Nov. 3, 2005 • Volume 14 Number 5

Cynthia Loesch '07 distributes information about the anti-smoking program she coordinates to residents in the Codman Square area of her native Dorchester. Says one admirer: "She has great energy and she is very dedicated to her causes." (Photo by Suzanne Camarata)

Staying Close to Her Home, and Her Heart

BC junior's community activism is almost 'a full-time job'

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

Cynthia Loesch '07 has never been afraid of a challenge.

Whether campaigning for stricter tobacco sales policies in the City of Boston or helping to prevent crime in Dorchester's Codman Square neighborhood with an innovative e-mail alert system, Loesch has a history of community activism - and success - that belies her young age.

Loesch, a human development and sociology double major in the Lynch School of Education, is president of the Codman Square Neighborhood Council. She is the second woman and the youngest person to preside over the 11-member volunteer council which provides community participation on municipal issues such as zoning, public safety, building permits and alcohol distribution permits in her home neighborhood. It is an advocacy role Loesch has played in Dorchester civic affairs since her days as a high school student at Boston Latin Academy.

She also heads up the City of Boston-sponsored pilot program that began last summer providing twice-weekly e-mail alerts that spotlight local crime trends and offer prevention tips for neighborhood residents.

Boston police officials provide Loesch with information on preventable crimes - such as home break-ins, automobile thefts and stolen identities - and she sifts through the reports for crimes specific to the Codman Square area. She then e-mails local residents with warnings of crime trends in their neighborhoods along with advice for homeowners to help prevent recurrences.

"It has become almost a full-time job," says Loesch, who estimates she spends nearly 40 hours a week on her various community projects. "It's crazy how many hours it takes. I am trying to get people in all of the neighborhoods in Dorchester to voluntarily continue the alerts. It has become a great resource for crime prevention groups and it's a resource that everyone loves."

This past summer, Loesch worked as an intern for State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry '98, who represents parts of Dorchester and Mattapan, and quickly gained the lawmaker's respect. "Cynthia is just wonderful," Forry says. "She's well organized and if you give her a task she can get it done. I never had to hold her hand; she always knew just what to do."

Forry says many appropriations earmarked for smoking cessation programs have been eliminated in recent years, but Loesch has battled to restore the funds. "She has been fighting at the state level to put that money back in place," Forry says. "I now sit on the Legislative Committee on Tobacco - and that is because of Cynthia. She has great energy and she is very dedicated to her causes.

"Cynthia has some great political skills," Forry says." I told her that she has to come back out and work with us again. I'd love to hire her."

Loesch's community activism began at an early age. Her father, Rev. Bill Loesch, has worked as a neighborhood advocate in Dorchester for many years and Cynthia was eager to follow in his footsteps. At 14, she joined an anti-smoking group, "BOLD Teens Against Tobacco" ("BOLD" stands for "Breath of Life Dorchester," she explains). She had ample motivation.

"My grandfather had smoked and the exposure to second-hand smoke killed my grandmother. I lost both of my grandparents to tobacco use and exposure, and I wanted to learn how to prevent this from happening to my peers. I joined 'Teens Against Tobacco' and ever since we have worked on several campaigns to improve air quality and tobacco exposure within our community."

She eventually became head of the group, and is working to change tobacco sales regulations in the city.

"We want to improve the way that tobacco sales are regulated in the City of Boston," she says. "Right now, all you have to do is pay a $100 fee as a merchant and you are able to sell as much tobacco as you want and make as much money as you want.

"Alcohol product distribution is much different," she says. "The permits are extremely expensive, there is a limit on the number of permits distributed in the city and there is a community component where there is input on whether or not a merchant can sell alcohol. Our question is 'Why can't that same process be applied to tobacco permit distribution?'" she asks.

"In my community, tobacco advertisements often take up the entire storefronts - from a child's eye level to the ceiling. They get the attention of our youth and it does contribute to kids beginning to try cigarettes."

With such dedication to her home community, Cynthia knew she would not stray far from her native Dorchester, so Boston College was a natural choice when it was time to choose a college. "I wanted to stay in my community," she says. "I had worked on a number of [civic issue] campaigns and I didn't want them to end or leave them until I was successful."

Loesch figures to keep her hand in community affairs after graduation next year. "A lot of people say I could be launching a political career," she laughs. "I have worked with a lot of politicians and I have always had good relationships with them. Some people say that's where I could be heading."

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