The YMCA keeps residents healthy and engaged in more than 10,000 neighborhoods across the country, but it traces its American origins to the streets of 19th-century Boston. Here, Thomas Valentine Sullivan carried on the mission started in London by George Williams: providing affordable recreation and residence to young men from cities and country towns alike. Over the last century and change, the organization's mission changed to keep pace with the evolving times; today, the YMCA of Greater Boston welcomes anyone interested in furthering the causes of "youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility."
This modern mission combines the Y's signature programming with new initiatives designed to keep citizens one step ahead of an ever-changing world. Members stay fit and active with everything from organized sports and fitness classes to lifeguard, CPR, and first aid lessons. But the Y's developmental programs go far beyond bodily strength; their enrichment and leadership courses equip youths with the confidence needed to take charge in their everyday lives, and ESL classes help newcomers to English embark on the next step of their linguistic lives.
The staff members at Sylvan Learning's numerous centers understand that each child learns differently. Therefore, they don’t try to implement a uniform tutoring system; instead, they design custom lesson programs based on the results of a skills assessment using diagnostic tools and one-on-one interviews.
Tutors work with students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, illuminating topics ranging from basic reading and writing to remembering complex algebraic formulas without having them tattooed on your chest. Many of Sylvan’s instructors work in local schools, so they are intimately familiar with common curricula and understand how to gear lessons toward optimal results. Camps and after-school and summer classes can ready high-schoolers for the rigors of the ACT or the SAT, or they can help students to wow college-admissions officers with their superior essay-writing skills.
When Stephen Staples comes across an ancient ash can or a board stripped of its nails, he studies it as if it’s the Mona Lisa. What appear to the common eye to be scraps are seen by Stephen for what they truly are—the building materials of early New England homesteads and factories. With his family, Stephen repurposes the salvaged materials into handcrafted kitchen tables, headboards, armoires, and benches.
“All this stuff is from somewhere special. … You look at the piece, you see the history, you know what went on," he says. "They say the piece can’t talk. They do talk, you just need to know how to listen.” For those not fluent in the language of reclaimed materials, Stephen includes a certificate of authenticity with each piece that details its age and probable history, including which pilgrims stored their socks in it. For his meticulous handiwork and passion for history, Stephen has been featured on This Old House and WCVB's Chronicle and in Design New England magazine and the Boston Herald.
Sullivan's Rhode boasts an Irish lilt and a vibrant, sporting atmosphere where cold brews are savored and traditional pub fare warms bellies. Among the murmur of sporting debates, affable servers float plates amid the glow of nine 50-inch plasma TVs that display basketball, hockey, and full-contact tic-tac-toe. Providence College basketball games precede Thursday-night karaoke, and locals shake a leg during Wednesday's DJ dance party. Minutiae masters host Monday-evening trivia, where guests must flex brain muscles and refrain from taking advantage of Sullivan's free WiFi to look up the answers.:
Within the multihued walls of Kidville’s indoor playland, tykes expand their minds, network with members of their peer group, and deplete their vast energy reserves. Babies, toddlers, and kids 6 or younger delve into classes developed by Kidville’s early-childhood-development gurus. Burgeoning Beethovens can swivel their hips, flex their sing-along muscles, and edit their massive music manuscripts during one of Kidville’s music and dance classes, or enlist in one of the art classes to create a piece that captures their inner rage toward broccoli. Fun and fit gym classes let tots run, roll, and hover through gauntlets of plush blocks and spongy play mats. Clasping hands and scampering legs can also roam freely through Kidville’s sprightly indoor playspace, though all munchkins must be supervised by a parent, guardian, or trustworthy primate.