Youth In Charge Report 2010 A project of Worcester Roots Project with funding from UMass Memorial Health Care Our organization; the services it provides, and its mission: Worcester Roots Project is a collective of youth and adult organizers on a mission to create opportunities for economic, social and environmental justice. We send these roots of opportunity into our communities, sprouting up co-operatively run and green projects and initiatives that build toward our vision of neighborhoods that are safe for living, working and playing. Worcester Roots staff and board have adopted the following values: •
Environmental, Social and Economic Justice: We struggle for a world where everyone is able to access the necessary resources to live a healthy, dignified life, without prejudice, exploitation or toxic environments. • Power of Youth: We acknowledge and support the power and potential that youth possess. We proactively recognize and provide opportunities for youth as leaders within the organization and in the world. • Cooperative Economics: We envision a new economic order that is based on community need and cooperation, not on profit, competition, or disregard for people and the environment. • Grassroots Movement Building: We nurture democratic, horizontal, and nonauthoritarian relationships while ensuring ethical practices within our organization and amongst community members. Our work is effective when it contributes to larger movements for social and environmental justice. • Anti-Oppression: We are against racism, sexism, ageism, and other forms of structural and individual oppression. We proactively encourage diversity and inclusivity in our work. • Collective Liberation: We organize with communities by listening to peoples’ experiences, identifying injustices, and valuing everyone’s voice in building sustainable solutions. • Direct Action: We take action locally, bioregionally and globally for radical, systemic change. • Participatory Education: We are committed to building learning environments that respect every participant’s experience and prioritize the voices of youth, people of color and working class families and individuals. Worcester Roots Project offers the following services to the community: •
Community organizing for community power on environmental justice issues; skills at engaging youth leaders and other traditionally disenfranchised stakeholders.
Consulting and support for developing green & cooperative business.
Lead poisoning safety support: soil testing for lead contamination, lead safety education, lead safe landscaping services.
Environmental justice and safety research.
Media services: video production, press, radio and live performance.
Youth In Charge is a cooperatively run environmental health and justice group led primarily by youth that is supported by Worcester Roots Project. The focus of Youth In Charge is the Bell Hill neighborhood in Worcester Massachusetts. Youth In Charge addressed 3 problems: a) Lead Poisoning Lead damages the brain, kidneys, and nervous system and can lead to behavioral and learning problems. Children are particularly vulnerable to the adverse affects of lead. In Massachusetts, 1 out of every 35 children screened for blood lead has elevated levels. This rate is higher among the urban poor and in communities of color. Lead can enter one's system through inhalation and ingestion. Contaminated soil is a major lead hazard in the old industrial city of Worcester. The majority of the contaminated soil near people’s homes is a result of lead paint chipping or flaking off existing older houses, or lead paint from previous houses that burned down and were not properly remediated. Contamination from leaded gasoline, commonly used in fuel until 1986, also has left several areas of Worcester’s soils with high lead levels, especially near high-traffic roads and the interstate that runs through many poor areas of the city. When children come in contact with contaminated soil, they may inhale or ingest lead. It may also be brought into the home in dust form on shoes, pets, toys and food grown in or near soil containing high levels of this heavy metal. If leafy vegetables are grown in these areas and eaten, one may also become poisoned, though highest risk is through direct contact with the contaminated soil or lead dust. Lead exposure is a big problem in Bell Hill: the hill is covered by Pre-1978 houses and Route 9 and I-290 cut right through the community. In soils around homes in Worcester’s Bell Hill neighborhood we found lead levels that exceeded the current EPA hazard limit by 500%. Youth In Charge has been addressing the lead issue through a community outreach and awareness campaign that has included speaking engagements, workshops, tabling and door-todoor outreach. Youth In Charge has been signing up residents of Bell Hill to access Worcester Lead Abatement Program (WLAP) funds to get grants to do the necessary lead remediation work in and around their homes. Youth in the group have been providing free soil testing so families can know if they need to bee concerned about lead in their yards. And Youth In Charge has been providing lead safe landscaping services to residents in the area who want to make their lead contaminated yards safe to use. b) Wintertime Walkability
