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Safety Starts Park to Park

July 17, 2017

LFDOn July 16th, Lawrence Family Development and the Mayor's Office launched the next phase of the CIty's Community Safety plan. The inaugural "pop up party" was held at Dr. Nina Scarpito park on Brook Street. About eighty people dropped by the park between 1 and 4 on Sunday for a cookout and park games. Lawrence Family Development’s food service staff grilled hotdogs and hamburgers while members of the SISU Youth Team ran the park games. Lawrence Family Development set up mini-golf, ring toss, bean bag toss, and big block Jenga stations for the kids; while running a 3 on 3 basketball tournament for the local teenagers. Members of the Lawrence Fire DJ ChrisDepartment brought a ladder truck to the park for the kids to climb on, and took some time to shoot hoops with tournament players in between games. DJ Chris spun Latin and urban music throughout the day, while attendees beat the heat with water balloons. 

Sunday’s party was the first of six, supported through emergency funding proposed by the Mayor and passed by the City Council in April. In addition to the parties, the funding supports adding three additional street outreach workers to the SISU street outreach team; diana Facepainttwo of those street outreach workers were on hand Sunday to help with the party. “I grew up in this City and hung out in these parks as a kid. I got in trouble in these same parks as a young man. Because of this I am grateful to be working with the SISU team and the City to keep other young people from making some of the same mistakes I made.” said one of the new outreach workers, Angel Vasquez. 

During the week prior to the party, members of the Lawrence Family Development SISU landscaping team spent several days cleaning up the park, picking up trash, and mowing the lawns. 

Additional pictures.
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College for a Day

image1On May 3, 2017, participants in the SISU program had the opportunity to spend some time at the Northern Essex Community College (NECC) “College for a Day” program. Participants were given a tour of the Lawrence Campus and were able to sit in on a class.

Experiences like the “College for a Day” program are instrumental to LFD’s goal of changing the dialogue around college. Because of this program, SISU participants who had never thought of going to college have realized that it is very real opportunity.

"This is my first time in this place, I can't believe no one has ever believed in me enough to bring me here and show me this" C.R.

Another participant who had never dreamed of going to college took the initiative to sign up for classes after sitting in a psychology class.

Thanks to NECC and the College for a Day program, what had once seemed beyond their reach, has now become a very reachable goal.

Special thanks to the SISU Transition Specialist, Allishah Mohammed, for making this day happen.
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From Brian's Perspective: Part 1 - The Beginning

BrianBrian is 20 year old participant of the Lawrence Youth Team. Brian has been involved with the gang life throughout his teens and has been with the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative for 5 years. During that time, he has completed high school, been in and out of lock up, and become a father. Over the next several months, Brian will be using his pen as a platform to share a perspective rarely published. 

"The purpose of my blog is to compile stories from the lives of my LYT brothers…from beginning to now. Our stories though somewhat different, all connect and align with change in one way….our lives have changed through the Lawrence Youth Team!

Brian

The positive forces in our lives are the people I keep around…like my boss and O. They see us youth members as family and like their own. As soon as they see us about to take the wrong path, they try to lead us to take the right path with knowledge and good advice. I remember when I first came to LYT – I truly didn’t care about anything and here I am now, five years later as a working man and a great father – but still a work in progress.

Marc

Change came my way when I was 15 years old, when I dropped out of high school. I was always in the streets…up to no good…fighting, stealing everything you can name…I did….never going home, putting my mom through stress…she was worried whether I was coming home or not. I had that thought in my head that I didn’t care what happens to me, because I was young minded and hard headed…didn’t listen at all, until I got arrested and it went downhill!

Christian

Growing up in Lawrence, has not been an easy road for me. At the age of eleven I got taken away from my parents because of an unstable home environment – it was at that point, my entire life changed. For the next 3 years, I was in and out of jail. Having to practically raise myself throughout my entire childhood, life has not been easy for me. Struggles and hardships seemed endless…that was until a pivotal moment in my life where the Safe and Successful  Youth Initiative  or Lawrence Youth Team (LYT) saved me….
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Closed Mouths Don’t Get Fed

On Thursday March 30, 2017, youth, youth advocates,street outreach workers, law enforcement, and law makers gathered at the Massachusetts State House in Boston to advocate for continued funding of the Shannon Grant and Safe and Successful Youth Initiative programs. These grants support intervention and prevention focused youth programs in Cities across the state and are integral pieces in community efforts to address issues of youth violence. 

