Boston Partners in Education: A History

by Tim Pettus

In the past year, I have been given an opportunity by AmeriCorps VISTABoston Cares, and Boston Partners in Education to perform a unique role that is part research, part writing, and part educational. Boston Partners is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing students with academic mentors who can help them achieve success in the Boston Public Schools but also has a rich history in the Boston community.

My project was designed to tell the story of Boston Partners in Education, but first I had to find it. The current members of the Boston Partners organization are familiar with our work over the last ten years and several were familiar with what we had accomplished over the past twenty years, but my only real leads were a couple of names and a 50-page overview of our work in the first 15 years of existence. With these names and the brief history in hand, I hit the library, uncovering dozens of articles about our work in the city and our old programs. I discovered moments that have strengthened the links to our partnerships by demonstrating the traditions of our work that are as needed now as they were 50 years ago.


A picture of our students from a two-way tutoring manual produced
by School Volunteers for Boston (former name of Boston Partners in Education).


Grandparent in the inter-generational program talking about his experience growing up in Vietnam.


Volunteer recruitment in the 1980’s

I have built an enormous collection of data, pictures, articles, and proof of the thousands of lives that Boston Partners have touched over the years. I have been deeply inspired by the work of volunteers who used our programs to make a difference, despite the despair of the turbulent decades that engendered violence and increased division in Boston. I have been delighted to discover in our history groups of people who when confronted with riots in the 1970’s, responded by building libraries; another group of volunteers who, when confronted with division, began giving their students a bilingual education; and still another group who responded to poorly funded curricula by connecting the schools to every educational resource in the city: museums, scientific facilities, and career speakers. While many of these efforts were well-documented and applauded at the time, the prevailing air of disappointment and scars of the impending eras have obscured much of this great work.

In writing these histories, I want to inspire a reader who finds themselves troubled by the state of education to find that they can make a difference. My objective is for our readers to discover that the smallest contribution of time from many hundreds will create indispensable support to public education and to the students we serve. I hope, too, that this project builds a sense of community around Boston Partners’ mission, which extends back to 1966 at the moment of our founding, and allows our employees, volunteers, and partners to feel as fortunate for having been a part of it as I do.”


Boston Partners in Education enhances the academic achievement and nurtures the personal growth of Boston’s public school students by providing them with focused, individualized, in-school volunteer support. With the commitment and involvement of the entire community, all students in Boston will develop the skills, self-confidence and motivation to recognize and achieve their full potential. For further information on the work of Boston Partners in Education, visit