Summer Stars Counselor Justin McCarthy in the News

The Daily Item of Lynn recently featured an article recognizing Summer Stars Counselor, Justin McCarthy. Read on!

Lynn native works with youth at summer camp

By Laura Paine/The Daily Item

LYNN – Lynn native Justin McCarthy is paying it forward.

He is working with youth from inner cities around the country to provide them with the same opportunity he had to better his future through the arts and education.

McCarthy, a 22-year-old junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is a camper-gone-counselor at Camp Summer Stars in Northfield, Mass., where educators who double as counselors taught him the importance of education.

“There was a lot of mentoring and there were people that actually cared about kids and kids’ futures,” McCarthy said. “I was in a (breakdancing) program at Salem Access TV. They approached me about it and asked if I wanted to go to the camp to get me out of the house in the summer. I ended up going with one of my friends and it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life.”

He said he never saw college as an option until he went to the camp. It is geared toward teaching the importance of education and performing arts to economically disadvantaged students, primarily from urban settings, who may never have stepped foot outside the city, let alone experienced a camp setting.

“I wanted to help kids like me that never saw college as an option for the future – kids that don’t have the opportunity to graduate from high school, or plan to just get a job after high school,” McCarthy said. “I wanted to instill the things in them that were instilled in me.”

He said some kids do not have the opportunity to really experience the creative process, and art is a way to “bring out the creative side of a kid.”

“Kids who grow up in tough neighborhoods don’t get to express themselves the way they want to,” McCarthy said. “You have kids in middle school who don’t want to bring backpacks to school because they look like a nerd. Making kids realize that to do this, they need an education, and they tie together so well.”

McCarthy, who graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 2006, is majoring in African-American Studies.

“My goal is to apply to the PhD program as of next year, and my hope is to be a professor of African-American history with a focus on hip-hop culture,” he said. “It stems from the camp.

“Growing up I was always a huge hip-hop enthusiast. I love the art and essence of hip-hop. Going through camp I realized how important and powerful it is to the youth. I want to harness that and teach it to others.”

McCarthy also volunteers at the “A Better Chance” (ABC) program’s boys home in Amherst with his fraternity. ABC, which works with academically talented youth of color to increase the number of well-educated young people of color who are capable of assuming positions of responsibility and leadership in American society. He recently received a certificate of appreciation for his services from Gov. Deval Patrick, who grew up in an ABC house.

“I received a plaque and a letter from him,” McCarthy said. “I felt great. I don’t do the work for the appreciation, I don’t need anyone to give me a pat on the back, but it feels good that somebody like the Governor would honor service because it is so important and people see the work others are doing.”

He said the real message is how important education is to the youth and suggests that anyone who may want advice or information about camp options available to them or their children, to call him at 781-521-2744.

[read the full article at Daily Item]