Check out our interview “The Good Fight” with CBS Boston’s Keller @ Large, along with UFC Fighter, John “Doomsday” Howard.
Honored to have LG Executive Director, Alexandra Fuller, featured in the Boston Globe’s article, “Meet 9 nonprofit leaders obsessed with making Boston better.”
My name is Alisandra. I am 16 years old and work with Level Ground as a Program Assistant. In the last 1.5 years, Level Ground has impacted me personally in a very significant way, opening up so many doors for me and my brother who is also in the program. Since I was a child, I had to watch my father go in and out of prison. I had a rocky relationship with my mother, and often felt like nobody cared about me. As a teenager, I suffered from depression, occasionally to the point of self-harm. My anger grew stronger, and realized that something had to change to avoid hurting myself or others.
Level Ground has helped me see through my anger and the scars on my arms by allowing me to release my emotions in a positive way through Jiu Jitsu. It has shown me that I have strength on and off that mat to overcome life’s challenges. I now have a support system that offers warmth, joy, and opportunity. They help me see what I am capable of. Level Ground has given me a mentor that has helped me build a resume and a variety of professional skills. I have also been given a job where I get to teach Jiu Jitsu to middle school students and work toward a certification as a Fitness Instructor. Additionally, I take photos for Level Ground. In the future, I want to become a photographer, and use the lessons I’ve learned at Level Ground to make a change in society and the outlook on poverty, violence, and the less fortunate. I want to inspire people to change these problems and become more considerate of those affected by them. Thank you for helping me get there.
We were thrilled to promote our first student to blue belt after 17 months of hard work on his part. Enrique is an amazing young man with incredible work ethic. He has come such a long way through his practice of the sport, losing over 100 pounds via consistent training.
Says Enrique, “Before I started Jiu Jitsu I was really lost – making a lot of bad decisions for myself and my future. Jiu Jitsu has helped me become a lot healthier, lose over 100 pounds, and helped me feel more confident with myself and everything I do. It has brought amazing people into my life that I’ll never forget. Through Jiu Jitsu, I’ve become a better brother, son, worker, and friend. It’s really helped me find out who I truly am, which is a humble, caring, respectful guy that wants nothing but others around me to grow just as I have!”
Check out this emotional video of our Head Instructor, Hudson, surprising Enrique with his new belt!
We are so excited to announce that thanks to amazing supporters such as yourself, our campaign, “Make a LEVEL GROUND for Boston,” raised $29,150 for our $15,000 goal!
These funds will be used to grow our athletic, mentorship, academic advancement, and employment programs…as well as purchase a much needed team van!
We started Level Ground with 0 resources, 3 students, and 1 dream. Just 18 months later, we are serving over 120 students per week across 4 sites. As a small organization trying to achieve scale, your support – big or small – truly makes a meaningful difference in the lives of urban youth in Boston.
We are humbled and grateful for your friendship.
Level Ground is excited to be featured in HuffPost Impact in the article, “Make a Level Ground” by bestselling author, Michael Levin! Check out this glimpse into the organization’s early days.
We are stoked for our Founder and Executive Director, Ali Fuller, to be featured in Improper Bostonian Magazine for the article, “Anything but Routine: An hour-by-hour look at the lives of some of Boston’s hardest-working fitness gurus.” Check out what a typical Tuesday looks like for this social entrepreneur!
Check out Open Mat Radio’s Podcast with Level Ground Mixed Martial Arts’s student Fredy M. and Executive Director, Alexandra Fuller. The interview consists of a candid discussion about how LG grew from 3 to 100+ stude
nts in just one year, as well as delving into the organization’s challenges and vision looking forward. Enjoy here!
