Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Tatiana Patino- What is Keylatch?

Keylatch Afterschool Program
For this project, I will be focusing on my role as one of the two directors of the Keylatch Afterschool Program. Keylatch Afterschool is one of the thirteen afterschool programs run by the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA),which is “a student-run, community-based, nonprofit public service organization affiliated with Harvard College.” Keylatch serves primarily Latinx and African American elementary school students, ages 5 to 11 from Boston’s South End.

Our Mission
The mission of Keylatch Afterschool is to provide youth from Boston’s South End and Lower Roxbury with a high quality, enriching experience outside the classroom. Our goal is to create a stable environment where our kids feel supported and cared about, and where they can receive both tutoring and mentoring.

The Breakdown:
Keylatch serves students ages 5 to 11 from The Hurley K-8 School and The Blackstone. Keylatch meets at the South End Library Monday through Thursday from 3:00 pm when the students get out from school to 5:00 pm when we drop them off at their houses. Though the program is centered mainly on homework help, we also plan enriching activities, for when the students finish their homework, meant to build community and to empower students. Keylatch is completely run by college students and runs from September to April. Keylatch Afterschool is complemented in the summer by Keylatch Summer Program. The summer program meets from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday to Friday for eight weeks. Combined, the programs are meant to provide a safe space where students can receive academic support and mentorship all while building a strong sense of pride in their identity and their community. 

Keylatch: A History
The Keylatch Program began in 1982 as an afterschool tutoring program for children in the Villa Victoria Housing Development, a mainly Latino community in the South End of Boston.  Remi Cruz and Vicky Rivera hired a small staff of counselors and became the program’s first directors. The group then followed PBHA tradition by moving into the community to better understand and respond the needs of its families. In 1989, the program expanded to include the children of the nearby Tent City Development made up of mainly African Americans. Today, the afterschool program, summer program, and mentoring program serve children of the South End and Lower Roxbury neighborhoods of Boston. The program’s name, Keylatch, comes from the term “latch-key” children, popular at the time to describe children who had a key to the house because their parents were still at work when they finished school, and who were therefore unsupervised in the hours between school and when their parents came home. The reversal of the phrase in the name reflects the change in how these children would spend their time in the program.

How Do You Get involved?
College students from any college in the Greater Boston area can sign up to volunteer with Keylatch Afterschool through PBHA’s Common App. There, students fill out a quick form with personal information, their preference for what day they would like to volunteer, and their reasons for wanting to join Keylatch. Tutors will also have to go through a two-day tutor training that will help tutors be confident in their abilities to work with students and ensure the highest level of impact. The link to the PBHA Common Application can be found here:

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