Saturday, September 13, 2008

BPS Cyber Safety Mentors Branch Out to Boston Public Libraries

Fourteen Boston Public School (BPS) teens, working as Cyber Safety Mentors, connected with the Boston Public Library’s (BPL) Neighborhood Services Department to promote Internet safety during the Summer 2008. TechBoston, a division of the BPS Office of Instructional and Information Technology, coordinated the summer project that was underwritten by Microsoft, the Boston Society of Information Managers and the Boston Public Library Foundation.

TechBoston hired the teens to develop educational materials about cyber safety aimed at reaching the youth audiences participating in the Summer Reading Program offered at BPL neighborhood branches. Working in pairs, the Cyber Safety Mentors conducted activities at 20 branch libraries using BPS Cyber Safety materials featuring the BPS Cyber Safety Heroes that other BPS teens developed last summer with funding from Microsoft. The Cyber Mentors also used their own creative skills to produce a rap song and several other interactive games, including Cyber Bingo, the mentors used to engage the children visiting the libraries. Through their outreach effort, the Cyber Mentors reached approximately 2500 children and adults at the branch libraries.

At the conclusion of the summer, the Cyber Mentors presented the Cyber Safety Campaign materials at the BPS Open House for Principals & Headmasters. The school leaders were very excited to see the professional quality products and many principals requested the materials for their schools. The Cyber Mentors also made a presentation to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Cyber Crimes Unit. Thomas Ralph, Chief of the Cybercrime Division, presented all of the Cyber Mentors with a certificate commending them for their service to the community.

Koren Stembridge, the director of the Boston Public Library’s Neighborhood Services Program, plans to continue the cyber safety outreach effort by providing Internet safety training for 120 teen mentors the BPL employs to work in the branch libraries through the BPL’s Homework Assistance Program (HAP). All BPL HAP Mentors will be required to conduct cyber safety information sessions for youth they mentor throughout the school year.

The BPS Office of Instructional and Information Technology (OIIT) is developing a plan to reach out to all BPS elementary and middle school principals during the school year to distribute copies of the comic book, bookmarks, and other cyber safety products to the schools. TechBoston director Felicia Vargas and Joe Kidd from OIIT also want to connect with principals who are interested in offering Cyber Safety outreach events for parents, teachers and students. Vargas said, “We are incredibly proud of the amazing cyber safety educational products that our BPS students have created over the past three years and we are anxious to get them into the schools. We are grateful for the financial support provided by Microsoft, Boston Society of Information Managers, and the Boston Public Library Foundation that enabled us to promote this important cyber safety message to the community.” Vargas continued, “I would also like to acknowledge the financial and in-kind support for the BPS Cyber Safety Campaign provided by Realcomm, Bunker Hill Community College, and the National Science Foundation.”

All of the materials created by the Boston Public School students for the BPS Cyber Safety Campaign are available on the website For more information, contact Felicia Vargas (email) or (phone) 617.635.6495 or Joe Kidd, OIIT Technology Support Specialist (email) (phone) 617.635.8017.

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