The Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) is a student-run, community-based, nonprofit public service organization affiliated with Harvard College.
For more than a century, PBHA has offered vital experience to generations of leaders in service while strengthening partnerships between college students and local communities. Today, 1,500 volunteers participate in more than 80 programs serving 10,000 low-income people in Greater Boston. PBHA brings the creativity and enthusiasm of students together with the guidance of professional staff and the knowledge of community members to offer inspired and effective year- round programming.
PBHA’s programming is rooted in communities and evolves in response to expressed local needs. In the 1950s, PBHA volunteers were pioneers in working with the mentally ill – PBHAers testified before Congress on those issues, and later, the Mental Health Committee, which partnered college students with patients in mental health facilities, was a model for President Kennedy’s VISTA. Around the same time, PBHA’s Project Tanganyika, a volunteer teacher’s project in Africa, was studied in the creation of the Peace Corps. PBHA’s Undergraduate Teachers Program (UTEP) was one of the first attempts to utilize student volunteers to support understaffed schools.
Today, PBHA students volunteer with and direct programs in advocacy, adult education, youth tutoring and mentoring, housing, and summer enrichment. Students help young immigrants in Dorchester build English skills, provide youth jobs and mentoring to at-risk teens, offer shelter and safety to men and women sleeping on the streets, and partner with local labor unions to win fair wages. These programs work collaboratively with one another and local partners to build community power and advocate for structural change.
“PBHA’s philosophy that values community accountability in direct service has carried over to my work as a community organizer. I believe that meaningful social change must come from the leadership of the most oppressed.” – Aaron Tanaka ’04, Boston Worker’s Alliance
Our year round children’s programming is focused on affordable, quality out-of-school time care for children ages six to thirteen, tutoring, college application support, and mentoring. These programs service Cambridge and the Boston neighborhoods of Chinatown, the South End, Mission Hill, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Dorchester and South Boston. Additionally, the Native American Youth Enrichment Program, connected to the North American Indian Center of Boston, is the only summer camp offered to children of Native heritage in the Boston urban area. Our teen programs include English Language Learner support for recent immigrants and gender empowerment programming. The Leaders! initiative presents the opportunity for select teens who work as counselors in the Summer Urban Program a “pathways to the future” program. Together, our youth programs serve over 1,000 low-income children and their families and employ more than 90 teens from the Boston and Cambridge neighborhoods.
Several of our programs work across the school system. Harmony provides free music education and mentorship to students at Cambridge Public Schools, ExperiMentors partners with teachers to enrich science education, and the Harvard Emerging Literacy Project supports Head Start initiatives. In Boston, Strong Women, Strong Girls offers girls programming in schools from Allston to East Boston, and CIVICS engages middle school students in a civic engagement curriculum.
Our advocacy programs span the needs of neighborhoods across Boston and Cambridge. These include the Small Claims Advisory Service, which provides low-income clients with legal education and advocacy, and the Student Labor Action Movement, which engages in social action for worker’s rights.
Additionally, the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and Harvard Square Summer Shelter provide services to guests from across Cambridge and Boston. PBHA’s adult education and support programs provide a range of services from ESL support to prison education and elderly visitation.
PBHA is led and governed by students at all levels of the organization. Not only do students direct and staff all individual programs, program directors together comprise the Cabinet, the governing body of the organization. Cabinet elects a team of student officers, who oversee PBHA’s day-to-day operations, and the Board of Trustees, which is chaired by PBHA’s student President and composed of a majority of student leaders in addition to community members and alumni, and sets the organization’s long-term direction.