight hours every day, and has no idea when will his work be done. In the past few weeks, Boston city was hit by several storms and was occupied by historic heavy snow. According to Boston Globe, the severe weather accumulated more than 80 inches snow, and had an unprecedented impact on Boston. MBTA barely operated in snow days and has to offer volunteers 30 dollars per hour  to clean the snow. Vasquez said, “It is definitely unusually in Boston. Boston snows every year, but normally the snow is 10 inches, never like this.” Vasquez said it was hard to work outside in such low temperature, and I saw ice in his moustache.

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Daniel Vasquez shoveling on the Chelsea Street.

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Vasquez works eight hours every day.

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Vasquez sweeping the snow.

 

April 29, 2014
by Carl Mueller
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Old Land Regulation Hinders Waterfront Redevelopment

The pier is where the project Boston East planned to be built. (Photo by Carl Mueller)

By Cheng Linjing and Carl Mueller

The East Boston Master Plan of 2000, envisioned by city officials and community organizations, promised a surge of housing development along the waterfront. Yet today acres of vacant land remain. Many of the proposed projects lost their permits while trying to get financing; others remain stuck in the approval process.

Along the Chelsea Creek on East Boston’s northern shore lies the site of the proposed Boston East development, 14 acres of vacant land on 102 to 148 Border Street. The field has shin-high sprouts of grass. On its tideland stand clusters of eroded wooden pillars. Slightly to the south, worn-out boats are turned upside-down in the mud like seashells.

Eastie resident and Northeastern University Law professor Estrella-Luna pointed at the open land and said, “This whole area was all industrial up until 1960s. I have documents proving that it has been abandoned since at least 1964.”

The Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Boston East Community Development Committee, and residents alike, hope to fill in some of the remaining waterfront properties in the city with condos, affordable units and hotels. Yet, whatever is proposed, must follow outdated guidelines.

The Federal Management Act has areas in 18 coastal cities saved for water-related industries. East Boston is one of the clusters of the Designated Port Areas in Boston Harbor.

In accordance with federal law, a Massachusetts regulation that protects East Boston’s character as a harbor was enacted in 1978. Today, it is still marking boundaries in its land and expelling non-water industries.

Urban developers like Trinity Financial have gone through years of discussions with the Department of Environmental Protection to develop the empty lands on Border Street. The strips of land, under the Waterways Regulation, are reserved for water industry and related projects use only. Today, the lands are still waiting to be claimed for development.

A boat cups into the shore at Boston East Site.  Photo by Carl Mueller

Abandoned boats at the Boston East Site. Photo by Carl Mueller

At the site of the proposed Boston East development, Estrella-Luna looks to the empty field on Border Street. “This land, all the way over there, up to the blue building, most of this are DPAs, this means that most of the land is only going to be used for water-dependent uses, things like the tugboats docked behind Shaws, or marine repair, or fish processing.”

“They (Boston East) had to go to the state to get them to consolidate the DPAs so that all of this land can be used for housing development.”

Only the state can rezone the Designated Port Areas.

“They haven’t been looking into it for years,” said Valerie Gingrich, the Boston Harbor regional coordinator of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management.

The Massachusetts Coastal Zoning Management, the department in charge of waterfront zoning, has not re-zoned the land since 2002.

According to the 2002 DPA Boundary Review, 66 acres of East Boston land and water is DPA. Whereas the entire land area of East Boston is a total of 3,008 acres, and only 15 of those acres are fully committed to maritime industrial use. The remaining 51 acres are committed to small, marine construction companies and mixed-use marine industrial and non-marine industrial facilities.

The Waterways Regulation, specifies the type of projects that can be developed, including project size and design. It requires the non-water-dependent projects to provide at least one facility supporting “water-dependent activity.” The Department of Environmental Protection oversees this and issues licenses. As a result, Portside at Pier One, a housing development that is currently being built on Massport land classified as DPA, added ferries to its design. The ferries have not yet been put into use.

 These regulations contradict a vision of East Boston’s revival.  A plan to fulfill aspirations of community leaders looking to make the area desirable to investors and newcomers.

Sal LaMattina, the City Councilor representing East Boston, said he wants to focus on developing the waterfront. He said, “My goal as chairman of the City Council Committee on Economic Development, is to focus on the waterfront, the Boston Harbor. I think we have a beautiful waterfront, but we don’t really use it. My job over the next two years is to hopefully get waterfront development.”

Yet, between the goals of community leadership stand these dated regulations.

The economy has changed since the passing of Chapter 91 in 1978. East Boston no longer relies on the use of it’s waterways. The last ferry to and from East Boston ceased operation in 1952 . As time changed, ferry transportation had became nonessential due to the implementation of the T to East Boston in 1904 and the Callahan Tunnel in the mid-20th century. Meanwhile, East Boston no longer relies on fishing, shipping, or any of its old supporting industries as it did as recently as the 1960’s.

