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Safety Starts Park to Park

July 17, 2017

LFDOn July 16th, Lawrence Family Development and the Mayor's Office launched the next phase of the CIty's Community Safety plan. The inaugural "pop up party" was held at Dr. Nina Scarpito park on Brook Street. About eighty people dropped by the park between 1 and 4 on Sunday for a cookout and park games. Lawrence Family Development’s food service staff grilled hotdogs and hamburgers while members of the SISU Youth Team ran the park games. Lawrence Family Development set up mini-golf, ring toss, bean bag toss, and big block Jenga stations for the kids; while running a 3 on 3 basketball tournament for the local teenagers. Members of the Lawrence Fire DJ ChrisDepartment brought a ladder truck to the park for the kids to climb on, and took some time to shoot hoops with tournament players in between games. DJ Chris spun Latin and urban music throughout the day, while attendees beat the heat with water balloons. 

Sunday’s party was the first of six, supported through emergency funding proposed by the Mayor and passed by the City Council in April. In addition to the parties, the funding supports adding three additional street outreach workers to the SISU street outreach team; diana Facepainttwo of those street outreach workers were on hand Sunday to help with the party. “I grew up in this City and hung out in these parks as a kid. I got in trouble in these same parks as a young man. Because of this I am grateful to be working with the SISU team and the City to keep other young people from making some of the same mistakes I made.” said one of the new outreach workers, Angel Vasquez. 

During the week prior to the party, members of the Lawrence Family Development SISU landscaping team spent several days cleaning up the park, picking up trash, and mowing the lawns. 

Additional pictures.
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College for a Day

image1On May 3, 2017, participants in the SISU program had the opportunity to spend some time at the Northern Essex Community College (NECC) “College for a Day” program. Participants were given a tour of the Lawrence Campus and were able to sit in on a class.

Experiences like the “College for a Day” program are instrumental to LFD’s goal of changing the dialogue around college. Because of this program, SISU participants who had never thought of going to college have realized that it is very real opportunity.

"This is my first time in this place, I can't believe no one has ever believed in me enough to bring me here and show me this" C.R.

Another participant who had never dreamed of going to college took the initiative to sign up for classes after sitting in a psychology class.

Thanks to NECC and the College for a Day program, what had once seemed beyond their reach, has now become a very reachable goal.

Special thanks to the SISU Transition Specialist, Allishah Mohammed, for making this day happen.
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From Brian's Perspective: Part 1 - The Beginning

BrianBrian is 20 year old participant of the Lawrence Youth Team. Brian has been involved with the gang life throughout his teens and has been with the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative for 5 years. During that time, he has completed high school, been in and out of lock up, and become a father. Over the next several months, Brian will be using his pen as a platform to share a perspective rarely published. 

"The purpose of my blog is to compile stories from the lives of my LYT brothers…from beginning to now. Our stories though somewhat different, all connect and align with change in one way….our lives have changed through the Lawrence Youth Team!


The positive forces in our lives are the people I keep around…like my boss and O. They see us youth members as family and like their own. As soon as they see us about to take the wrong path, they try to lead us to take the right path with knowledge and good advice. I remember when I first came to LYT – I truly didn’t care about anything and here I am now, five years later as a working man and a great father – but still a work in progress.


Change came my way when I was 15 years old, when I dropped out of high school. I was always in the streets…up to no good…fighting, stealing everything you can name…I did….never going home, putting my mom through stress…she was worried whether I was coming home or not. I had that thought in my head that I didn’t care what happens to me, because I was young minded and hard headed…didn’t listen at all, until I got arrested and it went downhill!


