The University

First Lady honors Project ALERTA

J. Keith Motley, PhD, UMass Boston Chancellor | October 21, 2010

Here at the University of Massachusetts Boston, we have made it our mission to broaden access to higher education for all. So it is my pleasure to report to you that our very own Project ALERTA has received the 2010 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award—the highest honor an after-school and out-of-school program can receive.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Project ALERTA, it is an enrichment program for Latino students and English-language learners in grades 3 to 5 in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) based in our Institute for Learning and Teaching (ILT).

The program was honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony yesterday. Project ALERTA was one of 15 award recipients chosen from 458 nominated programs nationwide—and the only program in Massachusetts to win this year. You can watch the ceremony at the White House website.

ILT director Lucia Mayerson-David ’71 founded Project ALERTA and its sister program, Talented and Gifted (TAG), in the late 1980s as a way to combat increasingly high dropout rates among Boston’s Latino students. Held after school at Boston Public Schools and at UMass Boston during school vacations, Project ALERTA has helped an estimated 3,000 Boston youths improve their English proficiency and gain admission into the city’s competitive exam high schools and colleges.

Equally important, students are given the confidence, drive, leadership, and academic skills they will need to succeed.

I want to thank Lucia for her insight and dedication to making this program the success it is today, as well as Project ALERTA Director Sonnya Espinal and our partners at BPS—Superintendent Carol Johnson and all the dedicated teachers, many of whom have worked with the program since its beginning.

Recently I had a chance to watch a video about the program and hear students talk about how much ALERTA has affected their lives. One student said that for her, coming to a college campus was a big privilege. Another said Project ALERTA made learning fun. Many of these children want to become pediatricians, architects, astronauts, and teachers. It makes me proud knowing that UMass Boston is playing a role in preparing a new generation of college students—and future leaders.

On December 4, a gala celebrating both programs called, TAG & ALERTA: 25 Years of Transforming Lives, will be held at UMass Boston’s Campus Center. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the event website.

I encourage you to visit our Project ALERTA site to learn more about the program and its national recognition.