Community Learning Exchange

Chelsea Massachusetts--Roca Inc.

Roca Inc., located in Chelsea, Massachusetts, helps disengaged and disenfranchised young people change their behavior, shift the trajectories of their lives and move out of violence and poverty. They serve the densely populated, urban communities of Chelsea, Revere and East Boston. These young people are in gangs, on the streets, and in and out of prison; some have dropped out of school or are close to it. They are young parents, some as young as 12 and others with several children, and many are immigrants, far from home, left with memories of unspeakable violence.

How do they do help young people change behavior to move out of violence and toward economic independence?
Roca has developed a comprehensive and strategic Intervention Model designed to support sustainable behavior changes that enable high-risk young people and young parents to move toward the outcomes of economic independence and living out of harm’s way. The framework includes:

• Relentless outreach through transformational relationships (their intensive case management model)
• Stage-based programming toward economic independence (life skills, educational and pre-vocational, and employment programming) and,
• Work with engaged institutional partners.

One of the effective practices they have used to build trust between youth, adults and institutions is a Circle process learned from the Tagish Tlingit First Nation in Yukon. They have applied this to restoring justice and health to the community after a crime has torn the fabric of the community.

As young people move through stages of development and make better life choices, they are able to give back to the community. Youth and adults from Roca work with community to address issues. An example is that they trained over 2000 immigrants to “Know Your Rights” and develop deportation contingency plans to prevent the break up of families due to a parent being deported.

Creating collective leadership capacity.
Roca could not do this work alone. Previously, they were in opposition to many of the public systems that worked with youth of the area (social services, police, courts, enforcement agencies, schools). They realized that these systems have similar goals – to help young people make better decisions that improve their opportunities and those of the community. The next step was to learn how to collaborate using the different strengths of each system/organization, so they could collectively achieve common goals.

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