How the Early Literacy Act Will Help Struggling Students

Stand_National_Logo_CyanMassachusetts has the best public schools in the nation, but it also has one of the worst achievement gaps – that chasm that exists between the education students receive in our wealthiest and poorest school districts. One major factor contributing to the achievement gap is the significant number of students who are unable to read effectively by third grade.

Currently, 53 percent of Massachusetts third graders do not read at grade-level. The numbers are even bleaker among our minority, poor and ELL students – with over 70 percent of Black and Latino children, 71 percent of poor students, and 80 percent of ELL students unable to read proficiently by the end of third grade.

Poor literacy has lifelong social, health and economic consequences. Students who can’t read are more likely to drop out of school, be unemployed, pay less in taxes, have substance abuse problems, and end up in prison. It also has major workforce implications. Simply put, if you can’t read, you can’t succeed.

There is a solution to this crisis. The Early Literacy Act filed by Sen. Joseph Boncore and Rep. Michael Day provides a blueprint to stop the decline in literacy and catch struggling readers before they fall too far behind.

The bill establishes a competitive grant program to improve literacy rates among Massachusetts students in grades K-5, focusing on the highest-need districts. It provides much-needed funding for the initiatives research shows are most effective to improve literacy and help students – such as reading coaches, teacher home visits, literacy consultants, advanced literacy technology, summer literacy and academic programs, vision and hearing screenings and adjustment councilors.

“Literacy is the single most critical education issue, and one that impacts every student in Massachusetts,” said Ranjini Govender, executive director of Stand for Children Massachusetts. “Unfortunately, literacy is often overlooked and school districts are in dire need of more resources to support teachers and help students learn to read effectively. This legislation is crucial to address this major inequity and to ultimately help close the achievement gap.”

While the legislature is considering the full bill, immediate and meaningful action can be taken in the FY19 budget cycle. By increasing funding for a key line item, the Commonwealth can begin the process of providing grants to help Massachusetts elementary and middle schools improve literacy rates.

Govender discussed the literacy crisis and legislation with community advocates in recent op-eds in the Worcester Telegram and Salem News. To learn more about the Every Child Reads campaign and how we can tackle Massachusetts’ literacy crisis, visit

What It’s Like Being a Cristo Rey Boston High School Corporate Work Study Student at O’Neill and Associates

By: Marina, Sophomore

September 14, 2017

Attending a high school where I was obligated to work as part of the required curriculum seemed like a challenge. I didn’t know what to expect or if I even wanted to attend Cristo Rey Boston High School at all — fortunately, I did. In fact, I quickly started to enjoy and appreciate my job. I work for O’Neill and Associates, a public relations and government relations company. I work every Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and handle a variety of tasks and there’s more to this than meets the eye. Everyone has to work, and as you grow old there is no way of avoiding it. If you approach work with an “I hate my job, why do I have to do all this” attitude then you will never be happy.

Every day is an opportunity for me to learn something new. I’m 16 years old but I have the chance to learn and perform tasks just as the college interns at O’Neill and Associates do. Working for my colleagues and having them rely on me has helped me to be more responsible and to take more initiatives at work. I’m always offering a helping hand, while making sure I accomplish everything small and large that was asked of me. I can pat my back and say I did something well. I can look at myself and know that I am a part of a great community.

In fact I am part of a community that is very involved with the public. Every day at O’Neill and Associates I hear political conversations or discussions about the latest news story and how we are affected. As a result, this has taught me the importance of being informed. These skills and characteristics that are growing in me are all thanks to O’Neill. Not only is everyone at the company interested in the public, but they are also interested in me. The staff is so supportive and mindful. I walk past everyone smiling and they ask how I’m doing, they show an interest in learning more about my classes and my life outside of school. At work I never hesitate to ask for help or fear making a mistake, because at O’Neill and Associates there’s a very supportive environment. There’s mutual support and respect. There is no place like O’Neill and Associates. I am very grateful for my job, and I know that most kids my age don’t have this opportunity. I believe this job is a stepping stone for me — a step that was laid out for me through Cristo Rey Boston’s Corporate Work Study. Thanks to the CWS program and O’Neill and Associates I am learning and growing beyond what I ever expected.

