On the Same Page Boston benefits Emerson students and Boston Public Schools

The+previous+semester%E2%80%99s+book+campaign.

Photo: Cathryn Edelstein

The previous semester’s book campaign.

By Sasha Zirin

For the seventh semester, Emerson students help to bring inclusive children’s literature to Boston Public Schools through On the Same Page Boston—an Emerson-based advocacy campaign aiming to bring student volunteers to the group. 

Created by On the Same Page Advisor and Communication Studies Professor Cathryn Edelstein in 2019, Nonprofit Fundraising Campaigns is a course that aims to provide Emerson students with opportunities to learn hands-on organizational skills and help children in the BPS system. 

“The books [the students had] previously were filled with stories of white families—Caucasian families and Caucasian journeys—but the Boston Public School system is really diverse,” Edelstein said. “They can see themselves in the books we [provide].”

This semester, On the Same Page is partnering with Samuel Adams Elementary School in East Boston. In previous semesters, Emerson students worked to help build libraries within schools, but because Samuel Adams Elementary lacks space for a permanent library, students will construct a mobile one instead.

“Forty percent of Boston Public Schools don’t have a functioning library,” said Rachel Spear, a sophomore business of creative enterprises major. “What we do every semester depends on the needs of the school we’re partnered with.”

Junior interdisciplinary studies major Victoria Orifice spoke highly of the course, saying it’s preparing her for the real world.

“This [class] is everything I want,” she said. “It really goes a long way [with] boosting your skills that you can put on a resume.” On the Same Page Boston offers experience in a work environment to Emerson students.

Spear also said being in the class and participating in the campaign felt useful in terms of career preparation.

“When we’re students, especially undergrads, we don’t have a lot of experience with people outside the classroom,” Spear said. She added that she loves how interactive and relevant the class is to the Boston community.

Individuals outside the classroom can support On the Same Page Boston by sharing the campaign’s social media posts or donating books via their website, Orifice said.

Edelstein mentioned the campaign’s Amazon wish list, which requests books as inexpensive as $5.

“We have helped get 4,500 books into the hands of Boston Public School students,” she said. “[I’m] really happy about that outcome and the social impact we’re making.

During the spring 2022 semester, On the Same Page Boston partnered with Tatte Cafe & Bakery, the Oak Street YMCA, and Cafe Mirror and received 1,000 books as donations that went to Thomas Edison School in Brighton, MA.

“We will be doing something similar for Samuel Adams Elementary School next semester,” Edelstein said. “And hopefully partnering with [the businesses] again.”

Emerson students said that the work going toward these schools is something they are passionate about.

“If we have more literary opportunities and a stronger literary foundation, [it’ll] help propel younger students into a more successful educational career as they move forward onto middle school and high school,” Spear said. “Having that foundation is so critical for educational opportunities and opportunities outside of academics.”

A survey done by the Bay State Banner last year found many Boston public schools lacked basic necessities such as “working water fountains and clean bathrooms,” and according to GBH, enrollment in BPS dropped by 15% since 2015. Last spring, though, Mayor Michelle Wu proposed to devote $2 billion to BPS for “school building changes.”

The article states “a detailed blueprint would give children more educational stability and allow families to plan for changes, as well as ensure racial fairness.”

On the Same Page Boston positively impacted the experiences of both the BPS system and Emerson students, according to students who have taken the Nonprofit Fundraising Campaigns class.

“When I was growing up, I did a lot of work for my community, especially for elementary education,” Spear said. “It’s something I have in my roots, which is why I’m so passionate about the campaign and I feel so lucky to be a part of it.”

Orifice also believes the class benefits individuals.

“We’ve had a couple of students who graduated from Emerson and had taken this class who work in the nonprofit sector,” she said. “[They] come and talk to us and are [doing] some really cool stuff. This class goes a long way.”

Correction: A previous version of the article incorrectly stated On The Same Page partnered with Emerson. In actuality, On The Same Page is a stand alone campaign created by Professor Cathryn Edelstein as part of the class.