Growing nonprofit helps make recess bully-free
Children, as anyone who’s lived through childhood knows, can be cruel.
And although you might think of recess as a respite from the taunting and tormenting that sometimes happens at school, it’s often a hotbed of kids being bullied and ostracized.
Jonathan Gay knows that from experience.
“I grew up with the last name Gay, so I got teased a lot in recess,” he recalls. “It can be a tough time of day.”
Gay is executive director of Playworks, a Boston nonprofit that aims to make recess a time when all kids feel secure and included.
It does that by using play to teach important social skills, like conflict resolution, problem solving, cooperation, sharing, and teamwork.
That formula has proved successful enough that Playworks is expanding, and changing its name to reflect its broadening reach.
Launched as Playworks Boston 11 years ago, it later became Playworks Metro Boston, then Playworks Massachusetts, and now — as it moves into Rhode Island and New Hampshire — Playworks New England. It has also gone from working in six elementary schools to 75.
As a branch of a national nonprofit, it’s one of only two Playworks to have grown into a regional program. The other is Playworks Pacific Northwest, which operates in Oregon, Washington, and parts of Idaho.
In the Boston area, the majority of schools Playworks serves are in high-need areas, such as in Brockton, Chelsea, Lawrence, Lynn, Fall River, and New Bedford.
The organization sometimes partners with AmeriCorps volunteers, whom it trains to make recess a positive experience for all children.
“We have a goal of serving 400 elementary schools in New England by 2020,” Gay says, “and making recess a safe and healthy place for every kid.” — SACHA PFEIFFER
Back to Cambridge
Ernest Moniz said he was looking forward to getting back to the Boston area to “chill out” with his family. As it turns out for Barack Obama’s energy secretary, chilling out still includes plenty of work.
The Harvard Kennedy School announced Monday that Moniz has joined its Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs as a senior fellow. The longtime MIT professor and nuclear physicist will work with experts from Harvard and MIT in this part-time gig.
Harvard says Moniz will chart a “pro-growth, pro-climate 21st century American energy policy” and produce a manuscript that chronicles his experience in negotiating “nuclear risk reduction.” (He played a key role in helping Obama secure the nuclear deal with Iran.)
Moniz isn’t the only former Obama aide in Cambridge: Onetime EPA administrator Gina McCarthy is also at Harvard.
Moniz, a Brookline resident, might find time to go fly-fishing with his new colleagues. Kennedy School professors who head to the river to relax include Joe Nye and Graham Allison.
Harvard, in a news release, refers to Moniz’s skill level in this pursuit as “modestly accomplished but very enthusiastic.”
— JON CHESTO
You may have been cursing about Boston’s weather on Sunday — frigid temperatures, nonstop snow, back-breaking shoveling — but Paul English could not have been more delighted.
Sunday was the day of his inaugural Winter Walk, a two-mile charity fund-raiser to fight homelessness.
English, who cofounded the travel websites Kayak and Lola, as well as a nonprofit network of schools in Haiti called Summits Education, chose February for the event so that participants would experience what it’s like to live on the streets during one of the coldest, snowiest months in New England.
“It was perfect,” English says of the weather. “We’re trying to tell people: This is just a glimpse of what it’s like to be out in the cold, and imagine sleeping out in the cold.”
At least 500 people turned out for the walk, which started at 9 a.m. and required a $100 registration fee.
It began and ended in Copley Square, and the estimated $100,000 that was raised will benefit five organizations that serve the homeless:
The Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Brookview House, the Pine Street Inn, and Y2Y Harvard Square, a shelter that’s run by students.
English says donations are still trickling in, and “we also encouraged people to give directly to the organizations,” so the final tally could be even higher. — SACHA PFEIFFER
A new regional president
Sometimes, it pays to start early when you’re looking for a successor.
When Webster Bank broke into the Boston market by converting the old Boston Stock Exchange into a two-story branch in 2009, Webster’s Paul Mollica recruited a former colleague from Bank of America to help.
Now that colleague, Debra Drapalla, is taking over Mollica’s job as Webster’s Boston regional president.
Mollica is planning to retire from the Connecticut-based bank in March.
Among Drapalla’s many responsibilities: helping to attract customers to the 17 branches that Webster opened in Greater Boston last year by acquiring leases to Citibank’s former local branches. Unlike in most bank acquisitions, Citi’s customers didn’t transfer to Webster in that deal, so the bank had to essentially build the business from scratch.
For Drapalla’s part, she is trying to deepen the bank’s community connections. That means joining the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Quincy chamber, for example.
Drapalla also hopes to do more mentoring, to help other women in their careers.
It will be tough not having Mollica along for the ride, after all the time they spent together at work.
“After all these decades, he’s been a strong mentor and a good friend, too,” she says. — JON CHESTO