Visiting US social projects: United Teen Empowerment Center (UTEC)

March 15, 2017, Wednesday, Day 3

An amazing and unique place Dr. Slayter and me visited today is UTEC located in Lowell, MA. UTEC which means United Teens Equality Center was founded in 1999 by young people driven to develop their own teen center in response to gang violence. Today UTEC is a nationally recognized model agency who’s mission is to ignite and nurture the ambition of proven-risk youth to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success. UTEC serves youth from cities of Lowell and Lawrence, MA.

Our visit to UTEC started in UTEC café run by youth in program. This café is a part of UTEC Workforce Development Program. It gives UTEC youth a chance to gain more skills in a place they know and love. The café offers nice menu and provide catering services at local meetings and events.

In the café we were very warmly welcomed by Ms. Elena Ansara, Counselor, an amazing and inspiring person who’s been with UTEC for 10 years. Elena organized us a tour around UTEC and showed us one of the greatest places for youth I’ve ever been.

Ms. Ansara and her colleagues told us about a range of programs that the Center has for at-risk youth.

Street Outreach and Gang Peacemaking team has streetworkers who meet young people involved in gangs or showing risky behavior in community and try to get them into the program. This recruitment and relationship-building work sets the stage for streetworkers to conduct gang peacemaking work and to bring disconnected youth through the doors of UTEC.

Every teenager starting UTEC program is served by Transitional Coach (UTEC agreed to use Transitional Coach words for case managers to make it sound less formally and more friendly for youth in program). These Coaches build on one-to-one relationship with youth to work on their major life challenges and obstacles like family relations, emotional and physical health, housing, finance and legal matters. This support continues as long as a teenagers need to achieve their goals and make positive changes in their lives.

Workforce Development and Social Enterprise offer youth paid on-the-job experience.  UTEC is focused on building the grounds for youth to succeed at any workplace after they leave the program. Youth learn industry-specific skills and “soft skills” under the supervision and mentoring of Program Managers.  The Workforce Development program features industry-specific social enterprises that operate as mini-businesses within UTEC’s model: mattress recycling, Café UTEC, Catering Services, Woodworking provide services in the area.

UTEC stands for promotion of education among youth in program and the Education programs help youth obtain their HiSET. Youth in Workforce Development are required to participate in onsite HiSET preparation classes.

UTEC also provide a range of recreational and cultural activities, workshops and rotating programs and ready to start children club for kids of program participants.

UTEC shows a perfect example of systematic and consequent work with out-of-school, gang-involved, criminally involved, or expecting/parenting youth.

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