State Street leads initiative to fight violence and fund teen jobs

Boston Mayor Tom Menino recently joined the State Street Foundation and Boston teens to recognize 14 local foundations, corporations and individual donors for their commitment to funding youth employment. As members of the Youth Violence Prevention (YVP) Funder Learning Collaborative, the private funders donated $800,000 to provide 450 teens with meaningful jobs at local community organizations this summer and school year.

This success comes on the heels of the mayor’s jobs rally in May, as the city faced cuts to all federal funding — the equivalent of 1,600 jobs. Thanks to the efforts of Boston’s business community and local foundations, the city expects to have employed nearly 10,000 teens this summer.

A signature initiative of the State Street Foundation, the YVP Collaborative’s Employment Initiative — through its workforce development and education working group — ensures that teens are placed in a job to help improve the community where they live. The areas of focus are three Boston neighborhoods in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan particularly struggling with increased unemployment, street violence and drop-out rates. The YVP Collaborative has successfully raised awareness about the importance of all private and public funders working together using a set of youth violence prevention core principles — including a common public health framework — to support the most effective programs and services.

“State Street has led this initiative, which was introduced in 2007, as we wanted to impact the lives of young people in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Boston by taking on the difficult issue of youth violence,” said Joseph A. McGrail, Jr., vice president of State Street Corporation and manager of the State Street Foundation. “Our company’s corporate citizenship efforts focus on education with an emphasis on workforce development. Boston youth helped by this initiative are not just facing economic difficulties, but the effects of violence as well. To help them become self sufficient individuals and adults and prepare them for the workforce, we felt it was critical for us to come together with businesses, non-profits and government agencies to provide hope, direction, and opportunity for Boston youth who are an important part of our community.”

Over time, the return on investment in providing jobs to Boston’s youth can be measured in benefits to individuals, government and society as a whole. Preliminary results from a 2011 YVP Collaborative evaluation shows that summer employment opportunities can facilitate social and workplace skills, and improve attitudes toward attending school.

“Research suggests that it is through the provision of educational support, job training and professional development, structure and incentive that promotes the acquisition of skills that supports these youth in achieving their own goals,” said Dr. Gia Barboza, who leads the evaluation and is an assistant professor of African American Studies and Health Sciences at Northeastern University.

Two teens, Morgan McNeill and Rosalind Liriano, both 17 and from Dorchester, reflected on their summer job experience at Northeastern University. “This has been a learning experience for all of us,” McNeill said. “It has given us a better insight on our community. It has also helped us become more responsible, confident, and stronger leaders.” Liriano commented that, “with the leadership skills that we gained, we hope to use it to empower other youth in our community as well. And with this, we believe there is hope for a better tomorrow.”

Results of the evaluation will be highlighted at the YVP Collaborative’s 3rd Annual Symposium on December 7, which brings together key state, municipal, community and business stakeholders invested in youth violence prevention.

While the YVP Collaborative views summer employment as a vital first step along a positive path for many youth, the group believes that sustaining the gains made during the summer with continued meaningful engagement throughout the school year is needed to change the trajectory of the teens’ lives. This year’s opportunities will conclude by the end of August and another 10,000 teens have indicated interest in jobs for the school year and the summer.

To fulfill the organization’s goals for next year, the YVP Collaborative is inviting more funders to contribute now and throughout 2011-2012 to help sustain school-year and next summer’s employment opportunities.

The 14 funders that supported the YVP Youth Employment Initiative include:

  • State Street Foundation
  • United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley
  • The Boston Foundation
  • A private donor to The Boston Foundation StreetSafe Program
  • Hyams Foundation
  • Klarman Family Foundation
  • Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
  • John Hancock Financial Services
  • Eos Foundation
  • The Boston Foundation Advised Fund Individual Donor
  • Lenny Zakim Fund
  • Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation
  • Boston Private Bank and Trust
  • Individual Donor (anonymous)