The day-long event will include an interfaith service, a volunteer and community service fair, and planning meetings for summit delegates to craft projects that will help increase children's access to "the Fundamental Five" resources: mentorship, protection, nurturance, education and service.
"This has the potential to be one of the most important steps in changing the status of children in Massachusetts," said Fr. Monan, whose co-chair is entertainer Bill Cosby, recipient of a 1996 honorary degree from the University. "Given the enthusiasm and interest we've seen, the summit presents an excellent opportunity to address the problems youth face. We also hope that what we accomplish will help other states as they begin their own initiatives."
The summit was inspired by The Presidents' Summit for America's Future, held earlier this year to promote volunteerism and community service. Massachusetts delegates to the event pledged to hold a state summit within six months. Acting Gov. A. Paul Cellucci and Sen. Edward Kennedy will convene the summit, which is being coordinated by the Massachusetts Service Alliance. A steering committee and task forces, comprised of over 200 representatives throughout the state, were created to address Massachusetts' commitment to the Fundamental Five.
Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ.
All 351 Massachusetts cities and towns have been invited to send delegations, and the summit also has enlisted support from business, government, academia, community-based organizations and religious groups for the three-year campaign.
The summit's goals, to be attained by Jan. 1, 2000, are to recruit 50,000 mentors and double the number of safe spaces for young people in the state, and to guarantee health insurance for all Massachusetts children. The project also aims to double the number of students in school-to-work activities and children's literacy programs, and involve over 200,000 young people in public service.
Fr. Monan said the problems facing Massachusetts children "are definitely manageable" compared with those elsewhere in the country, and that the state has considerable assets upon which it can draw to meet their needs.
"There is a great history of volunteerism in Massachusetts, one which continues to this day," he explained. "The type of generosity I've seen, especially in spirit, encourages us to believe we can address the issues for children.
"Among all the areas of interest to the summit, colleges and universities have unique resources to provide," Fr. Monan added. "In addition to the professional capabilities on our campuses, we can offer our students' willingness to serve as mentors, tutors or simply friends. That is a quality which cannot be measured and will be of great importance in the years ahead."
For more information on the Massachusetts Summit, contact the summit headquarters at 294 Washington St., Suite 72B, Boston, MA 02108, or call (617)426-6205, or toll-free at (888)710-8099.
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