North Shore Community Development Coalition and YouthBuild North Shore collaborated with artist Ruben Ubiera on a public art installation. Ubiera is a renowned artist who has been commissioned for murals and other large-scale public art installations around nation. He worked with bright colors and detailed designs to create a Postgraffism or urban-pop styled piece on the crosswalk between Dodge Street and Peabody Street. Originally from the Dominican Republic, his family moved to Salem when they immigrated to the United States in the 1990’s. A former resident of the Point neighborhood and a graduate from Salem High School, this is Ubiera's first installation in Salem. Ubiera now resides in South Florida.
The goal of the crosswalk project was to add a creative feature piece to downtown Salem that allows people to stop and enjoy the rich history and culture of the city. The YB students assisted him with creating the Cross Walk Mural in which 3 of them have been featured as caricatures on the crosswalk.
The crosswalk installation is funded by Mass Development’s Transformative Development Initiative, a competitive grant program which invests in Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities. North Shore CDC collaborated with The City of Salem and the Point Neighborhood Association to complete the application. This effort is in response to the Point Neighborhood Vision & Action Plan, a plan created by the same partners in 2013 to improve the quality of life and bring investment to the Point neighborhood.
"The crosswalk installation will be a unique addition to Salem’s downtown streetscape and a creative way of engaging residents in a conversation about our rich heritage and diversity” said Rosario Ubiera-Minaya, North Shore CDC’s Chief Program Officer.
North Shore CDC sees the project as part of its mission of investing in neighborhoods to create thriving communities, as it celebrates the Salem Point Neighborhood through artistic expression.
The Massachusetts YouthBuild Coalition has a long history with Building Better Together, an annual event that brings together YouthBuild with the Business Community. This year's event was highlighted by the featured guest, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and the inspiring stories of three YouthBuild graduates who have been able to move away from their past and on to productive futures.
Graduates of the YouthBuild programs in Lawrence, Lowell and Brockton each shared how they came to their respective YouthBuild programs and how they used the experiences in the programs to increase their life opportunities.
During her keynote speech Attorney General Maura Healey voiced her support for the YouthBuild model, saying, “We need more YouthBuild programs across the state and across the country.” Healey went on to discuss the importance of reducing barriers to economic security that disproportionately affect low-income youth in the state.
Each of these graduates let the Attorney General and the audience understand their journey from a difficult past. Attorney General Healey was so moved by their stories that she invited them to come to her office to discuss the issues that young people face, calling them "the experts."
Glenda Liz Santiago, presented an eloquent speech describing her life before YouthBuild, the amazing impact YouthBuild has had on her life and her gratitude to the staff for their genuine commitment to assist her to reach her potential and encouragement of never giving up.
Since graduating YouthBuild-Lawrence in 2011, Ms. Santiago earned an Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice and Certificate in Law Enforcement from Northern Essex Community College. Subsequently, she took and passed the Civil Service Exam and completed an internship at the Lawrence Police Department. Presently, she is a transfer student at Salem State University where she is pursuing a bachelor's degree in forensic science with a minor in biology. In the future, she wants to attend medical school and become a forensic pathologist. She is the proud mom to a beautiful son and daughter and works as a Therapeutic Mentor at Children's Friends & Families.
Rafael Santiago talked about his struggles with the law for several years as he was growing up. Then he found YouthBuild Lowell. In his own words, "I gave it my all in the program while working at Dunkin’ Donuts and co-enrolled in college in between. They saw my hard work and dedication as well as my leadership skills and decided to offer me a position as construction trainer upon graduation and I became the first ever to go from student to staff in the YouthBuild Lowell program. And because of my success, I landed a position doing restorative justice giving juveniles who committed their first crime a second chance at a clean record."
"I still hold that position as well as going to college, which I’ve already completed three semesters, and I’ve accomplished all this in just two years of being released from prison. I now live with my girlfriend of almost two years, our one year old daughter and baby boy. Everything I do from here on out is for them because they are my everything. I truly believe that I am a living, breathing, walking, talking, six foot five inch symbol of truth that with hard work and dedication anything is possible and no dream is too big."
