Worcester Youth Center receives share of summer jobs money

 

[While gardening at the Worcester Youth Center, Attorney General Maura Healey talks with the youths about their involvement in the center and their future career aspirations. [Photo/Kaylee Johnston]

 

By Kaylee Johnston, Special to the Telegram & Gazette

Posted Jul 19, 2017 at 11:23 PM Updated Jul 19, 2017 at 11:46 PM

 

WORCESTER – The Worcester Youth Center has been a home to youth looking for positive emotional and educational growth, but the resources and opportunities it offers aren’t cost-free.

After Attorney General Maura Healey announced a disbursement of grant money to a variety of Massachusetts organizations, the Youth Center saw the opportunity to grow its community and add jobs for youth members.

“I actually used to be a member here and then I was offered a position working with some of the youth in a program and then that’s kind of how it all started,” four-year Youth Center employee Gina Antuna said. “Without (the grant) we wouldn’t be able to run the program, so it’s pretty much everything. I feel like it gives the kids something to look forward to. It gives them drive and just a motivation to do something.”

Ms. Healey this week announced the award of $300,000 in grant money to 70 organizations across Massachusetts to offer nearly 200 jobs for youth and visited Worcester on Wednesday to highlight the results. With its share, the Worcester Youth Center added three jobs, with hires working in gardening and other areas.

“Because there have been funding cuts in other areas and an increase in minimum wage, we were kind of scurrying around trying to get as many kids job as possible, so with this new funding we are able to employ some additional youth for the summer,” Worcester Youth Center Executive Director Samuel Martin said.

Chau Tran, cultural events and marketing manager from the Southeast Asian Coalition of Massachusetts in Worcester which also received funding, said the organization is grateful for the $3,080 it received from the attorney general’s office.

“From this grant, we were able to hire four amazing youth this summer for seven weeks, 10 hours/week, at $11/hour,” she said.

These workers will organize events for refugees, immigrants and low-income children and their families, according to Ms. Tran. Additionally, they will work at the food bank to assist the Main South neighborhood. Toward the end of the summer, these workers will assist the coalition to start a cultural food justice program.

Ms. Tran said they will be “preparing a community garden at the Worcester Public Library to grow Asian herbs and vegetables.”

“They will also film and archive elders’ cooking of great traditional dishes that may otherwise become extinct, using these locally-grown herbs and vegetables,” she said.

This week, Ms. Healey is kicking off the third year of the Healthy Summer Youth Jobs Grant Program with visits to Lawrence, Leominster, Worcester and Springfield.

“Anything we can do that’s keeping (youth) busy during the summer, it’s the best crime prevention tools we’ve got, so we invest a lot of money,” Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said. “It’s the simple things. Any time you guys are busy during the summer around responsible adults, it doesn’t matter what it is … it gives you a better chance of succeeding, it gives you a better chance of getting that education, like Nelson Mandela said, ‘With education, anything is possible.’ ”

The grant money, acquired from a settlement in the GlaxoSmithKline Medicaid fraud case, is disbursed based on an application process. The focus of the program is on government and nonprofit organizations that highlight the importance of health and well-being.

“There are a lot of young people who are looking to improve themselves, create better opportunities by going to college or going on to some higher ed opportunities, but it takes a lot of money to do that, and unfortunately it takes more money than it should,” Ms. Healey said Tuesday. “Unfortunately we aren’t able to fund all, but we’ve been able to fund a lot.”

Other organizations receiving funding in Central Mass. are:

  • Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominister
  • City of Worcester
  • Girls Inc. of Worcester
  • Spanish American Center Inc. in Leominister

Telegram & Gazette intern Jack Danberg contributed to this report.

 

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