In the Community
December 20, 1993. It’s a day Tina Chéry will never forget.
Her 15-year-old son, Louis D. Brown, was murdered on his way to a Christmas party with a group he had joined about three weeks earlier: Teens Against Gang Violence.
After Brown’s death, Chéry cofounded the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute to educate young people and the community about the value of peace and the causes and consequences of violence on individuals, families, and their communities. The institute, based in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, also provides support to survivors of homicide victims.
In 2010, the institute reached out to the University of Massachusetts Boston for help with organizational needs. Philip Carver, associate director of community relations and economic development, contacted Professor of Sociology Stephanie Hartwell and her colleague, Assistant Professor of Sociology Keith Bentele, to see if they could carry out a pro bono program evaluation on the institute’s behalf.
“I try to throw [my students] in the deep end with applied sociology,” Hartwell said. “This was a program in need that does interesting work in social justice. As soon as they [the institute] get time to take care of administrative work, [another homicide] happens. It’s an agency responding to crises that’s also in crisis. It’s underfunded, and they’re always running triage on the most immediate needs. So I talked to Keith, and we decided to offer our classes’ assistance.”
Real World Experience
Hartwell’s Foundations of Applied Sociology class did what’s known as a process evaluation over the course of the 2010-2011 school year.
The students evaluated the needs and effectiveness of the institute’s two-module program that concentrates first on victims’ and survivors’ rights, services, and care, and second on law enforcement, courts, and legal processes associated with homicide cases. Looking at the findings from a focus group and telephone surveys, the class found respondents didn’t know a whole lot about a particular division of the institute known as the Survivor’s Leadership Academy (SLA).
Because of that, the students recommend that the institute consider:
- Hiring staff positions directly responsible for the SLA: a director of training and leadership and someone in charge of collecting and tracking information
- Creating a new brochure
- Coordinating workshops with such topics as Dealing with the Boston Police Department, Race, Understanding Service Agencies, and Resources for Seeking Treatment, Therapy, and Self Help
The students presented their findings to the institute during a presentation at UMass Boston on May 11.
Chéry thanked Hartwell and Bentele “for taking a chance on us and fitting your syllabus to us.”
“Thank you for trusting and believing in us – helping to shift the way the community is viewed,” Chéry added. “We know that Dorchester is where we live, and this is a community, and UMass Boston can help us go further. We know there’s no place to go but up.”