The final graduate speaker of the night was YouthBuild Brockton graduate, Lashon Amado. Lashon spoke about how staff members at his program encouraged him to attend community college, which eventually led him to obtaining a bachelor’s degree and pursuing a master’s degree. Since leaving his program Amado has also become an advocate for juvenile justice system reform by serving on the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee and has progressed to national and international stages like TEDxPennsylvania Avenue and the Skoll World Forum.
The Massachusetts YouthBuild Coalition would like to extend our deep gratitude to David Abromowitz and Dorothy Stoneman of YouthBuild USA and all of the YouthBuild USA staff for making this opportunity possible for our students and the eleven Massachusetts YouthBuild Programs. This is an annual event that the Coalition looks forward to each year. It is important that our students understand that they have the potential to influence people beyond their programs who share an interest in their success. We are also very grateful for the generosity of all of the partners of this terrific event:
Local Crowdfund: Tending seeds of progress on Bell Hill
By Giselle Rivera-Flores | October 25, 2015 | Worcester Sun
“I finished high school with a fourth-grade math and reading level and now I am at a ninth-grade math and reading level. I have my HiSET, high school equivalency and I am hoping to find a job when I finish the program,” says Marcus Diaz, a 20-year-old student involved in the YouthBuild program through Training Resources of America.
“Through this program I have learned to do many things and do them better,” Diaz says with an enthusiastic smile as he shows off his newly received equivalency certificate.
Raised in Worcester, Diaz was a student of the Worcester public schools and through the 12th grade was part of the school’s transition program - a program focusing on the lives of special education students beyond the classroom walls. Students with IEPs are given the opportunity to build transitional skill sets that can transform their adult life into a life full of promise, productivity and high confidence.
But what happens when you give low income youth the opportunity to gain self-confidence, valuable life skills sets and an abundance of support from community leaders?
Well, you get a group of astonishing kids sparking change in a dire area of the city.
Standing tall, with a high level of assurance, six students worked diligently on the latest project presented to YouthBuild by Worcester Roots Project (http://www.worcesterroots.org ) and the Stone Soup (http://www.stonesoupworcester.org) collective. The Worcester Roots Project is an organization layered with missions to create a platform for economic, social and environmental justice within the inner city. Partnered with several organizations such as Technocopia, Diggers Landscape Cooperative, WPI’s IQP teams and Green Revitalize, Worcester Roots has established a pilot project with the mission to build a cooperative business and enhance the livelihood of Worcester’s youth.
Although the project has received funding from UMass Memorial Community Benefits, New England Grassroots Environment Fund, the Stoddard Charitable Trust, the Fletcher Foundation and the George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Foundation, the project will need to maintain its funding consistently. The organizers have created a crowdfunding campaign at YouCaring.com in efforts to raise additional donations for the ongoing project and potential expansion into other areas of the city.
The goal is $3,000.
They strive to mold the co-op business model into a system that will allow for the growth of an aquaponics greenhouse - a growing system that mimics a natural symbiotic relationship between fish and plants. Harvesting produce and fish without the need of fertilizers, it maintains an eco-friendly structure also through its recycling of water, allowing the system to use 90 percent less water.
Coupling students in search of high achievement with an innovative project such as the Aquaponics Greenhouse has transformed the atmosphere of the Bell Hill area into a green space of tranquility, prosperity and hope.
"This greenhouse will increase the knowledge, awareness and investment in healthy food options for Bell Hill area residents and Worcester youth. It will advance Stone Soup’s offering of community resources that improve our neighborhood and Worcester, as a crucial part of our mission is creating economic self-sufficiency through the building of democratic workplaces, green jobs and community ownership.” This statement graces the back of the pamphlets given out to the community and partners involved in spreading awareness of the benefits of the co-op.
Set behind Stone Soup, 4 King St., the Aquaponics Greenhouse has broken ground and the project is fully under construction.
The six students take part in every facet of the project. Creating the space, measuring dimensions and utilizing the skill sets taught through the YouthBuild program, the students are showcasing their appreciation for the support they have received over the past two years. Their participation in building a community innovation has boosted their morale, self-worth and overall outlook on their future and the future of their community.
Cyrille Tiako, 21, of Worcester, smiles as he expresses his grateful list for YouthBuild and its excitement over being a part of the Aquaponics Greenhouse. “This project has taught me more than I ever thought I would learn,” he says, while scraping the windows to fit into the perfectly fitted frames of the greenhouse. A native of Cameroon, Tiako explains that his family moved to the United States in search of opportunity.
