At the invitation of Attorney General, Maura Healey, YouthBuild graduates met with senior staff from that office to discuss a number of issues that are relevant to YouthBuild students. This invitation was the result of the Building Better Together event at which Attorney General Healey was the keynote speaker. She listened to the words of three graduates at that event and was so taken by them that she declared that they needed to speak with her senior staff. Among those from the Attorney General's Office participating in the meeting were: Laurin Mottle, Homecorps Loan Mod. Director; Joanna Lydgate, Director of Policy and Assistant Attorney General; Matt Berge, Fair Labor Division Chief; Marcony Almeida-Barros, Community Engagement Division Chief; Marie Finelli, Consumer Protection Program Director; and Rodrigo Plaza, Mediator in the Consumer Protection Program. Representing YouthBuild students were: Glenda Liz Santiago, YB Lawrence graduate, Northern Essex CC graduate and current Salem State University student; Rafael Santana, YB Lowell graduate and current construction trainer at YB Lowell; Cheyanne Estrella, YB Fall River graduate and current Bristol CC student; and Eduardo Joaquin, current student and soon-to-be graduate of YB Lawrence.
While a number of potential ways in which YouthBuild could partner with the Attorney General's office were discussed, the main focus centered on abandoned properties and criminal justice issues.
The abandoned properties are part of a program that focuses on real estate properties seized by the Office and made available in order to mitigate the impacts of the foreclosure process. These properties are generally in need of repair in order to be made habitable for future use. We will explore the possibilities of the YouthBuild programs working on some of these properties.
In the criminal justice arena, the graduates related their experiences with the system and especially, the stigma that attaches to a young person and hinders their ability to gain meaningful employment and move on to a productive future. The office is already working on some fixes to the problems that they have identified, but appeared enlightened on some aspects that had not been considered yet. This discussion open the door to our young people helping to shape policy that will come out of the AG's office. There was also great interest in the low recidivism rate that Massachusetts programs have achieved over the past seven years.
Also discussed was the lack of chapter 70 education funding for YouthBuild students despite being an important alternative education solution to young people who are leaving school. Another topic was the amount of invisible homelessness that is rampant among young people.
The group left the meeting feeling that an important first step had taken place in these discussions. We all look forward to continuing those discussions and how we can all work together to create policy to solve issues.