Cristo Rey Boston High School Students Earn Spots at Top Colleges with Success in the Classroom and Workplace

On May 24, 2017, Cristo Rey Boston celebrated its seventh annual Academic Signing Day to honor its top students from the Class of 2017 as well as present a special award to Cristo Rey Boston Board Chair Thomas P. O’Neill III, founder and chief executive officer of O’Neill and Associates. The event plays on the idea of National Signing Day for high school athletes with the top students at Cristo Rey Boston revealing their college choices for the first time as they don the hat that represents the school of their dreams. For the last seven years, 100% of Cristo Rey Boston’s graduates have been accepted to four-year colleges.

Tom O’Neill’s connection to Cristo Rey Boston runs deep. He has served as chairman of Cristo Rey Boston’s Board of Trustees for more than two decades beginning when the former North Cambridge Catholic High School, his alma mater, joined the Cristo Rey Network in 2004. For many years prior, Tom was Board Chair and Member at North Cambridge Catholic. In 2010, Tom helped lead the school’s rebranding to Cristo Rey Boston and its relocation to a larger building, the former St. William’s Elementary School in Dorchester. Tom has been instrumental in advocating for Cristo Rey’s innovative corporate work-study program, a requirement for all students enrolled at the school. Cristo Rey Boston partners with more than 125 local businesses and non-profits to provide work-study job placements where students earn two-thirds of their tuition and gain valuable workplace skills during their four years of high school.

The event held at the Boston Harbor Hotel also featured special recognitions for the school’s top five academic performers and the top three corporate work-study students. O’Neill and Associates’ own work-study senior, Evelyn Nuñez, was recognized for her hard work in the classroom and her three years at O’Neill and Associates. Ms. Nuñez has chosen to attend Suffolk University this fall.

Tom, Hugh, Mike

(L-R) Hugh McLaughlin, Tom O’Neill, Mike Brennan

Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Robert Deleo joined Cristo Rey Boston President Michael J. Brennan and other community leaders at the celebration. Also in attendance was Father John O. Foley S.J., the founder of the Cristo Rey model and Jim Brett, President of the New England Council.

“We strive to ensure that the experience at Cristo Rey Boston High School is transformational, and that each student gains personal growth in the classroom, in the workplace and in the community,” said Cristo Rey’s Michael J. Brennan. “This event, our largest fundraiser of the year, honors our students, community and the success of the Cristo Rey Boston model. We also wanted to show our deep appreciation for Board Chair Tom O’Neill for his leadership, generosity and dedication to our students and our school.”

Cristo Rey Boston combines a rigorous college-preparatory academic program with a work-study program where students benefit from classroom and work-based learning, and develop the skills needed for college and job success. The school enrolls approximately 360 young men and women, more than ninety-five percent of whom are students of minority backgrounds. To support Cristo Rey Boston and learn more, visit

Massachusetts STEM Advisory Council Launches MA STEM@WORK Initiative

On Monday, November 21st, the Massachusetts STEM Advisory Council launched the MA STEM@WORK initiative, which is working to connect Massachusetts businesses with high school students to provide them with paid internships in jobs related to science, engineering, technology and math (STEM).  The event featured Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Vertex President and CEO Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, Ann Klee, president of the GE Foundation, and a Vertex student intern and invited Massachusetts companies to hire high school students in STEM-related fields.

The MA STEM@WORK initiative is helping the STEM Advisory Council – co-chaired by Representative Kennedy, Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, and Dr. Jeffrey Leiden – meet its goal of increasing work-based learning experiences for young people.  The Council is working with the Massachusetts School to Career Connecting Activities system to identify and develop STEM internship opportunities, with the goal of placing more high school students in STEM internships by Spring and Summer 2017.

