While in Boston, we were invited to the 25th Birthday Party of ZUMIX, a small youth non-profit in East Boston, and one of our customers. Their program director, Jenny Shulman, reached out to Small Improvements back in January of 2015 and shared their story with us.
“ZUMIX is a non-profit cultural organization dedicated to building community through the arts. As the first and largest youth arts organization in East Boston, ZUMIX uses top-quality music and cultural programming as a tool for youth development and community transformation,” she said.
Jenny explained how, “1990 marked the worst year of gang violence in Boston’s history. 152 homicides were recorded and many of the victims and perpetrators were youth.” Thus, ZUMIX was founded, in response to this wave of violence, with a group of 24 youth, $200 dollars in their pocket and the simple idea that giving youth something to be passionate about could change their lives.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when arriving at the ZUMIX headquarters. Yet, walking in, surrounded by a swarm of children, families and friends, there was a sudden sense of comfort. It’s no wonder that participants and alumni often refer to ZUMIX as their second home.
After an hour of hearing the musical majesty of ZUMIX’s own “Divercity Band,” students of the founding days came up stage to share their stories and respect with the founder. We listened into how this organization has changed lives, given hope and enabled brighter futures for thousands of children. Some traveled hours by bus and on foot after a long day of school just to attend classes. For others, ZUMIX was family. It was the place where you were supported, encouraged and inspired.
We joined young musician and artist, Ana Maria, for the grand tour of their space, complete with a professional recording studio, an in-house radio station and more musical instruments than I’d seen in my life!
ZUMIX teamed up with Small Improvements to streamline their staff review process so that responsibility was distributed equally amongst team members. “We’re a small team but a very busy one! Before, our process took up an extraordinary amount of the directors’ time. We were meeting for up to two hours with each staff member. Using Small Improvements is a much more productive use of our time. The 360 degree reviews allow team members the anonymity to express what they might not feel comfortable expressing in person and the self review component is really useful for deeper self-reflection,” said Jenny.
Walking out after the celebration, we felt so humbled to be able to support such an incredible cause and mission for Boston’s youth. If you’d like to learn how you can help, check out their website here to learn more about the organization and the impact they’re making in the community.