It is difficult and dangerous for people to walk outside on icy and snowy sidewalks, particularly on the steep slopes of Bell Hill. Those who can often choose to drive, an expensive, environmentally unfriendly mode of transportation, and one that has none of the healthy exercise benefits of walking. Pedestrians often end up walking in the ploughed street in the line of traffic as many of the sidewalks remain unshoveled after the storms; on larger roads like Route 9 traffic can be very fast and dangerous. Many simply stay isolated in their homes for the duration of the poor weather and slippery walkways, disconnected from their community and cut off from the goods and services they need. For example, attendance at neighborhood schools is so low in the wintertime that over 50 families within 2 miles of Belmont community school have been organizing with the City's and School Department to try to find funds for a bus so children can get to school. Unfortunately the funds for such school transportation will not be coming through any time soon; meanwhile families with low attendance are getting CHINS (Child In Need of Services) infractions that involve the family in the legal system. Youth In Charge started its shoveling program because members of the group enjoy outdoor work and the project expands our scope of landscaping work, giving us relevant landscaping skills that help our community year round. We started shoveling in the February focusing on areas that residents at the Belmont Community Crime Watch said would be particularly helpful. In the Fall the City of Worceser contacted us asking to list us as a sidewalk shoveling resoruce on the City's website. We became connected with the Worcester Senior Center who want us to be on call for elderly and disabled people who have difficulty clearing their sidewalks. This winter we are reaching out to youth beyond our 6 regular employees to get involved in clearing the sidewalks in their neighborhood. c) Youth employment and positive community engagement Summer of 2010 had the lowest level of youth Employment on record in the United States; people of color have been disproportionately impacted by lack of work opportunity (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The stakes for young people in obtaining and keeping secure employment are high. Work experience is extremely important in building a base for future advancement in the work force. Without constructive ways to meet their expenses and give back to their community youth may be pressured into risky, nonconstructive behavior. However, when youth do have the opportunity to work in their community, youth have a vision, energy, sensitivity and creativity to address local issues with a unique approach that adults often lack. Youth In Charge created summer employment and year-round after-school jobs for 6 youth and volunteer opportunities for many others to be engaged in positive community work. Youth In Charge is proud to have provided positive work experience and constructive economic opportunities to a number of at risk youth in the Bell Hill neighborhood, including a teen mother who is still in school and working to support her family, a high school dropout now working on his GED, and a number of youth who's lives are surrounded by gang activity. III Youth In Charge set the following goals for the year of 2010:
Outdoor work I. Snow shoveling: 12 hours of clearing sidewalks after 2 storms this spring. Additional sidewalk clearing after 2 storms this coming winter. II. Lead-safe yards: Complete 1 yard in spring, complete 3 yards in summer, complete 1 yard in fall. III. Soil testing for lead contamination: Test 5 yards in spring, 8 yards in summer, and 3-5 yards in fall. IV. Belmont Community Garden: Build 1 lead-safe raised bed made of pressure treated wood, filled with fertile compost soil. Community organizing, outreach, education, and engagement I. Door to door lead education and Worcester Lead Abatement Program (WLAP) outreach: 20 complete WLAP forms submitted to the city by the end of the year. 2 hours each week per person doing door to door outreach and outreach at community events. II. Community concerns survey: collect 60 complete surveys, analyze results to identify top health and social issues that Bell Hill residents think need to be addressed. III. Bell Hill community meetings: Participate in monthly meetings led by Anna Rodrigues at Belmont Community School. IV. Trainings offered to community: Lead 4 community trainings/workshops over the course of the year. V. Youth jobs: Collaborate with youth from across the state on 3 events pushing for summer Youthworks funding. VI. Community events: Organize, table, and present at community events including Seeing Ourselves Successful, cookout to celebrate new Lead Safe Yard by YIC at 120 Eastern Ave, National Night Out, Bell Hill Earth Day Cleanup, Plumley Village