As Representative Kennedy, Lieutenant Governor Polito, and Dr. Leiden wrote in an op ed for the Boston Globe:

Massachusetts has more open positions in these fields than employees to fill them, a void that threatens our economic drivers. Industry analysts and CEOs repeatedly identify this gap as the single greatest challenge facing the Commonwealth’s STEM economy.

Massachusetts isn’t alone. Across the country, states with strong technology, biotech, medical, and engineering economies struggle to provide employers with educated, work-ready employees. And STEM readiness has global implications: There is an international race to create a highly skilled workforce capable of driving an increasingly innovation-centered world… And that is why we’re making a simple but powerful ask of Massachusetts businesses: Hire at least one high school student for a STEM internship.

The initiative and its goals were also featured in the Boston Business Journal and State House News Service. Additionally, on Monday, December 19th, Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser toured FiveStar Companies, a company in New Bedford that manufactures medical instruments. Secretary Peyser announced that Five Star Companies and four other New Bedford area businesses – Southcoast Health System, Siemens, Lockheed Martin, and HTP Inc. – recently joined the program and will begin offering high school internships in the summer.  You can read more about the SouthCoast-area participants at the New Bedford Standard Times.

To learn more about the MA STEM@WORK program or to participate, please contact Blair Brown, staff director at the STEM Advisory Council, at

5 Giving Tuesday Campaigns

O’Neill and Associates is proud to partner with many local and national nonprofits and, in honor of this year’s #GivingTuesday, which takes place on November 29th, we are highlighting some of these organizations’ campaigns. #GivingTuesday follows Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, in an effort to remind consumers what the holidays are really about: lending a helping hand and giving back to our neighbors in need. Follow this guide to learn more about Massachusetts organizations participating in #GivingTuesday and how you can contribute to their campaigns.

1. Community Action, Inc.

Community Action, Inc. (CAI) strives to serve their local communities, whether through affordable childcare for working moms and dads, adult education classes, or making sure the families they serve have basics such as food and clothing for homeless families.

This Giving Tuesday, November 29, 2016 marks the kickoff of CAI’s 2016 Stronger Families for a Stronger Community Annual Appeal Campaign. Your support allows CAI to continue to make our community stronger. Please consider a contribution to CAI this Giving Tuesday that will be used to support programming in 2017.

2. Community Teamwork

As a Community Action agency, a Regional Housing Agency, and a Community Development Corporation, Community Teamwork helps nearly 50,000 individuals from 63 cities and towns in northeastern Massachusetts gain greater economic independence. They are a catalyst for social change and seek to strengthen communities and reduce poverty by delivering vital services and collaborating with key stakeholders to create housing, education and economic opportunities.

You can support Community Teamwork on Giving Tuesday by donating online, submitting checks directly, texting or in-kind donations.

Community Teamwork
155 Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852


Number: 41444

In-Kind Donations:
Clothes for Interviews
+ More

3. Cristo Rey Boston High School

Cristo Rey Boston High School (CRB) is part of the Cristo Rey Network (CRN), a network of 32 high schools across the nation. CRB and the other CRN schools provide a private, Catholic, college-prep education by offering a rigorous curriculum, a unique work-study experience, and the support of an inclusive school community. CRB is located in Dorchester, MA with over 300 students from all over Greater Boston.

This year’s #GivingTuesday campaign message is, “Don’t stand still, make a difference by donating to CRB,” which they are highlighting through a Mannequin Challenge executed by current students. Watch the CRB Mannequin Challenge here. CRB receives 40% of its operational funding from donations, visit to donate on #GivingTuesday. Invest in Education That Works.

4. Father Bill’s & MainSpring

For almost three decades, Father Bill’s & MainSpring (FBMS) has been a leading provider of emergency shelter, housing and supportive services in the South Shore area of Massachusetts. FBMS seeks to not just manage but to end homelessness by helping people struggling with homelessness or at-risk of homelessness to achieve self-sufficiency.

