Since its inception as a nonprofit organization in 1985, Community Rowing Inc. has guided more than 15,000 students in invigorating rowing sessions held on the Charles River. Their experienced staff of Olympians and coaches helps students to become familiar with industry-standard boats and rowing machines through comprehensive introductory lessons and extended handshakes with the rowing arms. After gleaning the skills necessary to properly use equipment, students gain access to locker rooms, training areas, and any additional courses on the Charles River. The full-body, calorie-burning workouts are available throughout the week, allowing students to learn essential techniques such as sweeping, sculling, and dealing peacefully with the water road rage of aggressive gondoliers.
During the school year, Lindsey is just like any other 11-year-old Framingham public-school student—except that she is blind. Though Lindsey tries to get the most out of her education, there are some necessary skills her mainstream school can't teach her. That's where Perkins School for the Blind steps in.
In addition to its regular school curriculum, Perkins runs summer and weekend outreach programs for students and community members to learn skills such as reading Braille, mobility, and home management. Lindsey regularly attends the summer sessions where she and her friends learn how to shop for ingredients and make a sandwich, play musical instruments, participate in water sports. Following these sessions, a faculty member noted that Lindsey has become "very motivated to be independent, and she takes pride in the fact that she can do things on her own." That is Perkins School for the Blind's goal for all of its students: to gain the skills and confidence to live their lives without struggle.
Each Dress for Success client enters a boutique-style space, where they consult with a volunteer personal shopper to pick out an appropriate outfit for upcoming interviews. Each recipient receives a complete outfit, including a suit, blouse, shoes, hose, jewelry, and a bag, briefcase, or tote. The organization invites women who have obtained employment to come back to the center for a follow-up appointment designed to help the individual build a professional wardrobe. Dress for Success Boston serves more than 900 women each year, and gains clients through referrals from social-service agencies that provide job-training assistance.
Attracting the ringside cheers of NBC's Today show, as well as the 2011, 2012, and 2013 CityVoter title of Best Gym in Boston, The Ring Boxing Club's boxers eschew the monotony of standard fitness routines in favor of the strategy and concentration of boxing. These accomplished boxing coaches—of them, a Golden Gloves winner, a former U.S. Army Green Beret, and an incredibly dynamic former Super Middleweight once ranked sixth in the world—tutor students of all ages and fitness levels through what the Boston Herald describes as an "all encompassing workout that improves fitness and coordination and builds strength." They motivate clients to embrace the confidence that blossoms in the ring as they elegantly dance with an opponent or punching bag, engraining hooks and uppercuts into muscle memory. Amid the gym's boxing memorabilia and posters, they teach more than 60 classes a week, leading a 12-round boxing workout that marries a professional boxer's workout with a montage of fitness drills. They also teach the pugilist's basic footwork, punches, and blocks, which they streamline with strength training, theory, and proper form.
Part listening club, part school, Passim is an arts haven dedicated to cultivating creative development and building a vibrant music community. Since 1958, when it operated as a jazz venue under the name Club 47, Passim has brought talented musicians to the region, fostering the local folk and blues scenes and hosting musicians such as Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Mississippi John Hurt. The space's life as Club 47 came to a close in 1968, only to transform into an intimate setting where audiences could connect with musicians. Today, Club Passim cultivates this intimacy in its historic listening room, which features more than 400 shows a year ranging from celtic to jazz, and also presents the Boston Celtic Music Festival to showcase the skills of dancers and musicians whose inspiration hails from the British Isles.
Yet in addition to giving them a stage, Passim has supported and cultivated the local community of musical artists for the past decade. The Passim Iguana Music Fund provides career-development grants for musicians, and the lessons, master classes, and workshops at the Passim School of Music instruct more than 800 students every year in everything from guitar and songwriting to fiddle and ukulele.
Working in the northwestern Afghan provinces of Faryab and Jowzjan, Barakat's entirely local staff introduces rural Afghan women and girls to reading and math via 10-month-long home-based literacy courses. The introductory lower-level courses, called Sowat Amausi, educate students to a third-grade-literacy level, teaching them to read Dari and understand basic mathematics while also giving them a venue in which to interact with each other in a culturally acceptable way. After the course, students have the option to enroll in the higher-level literacy course to learn Pashto, English, science, drawing, history, and other subjects or enroll in the fourth grade at a formal school. In the past eight years, Barakat has educated 3,975 Afghan girls and women in basic literacy and numeracy skills, with a 97% completion rate.