The start of the fall semester in Boston, a city overflowing with universities, is known as one of two peak moving times of the year. Not to be outdone by college kids, AMC made not one but two big moves in autumn: Concurrent with the relocation of AMC’s headquarters to 10 City Square in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood, AMC’s Youth Opportunities Program (YOP) resettled at 6 Spice St., also in Charlestown, about a mile from the new HQ.
It was a momentous move for YOP, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2018 after spending its first 49 years at AMC’s Joy Street headquarters. The new, leased location’s nearly 2,800 square feet houses classroom and training space, offices, and a dazzling array of loaner gear for YOP participants, as well as on-site laundry, a kitchen, and an ADA accessible restroom.
“We are thrilled to welcome our YOP members to the new Charlestown office,” says Jessica Parsons, YOP’s director. “Many youth have visited to get outfitted and learn how to prepare for a safe and fun outdoor adventure. It’s a space that more effectively engages our community of partners who are building these experiences for their youth, many of whom are embarking on their first trip outdoors.”
While the airy, sunny space is inviting, YOP staff are especially excited about the location, which is far more user-friendly than the previous digs. “The office is next to the Sullivan Square T station (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority), with access from I-93, and has ample parking options,” Parsons says. “It’s now easy for YOP groups to park and unload gear directly into the gear room. We moved from housing our gear library in a dark basement to a light-filled, spacious, visible location that will allow the program to grow and thrive.”
As part of YOP’s Outdoor Leadership Training (OLT), YOP instructors teach youth workers and teachers how to safely and successfully lead outdoor trips. After completing the OLT and earning YOP-membership status, these youth workers and teachers in turn lead their students on trips, helping the next generation develop outdoor skills and confidence along the way.
YOP membership is designed to reduce the barriers to accessing outdoor recreation that urban and under-resourced communities historically have faced. OLT-certified leaders can borrow outdoor gear from the YOP gear library at no cost, outfitting entire groups and alleviating the need for buying pricey equipment. Another bonus: Once trained, members can take groups to any of AMC’s destinations, from Maine to New Jersey, often at a reduced cost.
“Youth trips out of Spice Street travel all over Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and beyond,” Parsons says. “Many go west to Mount Wachusett, north to Mount Monadnock, or closer in, to the Blue Hills, where AMC’s Ponkapoag Camp is a very popular YOP destination for its hiking, canoeing, and camping so near the city.”
Since the program’s launch in 1968, more than 5,000 youth workers and teachers have received YOP training, in turn introducing more than 294,000 youth to outdoor recreation. In 2016 alone, YOP staff worked with more than 200 youth agencies, which then led nearly 37,000 youth on outdoor trips.
As YOP celebrates its silver anniversary, a key goal is to bring more visibility to the program while it continues to grow—which Parsons says the recent move to Spice Street is already helping to achieve.