Cookout, Plumley Village Christmas Party, King St. Block Party, and others as the opportunity arises. VII. Kindergarten countdown: recruit 10 teen parents. Participation in events by one YIC member every other week for 1.5 hours. Internal capacity building I. Hiring: Hire 1 youth in spring so that group is back to 6 members. II. Internal trainings: Meeting facilitation, website skills, Google Sketchup design program, financial management/organization budget training, personal finances, teaching new youth to become a youth leader and lead safe landscaper. III. Hours: Increase youth hours from 5 to 7 hours a week so that the group can get more done, spend more time together and youth can earn more. IV. Finances: Increase youth skills and participation in grant writing, donor cultivation, and business planning. 1 youth working with Worcester Roots Development
Coordinator bimonthly, writing grants for office equipment and more working hours. V. Publicity and networking: Create YIC web page, design and print business cards, finish sweatshirts with YIC logo. VI. Office: Make YIC office a more efficient workspace by creating new systems of organization and regular cleanups. IV
Youth In Charge Enhances Public Health: a) Decreasing elevated blood levels through reducing lead exposure: identifying yards with increased lead hazard so people can avoid exposure, signing up families to access Worcester Lead Abatement grant funding to get interior and exterior lead remediation in their homes, and conducting lead safe landscaping in yards with lead contamination. b) Increasing walkability in the neighborhood by shoveling sidewalks: this makes it easier for residents to exercise, connect with their neighbors and access the goods and services they need without the risk of accident or injury on the sidewalk or street. c) Youth organizing jobs: youth leaders developing and sharing techniques for taking agency to impact the decisions that affect their lives and the health of their community. Youth employment in work to develop sustainable community-based solutions to local health issues. Youth In Charge Advances Medical or Health Care Knowledge Community education and outreach on the issue of lead.
Target population? •
Jobs were targeted to youth (people 14 - 18 years old) living in the Bell Hill neighborhood with limited extra-curricular activities. Volunteer opportunities at neighborhood cleanups, lead-safe landscaping workdays and snow shoveling activities in the community were targeted to the same population. Lead education and outdoor lead remediation services were targeted to all residents of the Bell Hill Neighborhood, and to particularly residents with young children because children are the members of the community most seriously impacted by lead. In the spring snow shoveling was targeted to dangerous walkways identified by the community crime watch. This winter snow shoveling services will be targeted to all residents of the Bell Hill Neighborhood who request our services, and we will also have a special focus on the walkways leading up to neighborhood schools to make wintertime school attendance easier for families without cars living within 2 miles of the schoolyards. All homeowners in the Bell Hill Neighborhood were targeted for free testing of yards for lead contamination. Homeowners with low income residents (households of 4 earning less than $61,500 per year) were targeted for referral to the Worcester Lead Abatement program for grants to conduct indoor and outdoor lead remediation.
Outdoor work I. Shoveling: 12 group hours (84 person hours) of clearing sidewalks after 2 storms this spring in problem walkways identified by community crime watch, see the map on the next page.
Illustration 1: Blue lines indicate walkways shoveled in 2010 by Youth In Charge
In the middle of the year we were contacted by the City of Worcester to and the Worcester Senior center to expand our snow shoveling services this coming winter. We have been doing more snow shoveling service outreach on the radio and face-to-face in the community, and we have been recruiting youth to help us when the snow comes. II. Lead-safe yards: Completed 2 lead safe yards in the Bell Hill neighborhood, one on Eastern Ave, one on Rodney St. Both properties had yards with contaminated soil that were used by children under the age of 6 and particularly vulnerable to the impact of lead.
III. Gardens in the neighborhood: Built 1 raised bed made of pressure treated wood, filled with fertile compost soil at the Belmont Community Garden. Also at the Belmont Community garden we participated in cleanups and raised vegetables including kale, collards, tomatoes and basil; produce was shared with neighbors and distributed through the Plumley Village food pantry. Cared for gardens in yards on Eastern Avenue and Gage St.
IV. Soil testing for lead contamination: Tested 23 yards for lead contamination in soil. We were alarmed to find that 70% of the yards we tested had areas of bare soil with lead levels higher than the EPA toxicity limit of 400ppm! Please see the map of yards tested below.