Members of Lawrence Family Development's SISU program (Lawrence Youth Team and YouthBuild Lawrence) joined the youth voices echoing throughout the State House's Great Hall and testifying to their legislators about the importance of these proven programs.

LYT member, Christian Acosta was one of two youth voices chosen to share his story during the event. 

"Good Morning State Officials,Honorable Guests, Mentors and Peers:

CA speechMy name is Christian Acosta and I am proudly from Lawrence MA.

Growing up in Lawrence, has not been an easy road for me. At the age of eleven, I got taken away from my parents because of an unstable home environment – it was at that point my entire life changed. For the next 3 years, I was in and out of jail. Having to practically raise myself throughout my entire childhood, life has not been easy for me. Struggles and hardships seemed endless….that was until a pivotal moment in my life where the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative or Lawrence Youth Team saved me.

I was first introduced to LYT by the then educational liaison at Department of Youth Services and the LYT Program Manager. I did not think that LYT could help me or change my way of thinking. Being reliant on myself for so long, I was struggling outside of the program- selling drugs, engaging in harmful behavior….I was losing myself. I remember the exact day I went to program, I had no money, no food – the only people I could think of at that one moment of desperation was the staff at LYT. They put me straight to work and taught me the tough lesson,

'Closed mouths don’t get fed..' 

This is actually a quote we use a lot during our time at LYT. I worked on improving myself and fast forward five years later, I am standing here before you, a changed man.

What LYT offers me is a family – our program manager is like my older brother, my case manager is like an aunt, street workers are like my old, wise uncles and LYT youth are my brothers. During my time in the program I was able to gain opportunities in construction, demolition, and landscaping. One of the greatest achievements of my life has been gaining entry into college, where I am currently studying Psychology. I also received a full time job with  Lawrence Family Development  where I hold the position of Construction Assistant Trainer at the SISU Center– it is with great pride that I am able to mentor and motivate my Lawrence brothers and sisters every day.

I just want to end by stating that in Lawrence, there was no teen center for youth such as myself for a number of years. I remember LYT staff working out of their cars, they had no offices…they worked truly from their hearts. Now I am happy to state that Lawrence Family Development has taken the initiative to form a comprehensive youth system that will help youth throughout our city better themselves"

In February of 2017, Christian was hired as a full time employee by Lawrence Family Development to fill the role of Carpentry Trainer. Christian is replacing long time YouthBuild Lawrence staff member Domingo Corona. Domingo was with YouthBuild Lawernce for 15 years and similar to Christian, started at the organization as a program participant. Originally a YouthBuild Lawrence participant, Domingo was hired full time as a Carpentry Trainer because of his commitment to his family, his community, and the mission of YouthBuild. 

We know that Christian will do himself, his community, his LYT family, and Lawrence Family Development proud and will continue to pave the way Domingo started, 15 years ago, for other participants in our SISU program.  
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College Bound

August 1, 2016

YB NECCCycle 21 is looking like a historic year for YouthBuild Lawrence in many ways. One of those, which we are incredibly proud of is, the highest number of students pursuing dual enrollment in college and YouthBuild. This year, five of our young women are enrolled in the Northern Essex Community College’s Bridge Program. The Bridge program is a two week introduction to college classes, campus life and how to utilize all of the colleges’ many resources. The Bridge Program is sponsored by the Student Success Center for incoming Latino(a) college students and is designed to help ease students’ adjustment to college life and build a foundation for academic success. 

The partnership between YouthBuild Lawrence and NECC ensures that the students will achieve their goals of graduating college to pursue the career of their dreams. The students were encouraged by YouthBuild Lawrence’s Coordinator of Placement and Career Services, Allishah Mohammed.

YouthBuild studentparticipants from left to right, Gloria Martinez, Diana Rivera, Emerald Vasquez, Alonda Mercedes, and Karina Gabin.
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