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Meet Kaytie Dowcett of Waltham Partnership for Youth in Waltham

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kaytie Dowcett.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born and raised in Waltham, went to Waltham public schools, and stayed in Waltham for college (Brandeis). I was fairly certain I wanted to be a therapist, but an internship at a therapeutic day school for teens turned me on to a whole new approach to schooling – one that was nurturing and holistic while still maintaining high standards and expectations. I began to consider a career in teaching and I fled to Thailand to give it a try. I immediately fell in love with the classroom but began wrestling with the complexities of education – the moral, social, economic, and political implications of education policy and practice. Who gets access to what? How does public education foster or hinder equal opportunity for all children? After teaching in Thailand, I came back to Boston to get a Master’s in Education and then spent 6 years running after school programs with Boston Public Middle School students, always with an eye toward equity. Eventually, I started thinking about buying a home and I was committed to living and working in the same community. I looked at almost a dozen condos in East Boston, where I was spending most of my work life at that time, and even came close to making an offer, but something held me back. After some journaling and soul searching, I realized that I wanted to move back to Waltham, and to live and work in the community I had called home as a kid. I knew there was a lot to love about Waltham, but I also knew that there was room for improvement as far as education and youth development was concerned, and I was eager to contribute to that effort. I moved to Waltham and began teaching middle school English in Waltham Public Schools. Again, I loved the teaching. I mean, really loved it. But again it was clear to me that some significant changes were needed, especially as they related to policy and practice for teaching English Language Learners, and to increasing equity and equal access to opportunity more broadly. I decided to go back to school to study social policy. While in graduate school, I served on the Waltham School Committee and was successful in lobbying to create a Dual Language Elementary School, where all kids learn in both Spanish and English with the goal of being fully bilingual by fifth grade. That program is now in its second year. After earning my Master’s in Public Policy, I landed a job in a think-tank of sorts in Boston, focusing on education policy research, analysis, and advocacy. While the work was interesting and important, I knew right away it wasn’t for me – it was too far removed from actual community work. I was extremely fortunate that, just as I began looking for another job, the Executive Director position at Waltham Partnership for Youth opened up. I’ve been in the role just over a year now and it is an absolutely perfect fit. It’s a great balance of Big Picture thinking and direct service with young people. I am out in the community every day learning from young people, educators, and service providers about what their needs are, and then working with them to find ways to meet those needs. We just launched a program called Language Access for Civic Engagement, which I’m very excited about! We are training 15 bilingual high school students to become interpreters, after which they will have opportunities to get paid for interpreting at community events so that more of our non-English speaking neighbors can fully participate in the life of our community.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When I left my job in Boston to come work in Waltham, it took me a while to land a teaching a job. I waited tables in the meantime, which was actually great in a lot of ways. I worked with wonderful people and didn’t have any papers to grade or lessons to plan when my shift was over! I also made some tough decisions and cast some controversial votes during my tenure on the school committee, sometimes alienating friends, colleagues, and former mentors – people I had grown up with and had looked up to. There have also been students – students about whom I cared very deeply, and for whom I worked incredibly hard, that still ended up on the street or in jail. One of the paradoxes of being an educator is that sometimes the smallest of gestures can have such a positive, long lasting effect that it can alter a child’s trajectory for the better, and sometimes the most gargantuan of efforts still isn’t enough.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Waltham Partnership for Youth – what should we know?
Waltham Partnership for Youth is a small (but mighty!) nonprofit with a big mission – to leverage and coordinate the assets of our vibrant community so that ALL Waltham youth have access the resources, services, and opportunities they need to thrive. We do this by (a) conducting needs assessments, (b) jump-starting new programs, (c) providing capacity building to help sustain and enhance existing programs, and (d) convening diverse stakeholders to work strategically on behalf of Waltham’s youth. We are committed to ensuring that youth voice and youth leadership are central to all that way do. Our vision is that all Waltham youth have the ability to become happy, healthy, productive members of the community and workforce.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Guiding Principles: In all of our work we are guided by a commitment to:
Youth Leadership
Recognition of Strengths & Celebrations of Success
Diversity & Inclusion

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: BostonVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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