Illustration 2: Map demonstrates location of yards tested for lead in soil, and the result of the highest lead sample in that yard. Yellow indicates a lead result below the EPA accepted "safe" concentration of 400ppm. Pink indicates lead levels above 400ppm, below 1,000ppm. Red (!) symbols indicate lead concentrations of over 1,000ppm. Yards were tested on Auburn St, Bernard St, Duxburry Rd, Eastern Ave(5), East Kendall St, Elizabeth St, Evarard St, Hooper St, Kendall St, Laurel St, Rodney St (4), Stanton St(4) and Windsor St.
Community organizing, outreach, education, and engagement
I. Worcester Lead Abatement Program (WLAP) outreach: 16 complete WLAP forms submitted to the city, forms solicited at community events and in door-to-door outreach. (After submitting 16 forms the WLAP program got so backlogged they asked us to take a break on referrals but to continue with lead safety education.) Please see the map on the next page showing areas where Youth In Charge completed door-to-door outreach. WLAP outreach was combined with lead safety education information and information at neighborhood schools, community meetings and events.
II. Bell Hill community meetings: Participated in monthly meetings led by Anna Rodrigues at Belmont Community School. In these meetings we learned of community issues, shared information about our work, and got local residents' input on how best to do our work in the community.
III. Community concerns survey: Collected 60 complete surveys. We analyzed and compiled results into a report demonstrating the health and social issues of greatest concern to members of the Bell Hill community. Please see a summary of results on the next page. I. Important issues in the community Gangs, Drugs, Fights Unemployment Trash and cleanliness Racism Safety Health Lack of activities for youth Education
85 22 18 15 15 12 10 4
Major Issues in Bellhill
Gangs, Drugs, Fights Unemployment Trash and cleanliness Racism Safety Health Lack of activities for youth Education
II. Very Well Well Normal None Distant
Interaction with neighbors 15 18 18 4 4
Interaction with neighbors
Very Well Well Normal None Distant
Active in Bellhill Community Yes Try Â No
19 24 17
Active in Bellhill Community
Yes Try No
Major Health Issues
HIV Flu Obesity Nutrition Nutrition Smoke Diabetes Underage Â pregnancy
4 4 3 3 3 3 2 2 Major Health Issues
Trash HIV Flu Obesity Nutrition Nutrition Smoke Diabetes Underage pregnancy
IV. Trainings offered to community: Led community trainings/workshops over the course of the year: 1. Leadership training for Plumley Village Girls Group 2. Environmental Justice training open to the public, organized in conjunction with Massachussetts Environmental Justice Alliance (MEJA) 3.Workshop on Environmental Justice and Lead Safety at the US Social Forum in Detroit in June. 4. Community gardening options presentation and discussion to Plumley village residents through the UMass Wellness Center at Plumley Village. In addition to the workshops stated above, Youth In Charge in conjunction with Worcester Roots Project will be hosting a series of community organizing trainings in neighborhood this winter featuring workshops led by community activists working for community health and social justice all over the state. These trainings will be free and open to anyone in the neighborhood and beyond. V. Youth jobs: Organized with youth from across the state on 3 events pushing for summer Youthworks funding. Bussed our members and unrelated youth to march, rally and
lobby at our State Capital. We were successful in securing limited funds for ourselves and many other youth to work this summer. In the process we learned about the legislative system and about claiming our collective power to organize for what our communities need. VI. Community events: Organized, tabled, and presented lead safety information at community events including Seeing Ourselves Successful, cookout to celebrate new Lead Safe Yard by YIC at 120 Eastern Ave, National Night Out, Bell Hill Earth Day Cleanup, Plumley Village Cookout, the Cyclovida premier, the Stone Soup Anniversary party, African Community Education events, StART on the Street (Lincoln Square) and more. Participated in Bell Hill community discussions about rising violence. VII. Kindergarten countdown: 10 teen parents recruited. Participation in events by one YIC member every other week for 1.5 hours in the spring and summer. Internal capacity building V. Hiring: Hired Valery Santiago in spring so that group was back to 6 members. Conducted another hiring process in December and hire Jailene Marcano to replace a member who got another job offering more hours. For the summer months we took on intern Shawn Foreman, mother of 4 from the Bell Hill neighborhood who is personally affected by the lead issue as her has been affected by elevated blood