Architect Antonio Di Mambro makes provisions for East Boston's alternative future. Photo by Cheng Linjing

Architect Antonio Di Mambro makes provisions for East Boston’s alternative future. Photo by Cheng Linjing

Antonio Di Mambro of the Boston based design and planning firm, Antonio Di Mambro Plus Associates, PC., said the city needs to modernize.

“The fish are not here anymore. People don’t come to America by boat anymore, they come by plane. What the heck are we doing?”

“Those laws were well intentioned, but laws are propagated to be broken.  What happens with laws is they get on the book and no one questions them anymore and once in awhile society has to question.”

He believes the time to question these laws is now.

East Boston is in a shift away from an industrial area. For example, in 1970 the area had 29 major firms in apparel and metal machinery. Today the number is down to 19 major firms.

East Boston was originally a center of clippership building.  It’s long history of maritime based industry is apparent in the vacant warehouses that still stand behind the shopping center at Central Square on Border Street.

Residential buildings mushroomed on land previously used for warehouses for imports and exports received through shipping transport. The pattern of redevelopment emerged as the community has called for it.

Robert Schmidt, leader of the Maverick Landing Community Group, said, “I would like to see more small businesses and more department stores.”  He favored the many restaurants in the city that are opened by immigrants coming from various countries,  “It’s very positive that people coming here to start small businesses, especially people were coming from Central America, or from countries that might have been in political problems.”

“I moved here at the very end of all of that. I do remember that there was a lot of industry on the water. And now, of course, everything has changed. They are trying to develop because of this beautiful skyline,” said Schmidt.

Estrella-Luna quoted her 2013 survey of East Boston community sentiments on redevelopment. The results showed people believed the crime rate would go down as the empty fields are redeveloped.

As of now, Portside at Pier One is the only development out of the four proposed projects on Designated Port Areas that is currently under construction.

While experts like Di Mambro say there are other factors that prevent the development of these areas like extra construction costs and existence of the airport, this 1978 regulation is an additional hurdle to developers and city leaders looking to turn East Boston into a thriving neighborhood.

Nine years after Hodge Boiler Works receiving a permit, a bronze anchor is still lying on the vacant land. Photo by Cheng Linjing

Nine years after Hodge Boiler Works received a permit, a bronze anchor is still lies on the vacant land. Photo by Cheng Linjing

April 28, 2014
by Rie Kitayama
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East Boston High School JROTC teaches youth the value of leadership

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Giselle Landaverde is organizing the attendance.  Photo by Rie Kitayama

By Lauren Yandow and Rie Kitayama

In the basement of East Boston High School, instructors dressed in Army uniforms shout, “Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta.” As soon as students enter the class, without hesitation they begin working in their trained roles by taking attendance and preparing the JROTC company flags.

East Boston High School became the first school in Boston to offer the Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, the JROTC, in 1993.

According to the U.S. Army JROTC, schools that offer JROTC have improved student attendance, grades and higher graduation rates.

Col. Gerald Wellman, the director of the JROTC at East Boston High School, says when students are involved in a program that means something to them, they feel pride and will “do better than people who have no ownership.”

Liza Ortiz, East Boston High School senior,  says she believes the JROTC has helped her prepare for college. “I feel like it’s taught me how to be more responsible and how to be a better leader and I feel like I’ve grown,” she says.

The mission of the JROTC is to teach students the “value of citizenship, leadership, service to the community,  personal responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment while instilling in them self-esteem, teamwork, and self-dicipline,” according to the East Boston High School website. Achieving the JROTC mission has not always been easy, says Wellman.

Wellman and his colleague, Sgt. Maj. John Burnett, were the only instructors for the first year of the JROTC at East Boston High School. “Each class had destructive people,” Wellman says, “but that’s because we were too nice.”

Now at the end of each semester Wellman and Burnett survey the students and ask them what they liked and what they did not like about the program. Wellman says that in the past he has had students complain about the dress code but more recent students have responded to their peers who complain saying, “why do we have to put up with the people who are not taking JROTC seriously?”

Now students must respect the JROTC students, instructors and rules in order to participate.

Sgt. Maj. John Burnett believes the JROTC enhances the students’ life skills for a successful future in various ways.  He says, “Not everybody needs not to go to a college but everybody needs to do something.”

Elizabeth Fonseca is a freshman at East Boston High School and an “admin,” or S-1, in the JROTC. She says the JROTC has taught her many life skills stating, “I have to take attendance, I have to print out forms, I do a lot and it’s helped me to be more confident. Like, I have to present and say what the S-1 does and now since I have spoken in front of people once, I can do it again.”

The JROTC students have opportunities to volunteer time to improve their community of East Boston outside of the classroom. They recently volunteered as greeters, ushers, translators and hosts for the East Boston High School parent-teacher conference. Wellman says, “It gives them something very concrete that they can say I went and I helped translate for a bilingual Spanish parent who wouldn’t otherwise be able to communicate with the teacher.”

Wellman believes that the JROTC is important because “It’s what the kids need more than anything else, to know the difference between right and wrong.”