FBMS has launched a crowdfunding campaign for Giving Tuesday this year. People interested in contributing to FBMS can do so here or by setting up their own crowdfunding page for their friends and family to donate. Here is a helpful breakdown of how contributions help FBMS towards their mission:


5. Friends of the Homeless, Inc.

Established over 25 years ago, Friends of the Homeless, Inc. (FOH) is the largest emergency shelter for adult individuals in Western Massachusetts. FOH provides services aimed at ending homelessness including a resources center and 110 low-income housing units.

FOH will be participating in #GivingTuesday by running a #FriendsMatter campaign. People who support Friends of the Homeless on #GivingTuesday are encouraged to post a picture with a friend that matters to help build awareness and spread the word.


Mayor Marty Walsh, Boston College President Fr. William Leahy Honored at Cristo Rey Boston’s 6th Annual Academic Signing Day

On May 18, 2016, Mayor Marty Walsh, Boston College President William P. Lahey, SJ, and more than 300 attendees joined Cristo Rey Boston High School in celebration of the school’s 6th Annual Academic Signing Day at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Closely resembling the tradition of National Signing Day for college athletics, Cristo Rey Boston’s Annual Academic Signing Day celebrates the achievements of the top five seniors of the graduating class, culminating with the announcement of where they will attend school in the fall. In more recent years, the Academic Signing Day has grown to also commemorate alumni, outstanding corporate and community partners, and the senior class as a whole.

The school prides itself in its 100 percent college acceptance rate for graduating seniors and, at the gala, this year’s top five students chose among colleges including New York University, Holy Cross, University of Massachusetts Amherst and more. It was an emotional night for the seniors, their families and mentors, as many of the students will be the first in their families to go to college.

Cristo Rey Boston is a School that Works. As part of the Cristo Rey Network, students take part in a work-study program where they work five days per month with a corporate sponsor to help pay for their private education. The Academic Signing Day celebrates the dedication of the work-study sponsors and supervisors, the hard work of the students, and the commitment of dedicated partners. Cristo Rey Boston honored Boston College and its President Fr. William P. Lahey as this year’s outstanding partner. Boston College and Fr. Lahey were one of the first sponsors, believers and partners of the work-study program, as they seek to foster and advance Jesuit ideals across all grade levels.

In addition to the excitement around honoring Boston College and to the students announcing choice of college, O’Neill and Associates Chief Executive Officer, Tom O’Neill, led a call to heart with event attendees to raise funds for the school. Tom partnered with one of our very own work-study interns, Angela Vastey, to show exactly how Cristo Rey Boston is a School that Works. Angela Vastey graduated from Cristo Rey Boston, formerly known as North Cambridge Catholic, and went on to pursue her Bachelor’s degree at Boston College and her juris doctor at Suffolk University.

This year, the school raised more than $310,000 thanks to the support of the school’s generous sponsors, which will go directly towards helping low-income students in Greater Boston afford a quality private education all while gaining valuable work experience.

For more information on Cristo Rey Boston and how to get involved, click here

To learn more about O’Neill and Associates’ nonprofit expertise, visit our website

PR on Campus: Is your college or university missing out on good press coverage?   

By Nicole Giambusso

Nicole Giambusso, O'Neill and AssociatesHigher education public relations professionals are a bit like reporters themselves. The campus is their beat and they are tasked with knowing what’s happening throughout it. These PR professionals may be “pitched” by some faculty members with work that needs promoting, but rarely hear from others.

Without proactive strategies for engaging a range of faculty in public relations efforts, PR teams can miss newsworthy class projects and achievements because those involved are less inclined to look for the news angle and alert the press office.

Below are steps that PR professionals at higher education institutions can take to bring professors and faculty across campus into the communications fold, building a network that helps to identify, create and publicize good news.

  • Let people know you’re there and listening

College and university PR professionals can benefit from sending a simple message in person: we are here and we want to promote the good work of you and your students. Conduct an annual or bi-annual presentation to faculty – whether at a faculty symposium or at departmental meetings – that walks through the different types of news stories, photo ops and expert source pitches that have news value, and encourage faculty to reach out to you.

