Chelsea Research Festival Draws Several Participants And an Appreciative Audience

The Chelsea Research Festival proved to be an outstanding success, with several researchers, including Chelsea High students, presenting their projects at the educational event held May 18 in the Saul Nechtem Gymnasium.

Dr. Sarah Elizabeth Neville, who holds a PhD from Boston College, was the organizer of the Festival. Neville is the wife of Chelsea School Committee member Roberto Jimenez Rivera.

In her opening remarks, Neville thanked the many local organizations “who met every week since the beginning of the school year to make this [Festival] happen.”

Neville credited the collaborative efforts of people from Chelsea City Hall, Chelsea Public Schools, La Colaborativa, GreenRoots, Mass General Hospital, Chelsea, Beth Israel Deaconess, Chelsea, for helping to execute the planning of the Festival.

“The reason we’re having this event today is because for a long time, researchers from universities and hospitals have been coming to Chelsea  to do research here because Chelsea is really unique in the number of immigrants who live here, the high rates of COVID at the beginning of the pandemic, and the high rates of inequality,” said Neville. “So, researchers always come to Chelsea to study it. But today we want to make sure that the researchers are here to share their results with the community. And the Chelsea students and community members are here doing their own projects, so we want to give you the opportunity to share as well.”

Two locally based projects, Stacey Smith’s brilliant, well-researched presentation on the history of the People A.M.E. Church in Chelsea, and Chelsea High junior Jimmy Merino’s comprehensive research on the Boston University takeover of the Chelsea public schools, definitely caught the attention and praise of long-time Chelsea residents.

At her research station that include visuals, Smith related to attendees that “the Great Chelsea fire 1908 burned the People’s A.M.E. Church to the ground.”

“Mayor Beck declared that ‘the city would rise again from the ashes, built on broader lines’, but that just didn’t happen for the People’s A.M.E. Church,” related Smith.

“We have several churches that have rebuilt, and I feel that Chelsea People’s A.M.E. should also have that by now – we’re talking well over 100 years.”

Smith said part of the goal of her research project was “to revitalize the People’s A.M.E. Church.”

“We are still here. We go to church every Sunday, but we have to rent out space,” said Smith. “My hope is that the information for this research project will be used for future generations to further advance the topic of the People’s A.M.E. Church and for our local government to assist with the revitalization of the church and put more policies in place that prevent racial disparities such as this, that still unfortunately plague Chelsea to this day.”

Merino researched the history of the Boston University takeover of the management of the Chelsea public schools, an idea that was proposed by then-Chelsea School Committee member Andrew P. Quigley Sr., who was also publisher of the Chelsea Record. As a result of Mr. Quigley’s vision and foresight and that of his colleagues on the School Committee, BU became the first university in the nation to oversee an entire school district.

Merino said the agreement worked out very well for the city’s schools and its teachers.

“Boston University set various policy changes within the Chelsea school district, investing millions of dollars into the schools,” said Merino. “They increased teacher wages, they established a music and arts department for Chelsea High School. Their policies decreased dropout rates, increased graduation rates, and increased AP enrollment.”

An outstanding student, Merino has begun his college admissions process and considers Yale University as one of his top choices.

The son of Eligio Merino and Delmy Guerra, Jimmy Merino said he has an interest in political science, and his terrific, research presentation at the Chelsea Research Festival was Ivy-League caliber and could be the foundation-setter to a future career in law or politics.

Merino can thank Dr. Sarah Elizabeth Neville for giving him the forum to display his analytical capabilities. Also excelling with their presentation were Chelsea High juniors Christian Mazariegos, Nelson Diaz, Italo Pineda, and Ariel Figueroa, who compiled a project on gentrification in Chelsea

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