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Meet Trailblazer Jana Karp

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jana Karp.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started teaching at an inner city parochial school (Roxbury) at the age of 21, 4 months after graduating from liberal arts college with a degree that resembled nothing close to urban educator; it was Halloween and I was the 4th teacher to come into what was labeled as a very difficult class.

Classrooms were overpopulated based on need and under resourced. Teachers were not afforded the opportunity to use the bathroom or eat their lunch during the school day.

It was not uncommon to discover that students in my classroom were part of families that had experienced multigenerational, complex trauma, that inevitably caused social, emotional and behavioral issues for these students in the classroom. This in turn interfered not only in the learning of the traumatized children, but the rest of the students paid the price of having a teacher who spent much of their learning time on behavior management of a few.

I carried with me the knowledge that without an education these students would not have the tools and skills needed to make their way out of poverty and without mental health services, they would likely not heal from their traumas; but it was not yet clear to me how I could impact the outcomes of these at-promise students.

In 2009, I left teaching after 10 years and I took what I knew would be a short-term position as an Intensive Care Coordinator (the launch of CBHI) in hopes of better understanding how mental health was being addressed amongst children in the community.

What I saw and learned from my ground level experience as a home-based case manager led me to want to create a safe haven that responded to what the caregivers and community providers felt would best meet the needs of the children- a place that would also allow talented educators, clinicians, community members, the freedom to help design and facilitate curriculum that would most directly impact the children.

I created Boston Youth Sanctuary to fill a void in integrative services for the most vulnerable population of children. A place where traumatized children feel safe and are able to receive whole-child wraparound services, while laughing, learning, growing and just being kids!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Challenges…
Boston Youth Sanctuary was conceived of after more than a decade of working in inner-city Boston and bearing direct witness to the innumerable ways in which current systems were failing Boston children. The complexity of the challenges faced by many children and their families cannot be understated as they confront co-occurring issues associated with mental health, poverty, trauma, and lack of access to resources. Despite the many barriers we have faced during the start-up phase including but not limited to stigma around mental health, systemic and licensing challenges, the implications of urban poverty, lack of family engagement, retention of high quality staff and creating a sustainable best practice innovative service delivery model without a manual or blueprint, BYS has preserved and has made its mark in the community.

We’d love to hear more about Boston Youth Sanctuary.
I founded Boston Youth Sanctuary in Dorchester, MA, in 2011. Boston Youth Sanctuary provides daily therapeutic after school programming and services to child survivors of trauma and their families residing in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan. Our children are resilient and strong, despite the violent deaths of parents and siblings, physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence amongst caregivers, time spent in foster care and or homelessness; our comprehensive services and whole-child relationship-based treatment model provides the opportunity for healing and meaningful change.

BYS offers both clinical- and activity-oriented programming including:
• Child empowerment activities
• Mentoring
• Individual therapy
• Supportive group therapy
• Art expressive therapy
• Dance and movement therapy
• Trauma-informed yoga
• Gymnastics
• Athletic clinics
• Opportunities to play musical instruments
• Nutritionally-based cooking group
• Young men’s identity group
• Young women’s identity group
• Free play on the playground or in the gym
• Homework time in which youth can get help with
their homework or read a book with staff
• Closing circle in which youth reflect on their day
and come together as a community
• Family support services
• Transportation included from school and to home daily

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
Find a mentor. Be a mentor. Offering mentorship is one of the most valuable things I do with my time and requires no particular skill set beyond making time for it, putting effort into it, taking on the role. Being open to having and seeking out a Mentor who will really challenge and support you is an incredibly valuable asset.

Impostor syndrome is real it can be easy to count yourself out— to imagine someone else would be better suited for the role, but there is so much work to be done that we need as many people participating as possible.

Leadership is seeing both how much you have to learn from other people but also what you offer yourself — Leadership is using whatever skills you have to help other people hone skills that they have towards a common goal and finding and providing space for talented committed people do the same.

Be open to opportunities that present themselves to you as you will not always know up front what will be gained from the experience. Living your values leads to opportunities that align with what you are most passionate about… so embrace those opportunities and be open to experiences that are different from what you expected or others expected you to be doing… follow what inspires you and what you are passionate about and opportunities will present themselves.

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Boston Youth Sanctuary

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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