  • Start a blog and be active on social media

A call for story ideas might result in suggestions from your colleagues that do not work for a news pitch. However, these topics could be valuable for campus blog posts, website updates and social media content. These online channels are a good way for you to begin working with faculty to promote their work, and it may further develop their sense of what makes a good news hook.

  • Check in

You may inspire your colleagues to look for the news angles in their work, but the thought could understandably fall off their radar as semester demands pile up. You should check in with colleagues regularly about what they are working on and update them on your own efforts. You are essentially building a network that will help you keep your finger on the pulse of activities across campus.

  • Promote good news coverage

Ensure that good news coverage is cross-promoted on campus: on bulletins and in newsletters, on the website, on social media and more. Doing so helps show your full appreciation to those who took part in a news story and encourages them to stay engaged, while also boosting the morale of others within the campus community. All good press coverage should be brought full circle with promotion internally and to other key audiences.

No higher education PR professional wants to learn of a great on-campus photo-op weeks after it happens. Proactive outreach and relationship building on campus can help prevent this from occurring. Your goal is to promote your college to the media and surrounding community –that starts with promoting your efforts to those on campus.

Nicole Giambusso is a director within O’Neill and Associates’ communications practice. She has developed and executed strategic public relations campaigns on behalf of numerous colleges and universities across New England. To learn more about O’Neill and Associates’ higher education expertise, click here.

Beverly Children’s Learning Center Celebrates New EEOST-Funded Learning Space

From left to right: Theresa Jordan, Program Manager, Children’s Investment Fund; Lisa King, Director of Education & Children’s Services, Beverly Children’s Learning Center; Judy Cody, Executive Director, Beverly Children’s Learning Center; Commissioner Thomas L. Weber, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care; Mayor Michael P. Cahill, City of Beverly; Karen Wilk, President, Beverly Children’s Learning Center Board of Directors (Photo courtesy of Beverly Children’s Learning Center)

From left to right: Theresa Jordan, Program Manager, Children’s Investment Fund; Lisa King, Director of Education & Children’s Services, Beverly Children’s Learning Center; Judy Cody, Executive Director, Beverly Children’s Learning Center; Commissioner Thomas L. Weber, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care; Mayor Michael P. Cahill, City of Beverly; Karen Wilk, President, Beverly Children’s Learning Center Board of Directors (Photo courtesy of Beverly Children’s Learning Center)

On October 15, 2015, the Beverly Children’s Learning Center (BCLC), the first child care facility built utilizing grant funding from the Early Education and Out of School Time (EEOST) Capital Fund, celebrated its new learning space.  EEOST is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care in coordination with the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC) and its affiliate the Children’s Investment Fund, and provides child care providers with capital resources to develop high quality early learning facilities. BCLC’s new site provides safe and affordable early education care for nearly 160 children.

BCLC has served low-income and at-risk children (ages one month to 13 years) and families in Beverly for over 40 years.  The new 16,000 square foot facility allows for a more efficient space—one designated floor for infants and toddlers and one for children and preteens participating in after-school programs. The center also includes exercise areas, homework studios, as well as resource areas for parents and guardians.  Outdoor amenities of the site include playgrounds and a community garden where children learn about planting, growing, and harvesting fruits and vegetables.

The $1.4 billion Housing Bond Bill passed in November 2013 authorized $45 million to create the EEOST Capital Grant Fund to improve the quality of center-based child care facilities like BCLC.  Earlier this year, ten centers in Massachusetts received awards totaling $7.45 million in capital grants to substantially renovate, improve or acquire and construct new program facilities.  The grants made to these ten programs will improve learning environments for nearly 1,400 children across the Commonwealth, more than 85 percent of which are from low-income families.  The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care is currently hosting information sessions for child care providers interested in applying for the next round of EEOST funding. More information on those sessions is available at

CEDAC is a public-private community development finance institution that provides financial resources and technical expertise for community-based and other non-profit organizations engaged in the effective development in Massachusetts.  Its affiliate, the Children’s Investment Fund provides loan and grant financing, technical assistance, and training to non-profit early childhood and out-of-school time programs planning capital improvements.

