Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and chief operating officer Tyler Seever of Freedom House opened the nonprofit’s newest location at the Grove Hall branch of the Boston Public Library Saturday, repurposing the once-vacant space into a state-of-the-art educational facility, according to an official press release from the mayor’s office.
Freedom House is an organization dedicated to providing high school and college-aged students with the educational resources necessary to see them through high school and higher education, according to the organization’s website.
“Our goal, hopefully starting in the spring semester, will be partnering with some of the local universities to offer college level learning in Grove Hall,” Seever said.
The renovation costs for the new location totaled $2.5 million and the century-old library was converted into 8,440 square feet of useable space for the families that frequent it and will provide students in the community with tutoring assistance, financial aid advising as well as community accessible technology and meeting rooms, according to the release.
Seever said the new facility will provide meeting spaces for their success coaches, who are currently stationed at several partnered local high schools and colleges in the city, including Jeremiah E. Burke High School, the University of Massachusetts Boston, Bunker Hill Community College and Roxbury Community College.
“One of the most alarming pieces we’ve gotten is when we ask students, ‘Do you get help on your homework when you don’t understand it?’ [and] over 90 percent said they strongly disagree with that statement,” Seever said. “Our goal is to create an atmosphere in which our students know they can get help with academics after school.”
Antonio Weathers, a sophomore at Emerson College, said Freedom House helped him thrive throughout high school and prepared him for the workforce as he entered college.
“They’ve taught me, at first mathematic and literary skills, and then later branched out to work etiquette, civil engagement, community service and leadership skills,” Weathers said.
Weathers said he likes what has been done to Grove Hall because it serves as a central meeting space for those who are just beginning the journey he took.
“I feel it’s more accessible with the changes,” Weathers said. “Teens can now receive the same treatment I’ve received at the Freedom House, and be led on a more focused path to understanding potential located within themselves.”
Weathers said the greatest impact Freedom House has is in teaching high school students the importance of giving back to the community even after they’ve found success. Weathers said this will create a better-led community.
“If you learned about Freedom House, you’d get the message of working [until] you make it somewhere and then giving back any way you can,” Weathers said. “The more teenagers learning that initiative the better, because over time the community will have more leaders able and willing to give back and make the change they’d like to see in the neighborhoods they grew up in.”
Several Boston residents said educational programs offered by Freedom House are beneficial because they will support students through school.
Brianna Calvin, 24, of Brighton, said having greater community resources in education available will benefit the people in the neighborhood directly.
“Generally, people complain about not having resources so the more we have the better, [and] the better off everyone is,” Calvin said.
Tony Nguyen, 31, of Fenway, said tutoring helped him focus more in high school and that having a formal space for students to learn will help them stay focused.
“[Helping students learn] should be for a community, because it’s more institutionalized,” Nguyen said. “[Students] wouldn’t focus on it if it’s not instituted.”
Maria Markenson, 53, of Fenway, said education is important to her because as a professor at the University of Massachusetts she recognizes the need to help students thrive.
“In order to move the city in the right direction, furthering education is very important,” Markenson said.