Serving a growing family, one scholar at a time

The start of a new school year is sure to stress any family, especially those with young children. Yet for Jeison and Arabelis Castillo, and their three children Yasmin, 10, Jarelis, 8, and Jariel, 6, last year’s back-to-school time was especially tough.

Having moved back to Boston from Florida, the children found themselves starting the new school year after classes had already begun. It was difficult for the children to acclimate to a new environment, new classmates, and new teachers. Mr. Castillo worked “crazy hours” at his new job, while Mrs. Castillo juggled a job search and family. School dismissal times made it a challenge to schedule job interviews. Then, she received a special invitation. “I received a letter from BELL at home inviting us to enroll the kids in the program,” she says with a smile. 

The Castillos are seeing positive results on the academic front. When Jariel first started the program, he was behind with reading and math. Today, he’s caught up with math and his reading is improving every day. “That extra help from BELL has really been working for Jariel,” says Mrs. Castillo. 

All three scholars enjoy the hands-on enrichment activities, including art, Taekwondo, and dance. Yet, when asked what their favorite part of the program is, both Yasmine and Jarelis answered “math!” in unison. “Our kids have been to other after-school programs. They were just there, not doing any extra activities. They’d be bored," Mrs. Castillo says. “Here, they really enjoy it,” chimes in Mr. Castillo.

The Castillos say that while the program’s academic instruction in reading and math is getting results, BELL’s impact extends beyond the classroom. BELL’s schedule enables the young parents to work extra hours to support their growing family, and provide their children with a strong foundation for growth. With support from charitable foundations and individual gifts, BELL provides the program at no cost to families. “This helps a lot so we can save a little more in other areas,” Mr. Castillo says.

Now, a new member of the Castillo family is on the way. With mom due in August, their fourth child will arrive just as the next back-to-school season will begin. A new family chapter, a new school year, and new stories of impact will emerge. “Thank you BELL for doing all these extra things for families like ours,” Mrs. Castillo says.

Stories of Impact

Make sure to check in from time to time as Beyond will evolve throughout the year, with new stories of impact.

Breaking barriers through Taekwondo.

Thanh Ly, a third grade scholar, has found her inner strength and voice through Taekwondo enrichment. One kick at a time, she is gaining skills and applying them in the classroom, and in life.


A safe haven for scholars to succeed.

Violence is a topic all too familiar to Daniel Brown's family. So when she heard of BELL, she quickly enrolled her children, joining a growing group of parents who see BELL as a safe haven for scholars to blossom. 


Serving a growing family, one scholar at a time.

With three scholars enrolled in BELL, and a fourth child on the way, BELL provides the Castillos with peace of mind, enabling them to work extra hours to provide a solid foundation for their family.


Creating community in the classroom.

Scholar success boils down to relationships, says Nancy Kelly, a fourth grade math teacher. Through BELL, she is nurturing stronger relationships with her current students, and forging new ones with her future class.


Dad: Parent involvement is key to success.

Parental engagement, a key variable in BELL’s equation for scholar success, comes to life in this feature story. “If fathers are not involved, that’s a problem,” Mr. Bishop says.


Former scholar. Current leader.

Follow Tanisha's journey from a fifth grade BELL scholar to a key BELL staff member. Now, as a mother, she is applying her learnings from BELL and changing her daughter Sirhye's life trajectory.