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Getting to Know Massachusetts [Part 2]

2015-July 9
by Megan MacDavey, Program Officer

Well, better late than never, right? I'm back finally to pick up on where I left off on documenting my inaugural whirlwind trip to Massachusetts as Program Officer.  Click on the names of the places I visited to see my pictures from the trip.

Travel Journal: Essex County

After spending some time on Cape Cod, I traveled up north to Essex County, starting out in Lynn. I'm not sure what I imagined - well, I guess I did. When you look at Lynn on a map, it's a coastal town just northeast of Boston - so I pictured a fancy coastal outer-ring suburb. With little to no knowledge of the City prior to my driving into it (I know, I really did my homework), I was surprised to find a truly urban, post-industrial vibe - with the ups (a wide variety of ethnic cuisines to choose from for lunch - I settled on Vietnamese) and downs (very apparent blight in some areas) that come with that kind of setting.

KIPP Academy Lynn
Our tour of KIPP Lynn helped to paint an even better picture of the challenges facing Lynn with a median household income far below the statewide average as well as the efforts underway to revitalize the city. As future prospective applicants for grant funding, I was so glad for the chance to get to know KIPP better, including their strong emphasis on the social and emotional well-being of their students. With the first senior class approaching graduation time, college acceptances rolling in, and post-graduation choices being made, it was an exciting time to visit the school.

For dinner that night, my colleague Don encouraged me to try oysters for the first time. I'm cognizant that I'm trying to make friends here, but I just can't find a way to sugar-coat the fact that I am not sure that oysters are for me. Sorry, world (mostly sorry, Nick - who loves oysters as documented here ). I'll stick with eating pretty much any other seafood instead.

Children's Friend and Family Services
Don and I kicked-off the next day with a trip to Children's Friend and Family Services in Salem to get an update on their early childhood mental health programming supported by the Foundation. We met with Stephanie Sladen, Assistant Executive Director, and Christin Brown, who is coordinating the program. I learned about the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) curriculum that they are implementing, and even got to observe a role play! The enthusiasm for the new program, and its application across other programming areas, was exciting to hear about.

Melmark New England
Next we traveled up north to Andover to learn about the robust programming taking place at Melmark New England, a school that works with students with special needs including autism spectrum disorders. We met with Rita Gardner, Executive Director, and Ellen Kallman, Director of Advancement, and I learned a ton about the programming that Melmark provides and the specialized training and education opportunities that they champion for their staff as well as for educators across the state. Rita was kind to give me a very thorough overview of the state of reimbursement for autism spectrum disorder services in Massachusetts (and the differences between MA and NY) and an overview of the exciting work that the Governor's Autism Commission is taking on. As a resident of New York for the vast majority of my life, this was extremely helpful.

Salem State University
On our final day of the trip, we got to tour part of Salem State University, including their lovely new library building housing their student support offices. We met Patricia Maguire Meservey, the president of the University, as well as Lisa McFadden, Associate Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, and Lisa Bibeau, Director of Disability Services, and the rest of the Disability Services team at the University. As Salem State was then in the process of applying for a grant (they got it!), they were able to give us a better understanding of the need for the grant funds; demonstrating for us the time-consuming process that they currently have to use to produce alternative text formats for their students with learning disabilities.

Before starting the drive back to New York with my husband and son, we stopped by the amazing Peabody Essex Museum where I met a dear friend. I'm so glad we carved out the time for it; what a gem that place is. I loved the art, but mostly the interactive displays (for kids?) and the beautiful lighting throughout the entire museum.

Whew - what a week! It was tiring and energizing at the same time. I can't wait to venture back to Essex County and get to know more of the wonderful people who work for our grantee and partner organizations! Thank you to all of our hosts for making this trip so memorable and informative!

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