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From tutors to tax assistance, Northeastern’s Heart of CommUNITY awards honor civic leaders and volunteers

The June 13 award ceremony recognized four organizations and individuals who have worked to create a vibrant community in the neighborhoods around Northeastern.

A group of people posing at the The awards ceremony recognized those who have worked to create a vibrant community in neighborhoods around Boston.
Heart of CommUNITY awards recognized civic leaders and volunteers as well as community recipients of Northeastern partnership grants. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Northeastern recognized community leaders who partner with the university to empower residents of the neighborhoods surrounding its Boston campus with Heart of CommUNITY awards on Thursday night.

The awards, presented in the EXP research complex, honored the extraordinary efforts of those who volunteer their time in Mission Hill, Roxbury, Fenway, South End, Back Bay and beyond.

The award winners provide food for elderly residents, teach Boston public school students creative writing, provide free tax assistance and fresh produce, and use theater to deliver quantitative data about greenspace and other issues in an innovative and compelling format.

Partner of the Year Award

The Partner of the Year Award went to 826 Boston, a nonprofit writing, tutoring and publishing organization that works with students in grades K-12 to share their stories, amplify their voices and develop as leaders in school and life.

“The fact that we can see the measurable outcomes in the community and see gratification from the people we just want to do so much for is the most rewarding experience,” said Adam Marino, volunteer engagement specialist with 826 Boston..

The kids are the center of everything 826 Boston does, according to Lindsay Gavin, a community engagement coordinator for the nonprofit. “Being here tonight really just validates that what we’re doing is good.”

Northeastern students volunteer with 826 Boston.

“The students who we bring in are also doing good work to uplift the kids in our community and their voices,” Gavin said.

Community Champion Award

The recipient of the Community Champion Award was Dolores “Dolly” Boogdanian, a member of the board of the Fenway Community Development Corp. and president of the Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association.

Boogdanian was nominated by her neighbors for her dedication to the community and placing equity and justice at the heart of everything she does.

City Councilor Sharon Durkan presented the award to Boogdanian, calling the 45-year Boston resident a champion of affordable housing, job creation and sustainable growth.

Boogdanian said she is also deeply involved with Fenway Cares, a cooperative effort among six Fenway organizations, including Audubon Circle, which delivers food to the elderly and homebound individuals.

“We do that delivery with the assistance of staff from Northeastern University, which is a wonderful collaboration,” Boogdanian said.

Supervisor of the Year Award

Joane Guzman, operations manager at Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), was presented with the Supervisor of the Year Award. She manages a staff of nine, including five volunteers, at the Roxbury/North Dorchester Neighborhood Opportunity Center.

ABCD provides fuel assistance, summer youth work programs and grocery deliveries for homebound seniors. 

“What I love about ABCD is it’s in every community and able to assist community members where they are at,” Guzman said.

Volunteers also prepare taxes for free during tax season and operate a food pantry.

“A little bit of everything,” Guzman said. “It’s really whatever we can do to really assist the community.”

Collaboration Award

The Collaboration Award was presented to the Data Theatre Collaborative of Northeastern, a group of professors who use theater to help members of the community understand complex information.

In one workshop, theater artists worked with young people from the Hyde Park Task Force to interpret survey data collected by the Livable Streets Alliance in an effort to redevelop nearby SouthWest Corridor Park.

“Data theater is using data to make decisions in civic settings much more participatory and accessible to regular people that might not be spreadsheet nerds like me,” said Rahul Bhargava, a professor of journalism and art and design who leads Northeastern’s Data Culture Group.

Moira Zellner, a Northeastern professor of public policy and urban affairs who teaches participatory modeling, said the work Livable Streets does in advocating for increased green spaces in Boston made it a compelling partner for the new data presentation approach

“Taking the group’s survey results and hosting a powerpoint presentation would be a typical way of presenting its data to the community, but that leaves out a lot of different types of people that don’t usually come to that,” Bhargava said.

Early results show that engaging a theater group to put on a half-hour performance brings data to life and “changes how and who comes together around data in civic settings,” he said.

Northeastern community grants

In addition to the four award recipients, Northeastern also presented 15 community organizations with grants for programming in the Mission Hill, Roxbury, Fenway, South End and Back Bay neighborhoods.

The recipients were: 

Cynthia McCormick Hibbert is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at or contact her on X/Twitter @HibbertCynthia.