New GED program opens at Central Branch YMCA

2/3/2010, 6:06 a.m.
Xavier Rhinehart, associate executive director of the Central Branch YMCA, conducts a tour of the new facility. (Jeremy C....
Xavier Rhinehart, associate executive director of the Central Branch YMCA, conducts a tour of the new facility. Jeremy C. Fox

After four years of successful programming in the South End, the Pathway Technology Campus (PTC) inaugurated its new GED Readiness Program last week at the Central Branch YMCA with an open house.  

The plan to expand to the YMCA came out of a series of meetings of the South End/Lower Roxbury cluster of StreetSafe Boston, a youth development and safety initiative designed to reduce youth violence in Boston neighborhoods with high rates of violent crime.

Stakeholders from the area — including police, youth workers, representatives from different youth programs and youth themselves — developed a holistic plan for education and services to help support high-risk youth.

Classes were planned to begin on Wednesday, Feb. 3, and will meet on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays are devoted to academic subjects, while on Wednesdays, guest speakers will talk about issues facing young people, including conflict resolution, diversity, trust and respect.

While the original Villa Victoria, location is open to students 16 and up, the new program is limited to those ages 16 – 24. Students may enroll in the program at any Tuesday night session and can stay as long as they need to prepare for the exam, depending on their educational background. The program and the GED exam are free, as are the first two college courses and the related textbooks.

PTC will also help students apply for financial aid. “One hundred percent of our students that apply for financial aid get financial aid grants,” PTC Project Manager Elizabeth Pabon-Szebeda said. “Not even loans. They get grants.”

“And they even get money back,” she added. “We have a student that just got back $2,000 this semester, after books and after their classes are paid for.”

Xavier Rhinehart, associate executive director of the Central Branch YMCA, was involved in the original StreetSafe discussions, and he’s glad to be able to offer space for the GED Readiness Program.

“We definitely have space that we don’t utilize to its fullest potential,” he said, “and we want to add as many resources as we possibly can … because we are a safe haven for a lot of young people that choose to come here to either use health and wellness facilities or use some of the other resources that we have here.”

The YMCA was selected in part because it is in neutral territory. Pabon-Szebeda explained, “Let’s say we have a Lower Roxbury student who doesn’t feel comfortable going to the South End site; now they have a place that they can go to. Here at the YMCA, it’s very turf-neutral.”

The open house featured a tour of the facility led by Rhinehart and speeches by BHCC President Mary L. Fifield, IBA Chief Executive Officer Vanessa Calderon-Rosado and Dr. Jack Levin, co-director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University.

Levin delivered a colorful keynote address, complete with magic tricks, on the benefits of being a late bloomer.

Explaining that he himself had been an unremarkable student in his youth, Levin said, “For the late bloomer, success is especially sweet … when it finally happens. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, ‘Better late than never.’ Well, have you ever considered the possibility, ‘Better late than early’?”