By Catherine McGloin
In a basement office, sitting at a desk cluttered with paperwork, board games and crayons, Elsa Carrasquillo fielded questions from children. They would occasionally pop their heads around her door to ask about whiteboard markers or computer passwords.
“We help with homework, we also have kung-fu, they learn how to play chess, they play basketball … they learn about art,” said Carrasquillo, the after school club director at the Tobin Community Center.
Funded by the city’s Centers for Youth and Families Program, the Tobin Center is a space for community members of all ages to access a wide range of facilities, including a batting cage, computer lab and communal garden.
Aside from giving local children the opportunity to perfect their roundhouse kicks and chess strategies, Carrasquillo helps keep them out of “all the chaos with all the shootings.”
A mother of six children, Carrasquillo is worried by gun crime and deadly gang rivalries in the neighborhood.
“It’s sad because they’re kids, and I don’t really think they know what they’re getting into,” she said. “It’s just families losing young kids at such an early age over stupidity.”
Despite these fears, Carrasquillo believes redevelopment in Mission Hill has made the area safer and encouraged multiculturalism in the community, particular as more college students move into the area. Having lived in Mission Hill for 40 years, she has seen the neighborhood transform.
“Growing up you would see so much crazy things going on, people taking drugs in the hallways, fights … now it’s much more quiet.”
Carrasquillo welcomes those changes, but what she misses is the summer block parties on the basketball courts: the food, the music and the break dancing.
“Everybody would come out,” Carrasquillo said. “There was no fights, everyone got along, everyone enjoyed the music. The music was good, it’s nothing like the music now. That’s the thing I miss the most.”