Eight months ago, I became convinced that in order to create deeper impact, Level Ground must develop a Youth Employment program. Financial constraints and a lack of professional development opportunities were not just hindering our students’ growth, but their ability to function on a day-to-day basis. One young man had a criminal record prohibiting him from obtaining employment. Another had turned to the streets in search of more lucrative opportunities after his job search proved in vain. Furthermore, after noticing that several youth had difficulty in maintaining a job for more than a couple of months, I realized that certain students would require more intensive case-management to succeed in the workplace. We would need to cultivate an employment model that blended rigor and challenge with patience and understanding…and the Martial Arts Instructor-Student relationship was a natural way to create this culture.
“I used to struggle with finding food, being hungry.
The haze of urban poverty is very real.
But thanks to Level Ground, I’ve found an income.
I’ve found a leader in myself.
I’ve found a second chance.” – J., age 16
FAST FORWARD – Level Ground’s “Assistantship” (Employment & Internship) Program now serves 6 students. One court-involved youth has maintained employment with us for over 7 months. Another has left the streets completely. Others have reported that they would have no access to leadership and skill-building opportunities were it not for Level Ground. Of this cohort, we provide four students with part-time wages. Our goal is to offer an additional 2 paying jobs in the next 6 months.
We are not running the run-of-the-mill youth employment program, but aim to create a rigorous experience that grooms even the most disconnected youth for professional success. On Monday evenings, students engage in a 2-hour long “Professional Bootcamp” that is designed and facilitated by our older students. These sessions take place at Impact Hub located in the Financial District of Boston, ensuring that students learn how to operate in a professional environment. Here, we reflect on the previous week – our successes and challenges – and create ambitious goals moving forward. A high level of accountability is the norm.
Over the course of the week, our ‘youth staff’ perform a variety of functions, including assisting in MMA instruction to new students, public speaking at community events, and managing ‘special projects’ including the design of our communication materials and media.
“I am excited to work with Level Ground because it teaches me about discipline and to work with other people, and to learn many different skills that I can apply in my life.” –JN., age 16
We are confident that our Assistantship Program will prove life changing for our kids, especially when looking at 3 Key Points of Impact that employment provides for youth:
1. Employment ensures that our students basic needs are met
40% of Latino and 35% of Black youth in Boston live in poverty in Boston (The Boston Foundation.) Employment is not only crucial for building soft skills or instilling values such as responsibility or work ethic, but is often essential for providing basic necessities. If food and clothing are lacking, it stifles our students’ growth in all aspects of life.
2. Employment increases the likelihood that our students will obtain a college degree
Students that have poor grades and low education goals (representing the majority of our population) are 3 times more likely to acquire a college degree if they work for 14 hours per week than teens that do not. (The Pennsylvania State University)
3. Employment increases future salaries
Teens that work during high school and college receive salaries 16% higher than those that do not. (The Boston Globe).
Yet there lies a disconnect between the need for youth jobs and the opportunity that exists for our students. In the summer of 2013, for instance, half of white male teens had jobs in comparison to 9% of Black males.
True to our mission, we refuse to allow this opportunity gap to remain. Our students have an incredible capacity to do great things, and we are determined to a) help them see themselves this way, b) help them determine their personal and professional goals, c) help them cultivate transferable skill sets to leverage in the pursuit of these goals. Help US achieve this mission.
Please join us in providing permanent jobs for our current youth staff, as well as providing this opportunity to 2 more youth in 2015!
Create a LEVEL GROUND for Boston. Give today.
$50 provides one professional development workshop.
$120 provides one youth with employment for one week.
$480 provides one youth with employment for one month.
$6,000 provides one youth with employment for an entire year.
Level Ground is thrilled to be featured in the December 9, 2014 Boston.com article, “‘City Awake’ Aims to Make Boston the Center of a New Social Impact Industry.”
The article cites Level Ground as a successful embodiment of the social impact sector’s strides to connect and catalyze organizations and people to help under-served communities.
This month, Level Ground partnered with City Awake, Boston’s Social Impact Festival, to host three events: a discussion on Youth Development, an Open-House, and a Women’s Self-Defense. Through this experience, we were able to connect with dozens of organizations and individuals to form additional partnerships. We look forward to working together to enhance the collective impact of our organizations and better serve our beautiful students!