In Mattapan, Hopes Next Mayor Will Support Families, Children

October 30, 2013

WBUR

Rashad CopeAhead of Boston's mayoral election, we're visiting the city's neighborhoods to find out what challenges they face and what voters there want in a new mayor.

This week, WBUR's All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer toured the Mattahunt Wheelock Community Center in Mattapan with Rashad Cope, its 31-year-old director.
Rashad Cope is director of the Mattahunt Wheelock Community Center in Mattapan.

Cope lives in Mattapan and his job at the center, which is tucked away in a residential neighborhood about a mile from Mattapan Square, is close to his heart because he says a community center in Roxbury played a major role in his childhood.

"I was surrounded by caring adults," Cope recalls. "I was surrounded by people who wanted to see us succeed."

Due to budget cuts, the city of Boston closed Mattapan's Mattahunt Community Center in 2010. But then Wheelock College stepped in, agreeing to run the center for at least four years and develop new programs there before the city resumes operating it.

Cope, who has an MBA and is now working on a master's degree in educational studies, acknowledges some struggles in that effort, including "challenges with access to this community center." The problem, he explains, is that it's "not easily accessible for parents or children to get here via public transportation." Still, he hopes Boston's next mayor will consider the center an important resource in helping the children of Mattapan succeed.

Rashad Cope: We know Mattapan has a large population of youth. We know mentoring programs are very important to keep young people on track. We know that family support programs are very important for families to keep their young people on track.

Sacha Pfeiffer: What kind of family support programs?

Rashad Cope: Whether we're talking about allowing families to come in and have literacy nights, sports-based opportunities, computer literacy programming. This community has been one of the more underserved communities for a number of years.

And in that sense, what this community center does is critical, right? Because the whole issue of youth violence and urban violence and what's the root of it - a lot of it has to do with what happens here, when you get to kids. Hopefully you get to kids when they're young and put them on the right path.

Yes, a lot of it starts within the area that is close to home. We expect for the new mayor to have a focus on youth development, family engagement and, most importantly, to have a strong focus on education.

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