Jana Karp

A life devoted to education

janakarpJana Karp has been committed to improving educational opportunities for young people since beginning her career as an elementary school teacher in Roxbury. After spending ten years teaching, she worked as an intensive care coordinator at the Home for Little Wanderers before founding Boston Youth Sanctuary, a therapeutic after-school program for youth ages 6-11 that have experienced traumatic events or circumstances in their lives.

Karp has been involved with Steppingstone in many capacities. A longtime supporter through her family foundation, Karp also nominated many Scholars during her tenure as a teacher at Roxbury’s St. Patrick School. In 2013, she joined Steppingstone’s Board of Directors.

What drew you to working with Steppingstone, and why do you continue to stay involved?

Having the advantage of knowing students that have benefitted from the experience certainly sealed the deal. My career and life focus have been dedicated to working with inner-city youth and advocating for equality in education, healthcare and services offered. Education is incredibly empowering, and our young people are worthy and deserving of higher education, but do not always have the tools and opportunities needed to access it. Steppingstone is committed to helping them achieve this end. I continue to stay involved because Steppingstone truly lives its mission and provides immeasurable opportunity for inner-city youth.

You founded a nonprofit that works with at-risk youth who have experienced trauma. What inspired you to do this?

As an elementary school teacher in inner-city Boston, I so often came across bright, talented, amazing children that due to their emotional and behavioral issues, were unable to perform or access education in a meaningful way. I briefly worked as a home-based case-manager for children with “serious emotional disturbance” (as defined by Mass Health). I began asking the families from the community I served what they needed to stabilize their children and I heard a resounding need for after school care, highly qualified clinicians and case managers, educational support, door-to-door transportation, community-based center and a holistic treatment model that was designed specifically for child survivors of trauma…and so Boston Youth Sanctuary was born.

Your work at Boston Youth Sanctuary serves Boston youth in a different way than Steppingstone does. Do you feel as though your experience there informs your perspective on Steppingstone, or vice-versa?

Yes, I think both organizations inform each other in many ways. Having cultural competency and perspective- really understanding and being committed to the community you serve- allows one to be in a unique position for effective advocacy and voice on behalf of those that it serves.

Do you get an opportunity to meet the Steppingstone Scholars and/or Alumni? What makes that special?

YES!!!!! I am so fortunate to have had some of my own students matriculate through the program. Additionally, last school year a Scholar who was a senior in high school volunteered at BYS and it was an incredibly rewarding experience for both the student and the children of BYS.

This year, as you know, we celebrated our 25th anniversary. What does it mean for a Boston nonprofit to have 25 years of success?

25 years and THRIVING is an immense accomplishment in the non-profit world. The students whose lives have been touched by the gift that is Steppingstone are using what they have been given to make the world a better place – what more could we hope for?