lead levels which were reduced after youth-led lead safe landscaping. VI. Internal trainings: Meeting facilitation, Google Sketchup design program, financial management/organization budget training, personal finances, electronic Dropbox file management, Google calendar, landscaping safety and soil testing trainings were provided over the course of the year. VII. Hours: Youth hours were increased from 5 to 7 hours a week so that the group could get more done, spend more time together and youth can earn more. VIII. Finances: Increased youth skills and participation in grant writing, donor cultivation, and business planning. Members of Youth In Charge participated in fundraising presentation at Worcester Roots' Annual Meeting, presented to the Nativity School Philanthropy team that went on to award us $750.00, wrote letters for snow shoveling equipment donations to local hardware and department stores. Members of Youth In Charge sold sweatshirts and DVDs of our public service announcement at community events. Since fall the group has been working on a business plan for a restaurant or food truck serving healthy food in the neighborhood. IX. Publicity and networking: Finished sweatshirts with YIC logo. Brainstormed design for Youth In Charge web page, incomplete web work has been scheduled with web design staff member from Worcester Roots Project. Youth In Charge worked with Music Mainia TV to create a 7 minute lead safety public service announcement featuring the lead-safe landscaping completed by Youth In Charge on Eastern Avenue in the Bell Hill neighborhood. The public service announcement is now airing on the local cable access TV station, WCCA Channel 13. This public service announcement is soon to be available on YouTube.
X. Office: Achieved goal of making the Youth In Charge office a more efficient workspace by creating new systems of organization with organized filing cabinet, electronic Dropbox file sharing system, stocking office supplies and scheduling and regular cleanups. VII Collaborators: • We collaborated with Plumley Village East who gave Youth In Charge year-round office space and computer access in exchange for gardening consulting and a $300.00 donation. The Plumley Village Health Fair provided a venue for Youth In Charge to do some lead safety education and youth recruitment. Youth In Charge appreciated the opportunity to participate in community discussions about neighborhood violence at Plumley Village. • Toxic Soil Busters, another youth-led co-op affiliated with Worcester Roots project offered training workshops to Youth In charge and collaborated on interstate travel to conferences about cooperatives, sustainability and community organizing. • We collaborated with Worcester Interfaith, the Worcester Youth Center, Oak Hill CDC and the Plumley Village teen center and a number of youth programs in Boston to mobilize youth to demonstrate successfully for funding for summer jobs for youth. • We collaborated with HUD thorugh the Worcester Lead Abatement Program to get funding for at least one lead-safe yard. • The City of Worcester and Mass in Motion are providing institutional support and publicity to Youth In Charge as a snow shoveling resource in Bell Hill to increase wintertime walkability and city-wide access to snow shoveling services. • We are collaborating with the Regional Environmental Council, the Umass Wellness Center and the TNT women's group to create a community garden on Laurel St. as part of our affordable rent agreement at Plumley Village. • Worcester Roots is bringing collaborators from all over the state to provide community organizing workshops free of charge in the Bell Hill area. Topics of workshops shall include Environemntal Health and Justice Organizing, Power Mapping, the History of Community Organizing in Worcester and much more. Collaborators include EPOCA, Stone Soup, Mosaic Culture Complex, the Regoinal Envoronmental Council, Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center, Igelsia Christiana de la Communidad and more bringing workshops, assistance in community outreach, financial contributions and organizing experience to share. • The North Eastern Climate Confluence, the United States Social Forum and the Northeast Climate Confluence all supported by involving our members in the creation of youth tracks in their conferences to make them more accessible to our representing youth. • The Caldwell Family worked with us to host a block party in their yard once the lead safe landscaping conducted by Youth In Charge in their back yard was complete. Together we created a fun family event with food and live performances of music and dance: a great atmosphere for neighbors around Eastern Ave. to get to know each other better and to see the attractive lead-safe landscaping services our group has to offer the community.
