No issue is more critical to a community’s ability to respond to the challenges of a rapidly-changing world than the quality of its schools, and the opportunities available to its young people. Harvard is engaged in multiple ways in efforts to strengthen local schools in Boston, Cambridge and beyond, to expand educational opportunity for residents of these communities, and to eliminate barriers to student achievement.
Whether as volunteers, student teachers or interns, Harvard students play a major role in these efforts. The University also offers Boston-area elementary, middle and high school students a wide range of opportunities to enrich their education.
In a variety of ways, Harvard also helps residents of Boston-area communities acquire the skills and resources they need to take advantage of the opportunities that a rapidly changing economy presents.
Harvard faculty members are also engaged in research on topics relating to poverty and economic opportunity, and in the translation of their findings into action. Today, Harvard’s century-old commitment to community service is alive and thriving; and by several measures – such as the number of community service programs or the number of service-learning courses offered – it has in recent years grown stronger. The University, its students and Boston-area communities all benefit from that commitment.
Throughout the U.S. communities, families and individuals are faced with a complex set of challenges to their collective health and well-being – challenges that range from childhood obesity and a growing incidence of diabetes to the spread of infectious diseases to a lack of health insurance. Three of Harvard’s professional schools – Harvard Medical School, the School of Dental Medicine and the School of Public Health – offer a combination of clinical, intellectual and human resources that is particularly well suited to helping Boston-area communities address these issues.
In 2005-06, about 1,200 students in HMS, SDM, SPH and Harvard College participated in service learning and volunteer community service programs designed to meet health needs of Boston-area communities. Faculty members at Harvard also have a long history of collaboration with Boston-area communities on research aimed at finding solutions to some of their most pressing health problems.
The high cost of housing has long been one of the Boston area’s most intractable problems. High housing costs undermine the region’s ability to attract and retain the talented people on whom its economy depends – erode the living standards of working families – and impose a particularly heavy burden on low-income households and the elderly.
Harvard supports local efforts to address the problem of affordable housing in several ways. Harvard students are also engaged in efforts to address local housing problems.
Several research centers at Harvard have also worked with local officials, community organizations and others in the Boston area to analyze problems related to affordable housing, and to develop new solutions. For example, the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston has done extensive research on the impact of local land use regulations on housing costs.
Harvard also seeks to strengthen communities in the Boston area by making its cultural resources available to these communities – through programs designed to strengthen community organizations and defend the rights and interests of local community residents – and in some cases by direct investment in community improvements.