“My parents moved here two years ago and we didn’t even know English. Now, I speak English well and my two older sisters are studying in higher education. My parents work, but work part-time jobs to help the family. I help also with the household chores and cooking to contribute to my family. Being a part of YouthBuild and the Aquaponics Greenhouse has been great. I’ve learned so much and I am looking to start my first college semester in January of 2016 at Quinsigamond Community College,” Tiako says.
Proud of his achievements and contributions to a project that upholds the very meaning of community through its partnerships, co-op business model and dedication to the socioeconomic upbringing of the Worcester community, Tiako is convinced that the project will shed a light of positivity through the community, and hopes it opens the doors to the addition of other green spaces in the city.
“These kids are special. Not only have they received their HiSET, completed our mental toughness program at YouthBuild but are also taking pride in their community and their abilities,” says Michael Quigley, manager of YouthBuild. “When Stone Soup is in need of volunteers and help in their projects, they do not have to ask us twice. We help Stone Soup and Worcester Roots to cultivate these projects and implement the same missions we have at YouthBuild - to enhance the quality of life in the city.”
The Aquaponics Greenhouse will be the first greenhouse accessible to the community in the city of Worcester, since the demands for a green space became apparent in 2007 among Stone Soup members, greenhouse co-op members and community gardeners. While providing on-site training for the students of YouthBuild, there are also providing a structure to fill the void in the inner city.
The completion date is expected to be soon, after a five-month process of feasibility study, greenhouse design, fundraising, construction and solidification of the project.
If you are interested in donating to their mission to create a greenhouse that will provide more than healthy foods and a workplace for community residents, take a look at their YouCaring page (HTTPS://www.youcaring.com/stone-soup-Worcester-roots-418958 )
Circling back to the good in Fall River
By Yvonne Abraham GLOBE COLUMNIST OCTOBER 01, 2015
FALL RIVER — A lot of redemption stories end with their subjects building new lives far from their troubled old ones.
For Christian Berrios, the new path led back to a place he knew too well — a place where his life was lost and where, with a dose of luck and love, he found it again.
He had made his own choices, but he took a well-worn trail. He was born in Puerto Rico, to a big, poor family. His mother died when he was 8, and his grandmother took him, his six brothers, and his sister to live in a Chicago neighborhood overrun with gangs and drugs. His older brothers soon fell in with the mayhem.
Their grandmother moved them to Fall River to get them away from the streets, but Berrios’s brothers just picked up where they left off, trading on their gang ties to build their own operation in Massachusetts. They forbade Berrios from following them into the trade, and for a while, he obeyed. But in high school, the pull of easy money was too strong.
“Living in the projects, you see that man going to work every morning with the lunch bag, coming home late,” recalled Berrios, now 27. “But then you see the [dealers] out there with the chains on, having a good time.”
He caught on to the game quickly. And he never seemed to get caught, narrowly escaping police raids, inflicting just enough hurt to keep rivals at bay.
But he had a girlfriend he loved, and she hated his choice of career. And he knew it was only a matter of time before he was busted, or worse.
“I was just seeing the walls closing in,” he said. His girlfriend threatened to leave him. He didn’t want to lose her, but he had nothing to show for his years in the trade, except a pair of diamond earrings. He needed to sell one more batch of crack to launch their new life.
That’s when he was arrested, at last. He was 20. He spent the night in a cell at the Fall River District Court. In that small, crowded, foul-smelling cell, Berrios tried not to panic. He put his face in his hands, and smelled his girlfriend’s lotion.
“That moment, right there, is where it all switched,” he said. “The scent of her gave me that picture of what I had been involved in all those years. It killed me.”
He lucked out, receiving three years’ probation. He got temp work but was feeling his resolve slip when an old friend told him about YouthBuild, a national nonprofit that gives high school dropouts a GED and training for good construction jobs.
Berrios knew how much he needed the structure and pride the program could give him. He went all in, showing up on time every morning, examining his bad choices.
“You come here as a rock, all jagged edges and messed up,” he said. “And they’re Picasso. They take a mallet and a chisel and they knock you around until you’re a work of art.”