Growing up in Lawrence, has not been an easy road for me. At the age of eleven I got taken away from my parents because of an unstable home environment – it was at that point, my entire life changed. For the next 3 years, I was in and out of jail. Having to practically raise myself throughout my entire childhood, life has not been easy for me. Struggles and hardships seemed endless…that was until a pivotal moment in my life where the Safe and Successful  Youth Initiative  or Lawrence Youth Team (LYT) saved me….
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Closed Mouths Don’t Get Fed

On Thursday March 30, 2017, youth, youth advocates,street outreach workers, law enforcement, and law makers gathered at the Massachusetts State House in Boston to advocate for continued funding of the Shannon Grant and Safe and Successful Youth Initiative programs. These grants support intervention and prevention focused youth programs in Cities across the state and are integral pieces in community efforts to address issues of youth violence. 

Members of Lawrence Family Development's SISU program (Lawrence Youth Team and YouthBuild Lawrence) joined the youth voices echoing throughout the State House's Great Hall and testifying to their legislators about the importance of these proven programs.

LYT member, Christian Acosta was one of two youth voices chosen to share his story during the event. 

"Good Morning State Officials,Honorable Guests, Mentors and Peers:

CA speechMy name is Christian Acosta and I am proudly from Lawrence MA.

Growing up in Lawrence, has not been an easy road for me. At the age of eleven, I got taken away from my parents because of an unstable home environment – it was at that point my entire life changed. For the next 3 years, I was in and out of jail. Having to practically raise myself throughout my entire childhood, life has not been easy for me. Struggles and hardships seemed endless….that was until a pivotal moment in my life where the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative or Lawrence Youth Team saved me.

I was first introduced to LYT by the then educational liaison at Department of Youth Services and the LYT Program Manager. I did not think that LYT could help me or change my way of thinking. Being reliant on myself for so long, I was struggling outside of the program- selling drugs, engaging in harmful behavior….I was losing myself. I remember the exact day I went to program, I had no money, no food – the only people I could think of at that one moment of desperation was the staff at LYT. They put me straight to work and taught me the tough lesson,

'Closed mouths don’t get fed..' 

This is actually a quote we use a lot during our time at LYT. I worked on improving myself and fast forward five years later, I am standing here before you, a changed man.

What LYT offers me is a family – our program manager is like my older brother, my case manager is like an aunt, street workers are like my old, wise uncles and LYT youth are my brothers. During my time in the program I was able to gain opportunities in construction, demolition, and landscaping. One of the greatest achievements of my life has been gaining entry into college, where I am currently studying Psychology. I also received a full time job with  Lawrence Family Development  where I hold the position of Construction Assistant Trainer at the SISU Center– it is with great pride that I am able to mentor and motivate my Lawrence brothers and sisters every day.

I just want to end by stating that in Lawrence, there was no teen center for youth such as myself for a number of years. I remember LYT staff working out of their cars, they had no offices…they worked truly from their hearts. Now I am happy to state that Lawrence Family Development has taken the initiative to form a comprehensive youth system that will help youth throughout our city better themselves"

In February of 2017, Christian was hired as a full time employee by Lawrence Family Development to fill the role of Carpentry Trainer. Christian is replacing long time YouthBuild Lawrence staff member Domingo Corona. Domingo was with YouthBuild Lawernce for 15 years and similar to Christian, started at the organization as a program participant. Originally a YouthBuild Lawrence participant, Domingo was hired full time as a Carpentry Trainer because of his commitment to his family, his community, and the mission of YouthBuild. 

We know that Christian will do himself, his community, his LYT family, and Lawrence Family Development proud and will continue to pave the way Domingo started, 15 years ago, for other participants in our SISU program.  
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SISU = Success

June 23, 2016

PA2Yesterday was a milestone for YouthBuild Lawrence and the Lawrence Youth Team. An unforgettable experience happened as Project Adventure (PA) brought together two different groups of young people, each with unique backgrounds, to work as one team with one goal. A great team of staff not only encouraged each participant but also kept them engaged and motivated when they didn't want to participate.

“Coming together as one and overcoming different obstacles is what The SISU center is all about. I'm sure some people were skeptical about how it would go, but if we had to pick one word for today it would have to be success.”

All of the young people participated in one way or another. Some stayed within their comfort zone while others were more open, yet they all took something with them. There is no doubt in my mind. The SISU Center is about resiliency, teamwork, and dedication, all of which were displayed by the participating young people and staff. We have no doubt that this is the beginning of great things!

