Intro to Project ALERTA
In 1988, Lucia Mayerson–David founded Project ALERTA, a youth program at UMass Boston that serves students from grades 3-5. Prior to her death in 2011, Mayerson-David devoted an incredible amount of time to education for underprivileged students, and was a part of many programs at UMass Boston. Her biggest legacies at UMass Boston include Project ALERTA and the Talented and Gifted (TAG) Latino Program.
Project ALERTA, which was initiated by the Institute for Learning and Teaching (ILT), has continued to carry on Mayerson-David’s legacy by helping students reach success. It is a year-round program that works primarily with English Language Learners (ELL) from low-income families. From September to June, the program operates in participating schools for 3 hours after school each week for a total of 30 weeks, which adds up to 90 hours. During the summer, the program meets at UMass Boston for four weeks in July. The summer program runs five days a week, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., for four weeks, which adds up to 100 program hours.
Project ALERTA focuses on specific themes for the summer and the school year. These themes are altered every year, and all lesson plans are developed to incorporate the themes ahead of time. The theme for this summer is “Around the World in…..” Students will be actively learning about geography, diversity, and culture. These themes will help ELL students better compete for admission into exam schools, such as Boston Latin Academy, Boston Latin School, and the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science. Additionally, the themes work to assuage summer learning loss.
Project ALERTA’s director is Sonnya Luz Espinal, who possesses professional experience in education as an adult ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher and high school Spanish teacher in the U.S. and personal experience as an English Language Learner (ELL). Espinal was born in Colombia and moved to New Jersey when she was five. Growing up, she had to conquer many language barriers to reach success. With self-confidence and sheer determination, she was able to overcome her challenges and graduate with a BA in Spanish from Ursinus College in Pennsylvania and an MA in Intercultural Relations from Lesley University in Cambridge. Espinal advocates for Project ALERTA because she says she didn’t have a program like Project ALERTA to help her succeed. She believes this program is essential because of its focus on ELL students, which gives them an opportunity she didn’t have and makes them better able to compete against privileged students.
To date, there are more than 3,000 students that have been served by Project ALERTA. All alumni of the program graduate from high school, and most complete post-secondary education. A majority of Project ALERTA alumni have become laudable members of their community by getting involved in politics, education, and business.