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2020: A Year of Stories

We are grateful for the work that we do — and, most of all, for the people we get to learn from and think with in this work. Each project brings us into orbit with new folks in our community and connects us with new communities.

As we start a new year, we want to hold up some of the people we’ve worked with over the past 12 months and what we have learned from each of them.

Visit 2021 stories ︎︎︎     Visit 2022 stories ︎︎︎     Visit 2023 stories ︎︎︎


“We treat them like our own. They are not here to serve, but to learn with us.”


Caring for each other is essential to the work we do.

Filomena Cabral is the registrar at the Jeremiah E. Burke high school in Boston’s Grove Hall neighborhood. A backbone to the school, Filomena ensures that students fill requirements, invoices get processed, and everyone gets a warm welcome when they come in.

The Burke’s many partners have been key to its decade-long improvement. Filomena says an important part of this is making partners feel welcomed and valued by the school. She does this by building structures (like partner summits) as well as a warm culture that brings each partner into the fold. 

Filomena teaches us that truly caring for each other is essential to the work we do.

The project: The Burke is the first high school in Boston to exit turnaround status. 10 years later, Agncy was asked to help design a case study so that other schools in the District can learn from the Burke’s Community School approach.


“We all want the same things for the community, and want to make sure all teens have an opportunity to pursue the future they want.”


It is important not only to listen to young people, but to let them lead and support them along the way.

Lilu Torres was part of a team of teenagers tasked with redefining high school programming for the Tierney Learning Center. 

Through the design process, the teens landed on the idea that there is no one-size-fits-all definition of success — that each person makes it themselves. Pulling from experiences of their peers, their mentors, and their own lives, the teens’ multifaceted program design offered options for youth with diverse interests and needs, creating a space for everyone at the TLC.

Lilu, and all of the Tierney teens, remind us how important it is not only to listen to young people, but to let them lead and support them along the way. 

The project: The Tierney Learning Center in South Boston is a hub for youth and community growth and learning that found itself in need of new options for high schoolers, who were aging out of their youth programming. Agncy guided a team of six young people to design a program with teen expertise and experience at the heart of it.


“I’ve worked hard to become a teacher. When I was at the mill, I struggled all the time. I struggled to find happiness, but it helped me discover what I wanted to do.”


There is always more learning to do.

Steven Schenck is a 5th grade math teacher. A former steelworker, he told us how his time on “the struggle bus” helps him be a better teacher.

What sticks with us is Mr. Schenck’s commitment to being the best math teacher he can be, and his open-mindedness to learning what he needs to get there. We met Mr. Schenck three times over the year and got to see his progress, from telling us he’d been adopting his own growth mindset to seeing how he had physically rearranged his classroom to support student independence.

Mr. Schenck reminds us that there is always more learning to do. 

The project: The EF+Math Program is a bold approach to education R&D. Agncy conducted a year-long research project to ground the program’s co-design work in the contexts, needs and perspectives of real math teachers and classrooms.
Our mission is to use design to reduce structural inequity in America. Agncy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  © 2020 Agncy Design Inc. 
Boston, Massachusetts