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It Takes a Team

June 10, 2016

LYTGrad“Today we celebrate the HI-Set graduation of Eric Ubilez and Carlos Rodriguez.” On Thursday June 9th, two young men in the Lawrence SSYI Program were able to achieve their GED (General Education Diploma). One of them actually completed the GED while in DYS custody. These young men have not had it easy and still continue to learn from their mistakes. Despite the odds they made a choice to stick with the program and get their diplomas and for that we honor them.

This achievement has been a team effort, first with the young men and then the partnership of DYS and the Lawrence Youth Team. We believe that while it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to help them reach their dreams. It was a great satisfaction to see the their smiles as they looked at their friends, families, and case workers who never gave up on them, even when everyone else did.
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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

April 11, 2016

bridgeFor the past several weeks, Lawrence Youth Team members have had a very unique opportunity. Through a partnership with the Essex Art Center, they have been learning to tell their stories using photography as a medium. In addition to learning the proper techniques to taking the perfect picture, they are also learning to properly use a digital camera and digital photo editing software.

Too often urban communities, like Lawrence, and the young people who inhabit them are defined by the media, pop culture, and the selfie/Instagram fad. What is rarely shown or understood is how the streets, buildings and residents are seen through the eyes of young people. Inspired by the Kids with Cameras Project, our hope is that the young men involved with the Lawrence Youth Team and the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative will create a dialogue and provide a view of their world through their eyes.Tammy Cancel, an LYT Case Manager, summarized the program thus far; "the guys were able to sit still and look at their city through camera lens and tell each other stories that impacted their lives and what Lawrence means to them." 

Joseph photogThe program is being taught by Dan Williams, an Ohio University Professor Emeritus. Mr. Williams is a native of Brooklyn, NY and a graduate of Brooklyn College and the University of Oregon’s Photography Graduate program.  Mr. Williams is no stranger to urban art projects. His own work often focuses on social situations of mostly African-Americans.He has been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian, Princeton Museum of Art and the University of Kansas Spencer Museum of Art.

                                                                                                                                                                                 Mr. Williams teachers Joseph Rodriguez some techniques
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SSYI Safety Day on the Hill

March 31, 2016

SafetyontheHillDayOn March 30th the Lawrence Youth Team attended the Safe & Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI)  Safety on the Hill Day at the State House.  Participants were welcomed by Representative Frank Moran who listened to the youths’ stories of struggle and success and how many youth benefit from the SSYI program.  Additionally, they discussed the importance of “engagement and trust” and advocated the need for year round consistent funding.  

"This exciting annual event brings local officials, mayors and city managers, prevention leaders, law enforcement officials, and youth together to discuss effective ways to combat youth and gang violence and to educate state legislators about the importance of supporting youth violence prevention programs like the Senator Charles E. Shannon, Jr. Community Safety Initiative and the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative." 

Advocates are currently lobbying for the Massachusetts Fiscal Year '17  budget to fully fund the SSYI Program at the level of Governor Baker's original request.
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Community Safety Day on the Hill is sponsored by the Metro Mayors Coalition, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and others.


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Alternative Youth Program Kitchen

September 16, 2015
DavidAfter months of work and setbacks due to weather, LFD's Culinary Arts training kitchen is permitted and functional. The completion of the kitchen is just one of the steps towards the expansion of programming and services offered by LFD to Lawrence young people.

When the final permits were issued on Monday morning, Culinary Arts Coordinator, David Wilmer, was finally able to start preparing meals for the YouthBuild and Lawrence Youth Team participants; and preparing participants for a career in food services.

"Its great to finally get this space up and running. I am excited to be able to share a craft that I love with Alterantive Youth Development Program participants." 

The kitchen was built by the amazing LFD facilities team with support from a number of funders, including the City of Lawrence Department of Community Development, the Moselely Foundation, and the Walmart Foundation.
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