For better or worse, his family’s bad reputation meant other students looked up to him. The students might dismiss others telling them to pull up their pants or lose the attitude, but they listened to Berrios. That is a mighty valuable asset to have. And so, when Berrios graduated, program manager Carmen Richardi kept him on — first as a graduate assistant and now, as a mentor coordinator.
In June, YouthBuild moved into new premises at the old Fall River District Court. When Richardi showed Berrios where his new desk would be, Berrios bowed his head and laughed.
His new office was the very same cell where he’d sat on that desolate night eight years ago.
On a recent Monday he stood outside it, looking up at the grimy cinder block walls and ceiling-mounted camera. He unlocked a small door in the cell’s heavy wire front, making it squeal.
“What an ugly sound,” he said.
It’s not likely Berrios will ever hear that sound again.
His brothers are still lost, but his life has traced a perfect circle — there and back again.
The students of YouthBuild Lowell decided that a way that they could remember September 11th would be to honor first responders by meeting with members of the city’s fire department and learn more about the job that they do. They first met with the Captain and Lieutenant who discussed the role of first responders and what the firefighters who were called to the World Trade Center might have experienced on that fateful day. They gave students a tour of the fire station and took the time to explain the uses of several pieces of apparatus. Because of the relationship that was developed that day, these students are now undertaking a community service project by helping with maintenance at the fire station. One of their first tasks is to clear some overgrown brush that hinders the operation of some of the larger trucks. The events of 9/11 may have been the start of this work, but it will continue because of that day.
September 11th took on a new meaning for YouthBuild students across the State. The Massachusetts YouthBuild Coalition was fortunate to be one of five organizations chosen nationally as a recipient of a September 11th Remembrance Grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The focus of these grants was on families of victims from that day, survivors, or military veterans and their families. We decided to put our construction talents to good use and do something to help solve the problem of homelessness among veterans.
The idea of Tiny Homes seemed to be a natural solution for the problem. Once a design was decided, it was time to get to work. Fall River and Springfield were chosen as the sites that would undertake the construction of our first two Tiny Homes. Each of these units will be 204 square feet and have all of the amenities of a regular home, just smaller. They are built on trailers, so that they will be mobile enough to be able to locate them where there is a need. We also will place them in a location that offers other services that a veteran who is temporarily down on their luck, could utilize to get back on a productive path. This project has received a great reception from everyone who hears about it and this may be a very practical solution to a complex societal problem.
On September 11th, walls were raised in both Springfield and Fall River. In Springfield, the students quickly framed the four walls and proudly raised them completing the basic structure for the Tiny Home. Jaritza Del Toro a member of the Springfield YWCA YouthBuild team, introduced her uncle Hector Arizmendi, a retired New York City Police Officer, who was at Ground Zero on September 11th. He shared his experiences and was very thankful that his niece was involve in this project of Remembrance.
Meanwhile, in Fall River, the crew got busy first thing in the morning. The crew of staff and students made quick work of the outside walls and worked like a well-oiled machine. After an earlier ceremony at Battleship Cove, the entire state legislative delegation arrived along with Mayor Sam Sutter. Senator Michael Rodrigues and Representatives Carole Fiola, Paul Schmid and Alan Silvia were quick with the questions about the project and they all were excited about this idea as a solution to an ongoing problem. Representative Fiola even met up with one of the volunteers who was a former classmate when they were children. It is very heartening to receive such strong support for YouthBuild students and the work that they are doing.
YouthBuild Lawrence students helped make the City's 9/11 ceremony a great success, with the help of Lieutenant Flynn of the Lawrence Fire Department. This project was chosen in remembrance of the work done by first responders during the 9/11 tragedy. The YouthBuild students planned to clean the central station’s fire trucks but due to rainy weather, this project was moved indoors and our students prepared the station for the day's ceremonies. Lieutenant Flynn led the ceremony with a remembrance and an introduction of the new Fire Chief, Brian Moriarty, who also spoke about the 9/11 event. State Representative Marcos Devers, Councilman Roger Twomey and State Senator Barbara L’Italien also participated in the ceremony. Photos below were taken by YouthBuild Lawrence student, Karim Palmer. Students also made posters to remind everyone to "Never Forget 9/11"
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