To learn more about CEDAC, the Children’s Investment Fund and more of their current projects like BCLC, visit or

Anna Maria College Inaugurates its Eleventh President

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President Mary Lou Retelle at the Anna Maria College inauguration on September 18th, 2015.

On September 18, Anna Maria College inaugurated their 11th president, Mary Lou Retelle. A Lawrence, Mass. native, President Retelle is Anna Maria’s first laywoman president, and has outlined plans to promote and grow the Paxton liberal arts college.

Founded in 1946 by the Sisters of St. Anne, Anna Maria College is now home to over 1,600 students studying in one of the College’s 35 undergraduate or 21 graduate programs. This year, the college received a 45 percent boost in student enrollment.

President Retelle believes “keeping that momentum going is a priority” for the future of AMC. At the inauguration, many speakers described Retelle’s presidency as a “chance for rejuvenation” and that her optimism and progressiveness, which has already led to the launch of several new programs on campus, will create a new vision for AMC.

President Retelle also focused on the goal of further expanding graduate program offerings in order to create more paths and opportunities for students seeking continuing higher education. Beyond program offerings, President Retelle reiterated that Anna Maria College students will always remain her top priority.

“Educating students to become leaders in their field, in their personal lives, with a focus on service should never, will never, be passé,” Retelle said.

Attendees of the inauguration included Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, members of the AMC Board of Trustees, Paxton’s Chair of the Board of Selectmen Peter Bogren, and many members of the community, college faculty and administration.

Read more about President Retelle’s inauguration at Anna Maria College in Worcester Magazine, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette,, The Eagle-Tribune, the Worcester Business Journal, the Catholic Free Press, and more.

Natixis Helps Bring Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival to South End

NATIXISFor the fifth year in a row, Natixis Global Asset Management is helping to bring one of Boston’s best jazz events – the Berklee Beantown Jazz Festival – to the historic South End. The all-day, free outdoor event takes place on September 26 and features world class music, great food and a variety of family activities.

Boston-based Natixis, one of the world’s largest asset managers, is a presenting sponsor of the festival and will also present a $5,000 George Wein Jazz Ambassador Scholarship to a local high school student musician.

Natixis is a longtime supporter of Jazz and has launched the Jazz Ambassador Project, a series of events that celebrate jazz and give back to local communities. Earlier this summer, Natixis served as the presenting sponsor of the Newport Jazz Festival and awarded two scholarships to young jazz ambassadors. Natixis also partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs in Newport and the Berklee College of Music in Boston so that 100 local children could experience a full day of Jazz and meet a performer at the Newport Jazz Festival.

The Jazz Ambassador Project is part of Natixis’ broader Ambassador Program, a community involvement initiative that supports fundamental social services that play a vital role in enhancing the quality of life in Boston. The goal is to increase collaboration between Natixis and the nonprofits it supports by building deeper relationships, sharing resources and providing strategic guidance to generate new ideas and improve outcomes.

The Beantown Jazz Festival is Boston’s biggest block party – drawing up to 80,000 music fans each year. The 15th annual festival takes place from noon to 6 p.m. on September 26 at Columbus Avenue between Mass. Ave and Burke Street.

Each year the Beantown Festival is the place to be, drawing music lovers with its unique combination of jazz, funk, Latin, pop and soul acts. The Natixis Family Park also offers a great way to introduce children to music through KidJam – a unique event featuring singing and sound exploration. It also gives kids the opportunity to play rhythm instruments and create, listen and respond to music.

This year’s Beantown Festival theme is “Jazz: the Voice of the People.” John Hailer, Natixis’ president and CEO, calls it a fitting tribute, as “jazz is a universal language that unites cultures and brings communities together.”

During the Festival, Natixis will present the George Wein Jazz Ambassador Scholarship, which enables a graduating high school senior to attend Berklee College of Music’s five-week summer performance program. This award was named in recognition of one of the original jazz ambassadors who spent his life working to bring people together through the power of jazz.

For more information on the Beantown Jazz Festival and a full schedule of events, please visit