We have collaborated with the Worcester Green Jobs Coaliton to work city-wide for accessible green jobs in our community that youth like the youth from Youth In Charge could be involved in.
VIII Challenges: A big challenge to our work flow this summer was a huge delay the city's Worcester Lead Abatement Program (WLAP) funding process. Over the past year and a half we have outreached to a number of homeowners in the Bell Hill neighborhood who are are eager for us to work in their yard but require financial assistance to cover the cost of the necessary work. We referred multiple eligible families to the Worcester Lead Abatement Program for funding so that we could work on their yards. Due to under-staffing at City Departments the paperwork for the WLAP HUD funding was not completed on time for us to do as many yards as we planned. We called and emailed the WLAP offices with the aim of expediting the paperwork for homes in our Neighborhood of interest to little avail. As a result of this WLAP funding and paperwork bottleneck we completed 2 lead-safe yards instead of the 5 we planned to do. With the time we would have spent landscaping we maintained a household garden in the neighborhood and conducted 5 more soil tests than we had initially planned to do (23 yards instead of 18), and we conducted a number of visual assessment surveys in conjunction with the EPA to identify challenges to healthy homes in the neighborhood (such as chipping lead paint, unsafe stairs and porches, deteriorated roofs, bare soil, etc.) We also supported residents in the neighborhood organizing for more benches and trashcans for the community as well as meeting about the rising violence in the neighborhood. We began to research other opportunities for us to provide lacking opportunities in the community, and we researched healthy food services and a potential neighborhood food service business role for us in the future. IX
UMass Memorial Community Benefits funding to Youth In Charge made it possible to leverage the following funding: • • • • • X
Nativity School Philanthropy Project - $750.00 used for extra landscaping materials and equipment. North-East Grassroots Enviromental Fund (NEGEF) - $2,000 for travel to conferences on sustainability, worker cooperatives and community organizing in San Francisco, New York and Detroit. Sale of Youth In Charge sweatshirts and Lead Safety Public Service Announcement DVD - $60.00 used for petty cash office expenses. Summer YouthWorks money - $3,500.00 for youth stipends to work during 6 weeks in the summertime. Worcester Lead Abatement Program - $1,000 for WLAP outreach. Difference made and lessons learned:
UMass Memorial community benefits funding made it possible for Youth In Charge to provide year-round jobs working for community health and safety to 6 youth from the Bell Hill neighborhood, and volunteer opportunities for many more. The funds allowed us to furnish an efficient office and purchase the equipment and materials required for landscaping, shoveling and outreaching in the neighborhood. These funds made it possible for possible for our group to meet and exceed most of our goals for 2010 and leverage additional funding to expand our scope of work in every area. These funds made it possible for our youth to be more of the change they wish to see in their world. Over the course of they year we learned the importance of repetition in community outreach and education: it may take multiple conversations and flyers and performances and workshops and presentations before a family is ready to sign up to make a change in their yard or daily lifestyle regarding lead safety or any other issue. Our combination of door-knocking, school outreach, and our presence in the community bears more and more fruit the longer we keep at it. Youth want to help in their communities and shoulder their own financial responsibilities. More work for youth is needed in our community: hundreds of Worcester youth were very passionately engaged in in the lobbying and demonstrating for local youth jobs this year. Only a small percentage of them obtained funded job positions. Moving from 5 up to 7 hours of work per week was a really positive move for all of Youth In Charge. Next year Youth In Charge hopes to move to 15 hours a week so that members with budget constraints can remain at this one job. Our community concerns survey was very illuminating. To better serve our community we must try to involve violence reduction and alternatives to gang activity in the work we do. Our work to create employment in the community was validated as important in the neighborhood as unemployment came in second-most important issue. Our work will be more relevant to people if we focus on the most valued things in our community, such as safety, neighborhood upkeep, employment, and activities for kids.