MLK Summer Scholars in Action

Womens Lunch Place MLK Summer Scholar photo washing veggiesEvery year Boston Cares coordinates more than 300 volunteers for the MLK Summer Scholars’ Friday workshops. As the largest, most comprehensive, corporate summer jobs program of its kind in the country, the MLK Summer Scholars program is impressive. What makes volunteering for this program really meaningful however is not the size, but the teens.

Sam Belk and Janique Jean are MLK Summer Scholars for one of Boston Cares’ nonprofit partners, The Women’s Lunch Place (WLP). The Women’s Lunch Place is a safe, welcoming day community for all self-identified women who are experiencing homelessness or poverty. As an aspiring chef with a heart for social justice, Sam was originally planning to merely volunteer for WLP, so when his headmaster at Trinity Academy mentioned he could get paid to do what he loved, he signed up right away.

Womens Lunch Place MLK Summer Scholar photoNow in his second summer with the WLP, Sam said working at WLP has taught him not to assume things about others, and has made him want to understand people who are different. Janique, on the other hand, said she enjoys being a WLP Scholar because knowing she provides meals to women in need makes the work gratifying. Furthermore, Janique explained that in a world with so much destruction and hate, seeing the WLP shows her that there are good people, and there is hope.

Women’s Lunch Place is a safe, welcoming place for all women who are struggling to feed themselves, for whatever reason. As a result, the WLP brings in a range of customers. One lady in particular has left a mark. Sam mentioned that every day a woman who struggles with drugs comes into WLP and says today is the day she dies, but every day she comes back and gets lunch. At first Sam thought, “This is it, this is the last time I’m going to see her — but she kept coming back.” Sam explained that he used to cross the street when he passed someone who looked crazy, but after working at the WLP he understands that some people “say they want to kill themselves but they don’t actually want that, they just want someone to talk to”. Now well into the summer, Janique and Sam have made and served many meals, and have listened to many stories.

Sam and Janique are just two of more than 600 impressive teens who participate in MLK Summer Scholars every year. Boston Cares volunteers serve as table facilitators with the scholars at their bi-weekly workshops at BU’s Agganis Arena and also help with registration.

The MLK Summer Scholars Program is presented by John Hancock Financial, The Boston Globe, Partners Healthcare, Boston University and Teen Empowerment with volunteer support provided by Boston Cares. The program provides summer jobs in corporate and community settings for more than 600 Boston teenagers, and includes workshops incorporating teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King that will focus on youth success on the job, at school and in the community.  Scholars build meaningful relationships with other youth and volunteer table facilitators while learning life skills through guest speakers and interactive group activities. If you are interested in hearing more about the program or volunteering, check out our website or email

-Marina Lavender, 2015 Summer AmeriCorps VISTA Special Projects Volunteer Engagement Associate