Dear Roca friends,
Roca’s New Year Resolutions: Show up. Be positive. Do things that matter. Stay relentless for young people. Prove change is possible. Repeat.
We know that staying positive in this cold time of the year and in these challenging times nationally is hard for many of our young people, and we know it’s hard for many of our partners too. But we have no other choice. Our young people need us to be positive now more than ever.
The end of 2017 didn’t bring good news. In Boston, the number of teen homicides doubled, and in Baltimore, another year of record-breaking was concluded, with 343 killings, many of them young people. The need for a different path is clear.
We have high hopes for 2018. With our new site in Baltimore already in planning, our young mothers program expanding to Western Mass., and our Springfield site opening a satellite office in Holyoke, we’re excited to work with so many more young people and partners.
And of course, our 30th anniversary is around the corner. Stay tuned.
Have a safe, joyful, and hopeful year!
Founder & CEO
In the Making: Roca Baltimore
Just before the holidays, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh announced that Roca will start operations in Baltimore this summer. We have been preparing for this moment for years: conversations with various partners, building out our model, planning what it would take, and just trying to be worthy of this opportunity. Now it’s our time to get to work.
“I grew up in Baltimore, and like all of you, I am devastated by the violence in our city,” Molly said on the press conference with the Mayor. “As you are so painfully aware, we can neither arrest nor program our way out of this violence – we need a different approach.”
We’ve already started planning, and these are going to be fascinating and intensive months of learning and growth. We will work with the City and others to develop and implement a performance based model using data and ensuring accountability. We will share what we learn as we go, and will strive to be an excellent partner in every step of the way.
We have a lot to do: hire local staff, analyze data, learn from our partners, meet young people, and listen. We are so humbled and excited to join so many in the city in their tremendous efforts to reduce violence and bring about change.
More news on this exciting move to come. Learn more here.
Taking Massachusetts to the Next Level
As Roca Baltimore takes off, our Massachusetts work continues in full swing. Scott Scharffenberg, Roca’s Chief Operating Officer, has big plans for Roca Massachusetts in the year ahead.
Scott joined Roca in early 2016 after a long and successful career at the Essex County Sheriff Department. Since joining Roca, Scott has been leading the operations of our sites in Chelsea, Springfield, Boston, Lynn, and Holyoke, and he now oversees the young mothers program in Chelsea and Springfield as well.
“What I like about Roca is that we’re doing the work. It’s not flashy and it’s not about showing off – it’s about doing things that actually matter for these young people,” Scott says. “I’m always available to keep all trains running on time and deal with any issue. If I’m not there myself, I’m one phone call away.”
And he is. If you ever need Scott, call 978-239-0295 or email him at Scott_Scharffenberg@rocainc.com
Little by Little: Eli’s Story
“I’m good at talking to people. I don’t care what race you are, I love to talk and converse,” Eli says. “Usually at first I’m standoffish, but once I warm up I love to get to know people and for them to get to know me.”
And this is exactly how Roca started for Eli. “At first I wasn’t open with Adrian and Kevin. I was cautious. I said some rude things and Kevin shot right back at me. That’s when I realized we were cool and I began to feel comfortable.”
Today, after many CBT and HiSet classes at Roca Boston and joining the work crew, Eli isn’t only comfortable – he rocks. “I love working on crew,” he told us. “Landscaping, construction, anything that has to do with my hands, I love it.”
Building trust with the Roca team was hard for Eli; he’s open about that. “My father left 7 years ago and told my mom some real disrespectful stuff, like that he didn’t want us. He abandoned us and you just don’t do that to your kids.” Growing up in Dorchester with little support, he started dealing drugs at a young age, hanging around the wrong crowd, and “got stuck”, as he puts it, in living one way. Right when he met Kevin and Adrian, Eli was on trial for distribution charges.
And even at Roca, accomplishing his goals didn’t come easy. When his baby was born, he wanted to spend time with his new daughter and her mother, and stopped showing up. He was done with Roca. But Kevin kept reaching out, until something clicked. “I realized I can’t live like that anymore. You have a kid and you have to make sacrifices. As long as my daughter and her mother are good I’m fine with it. I keep working.”
Now, when he’s back at Roca and applying to outside jobs, it’s not only about him – it’s about the younger guys around him. “I’m trying to help these kids go in a different direction,” he says. “I try to get them to see another way.”
Remember, Eli is good at talking to people. We have no doubt he will inspire these guys.
Springfield Young Mothers is Here!
Piloting our Young Mothers Program in a second Roca site was long on our radar, and we’re excited to share that our Springfield site now enrolls young mothers!
“This is a huge step for Roca Springfield,” shares Chris Judd, Roca Springfield Director. “Serving young mothers complements our work with young men – it’s the other side of the equation. With every mother we meet, we learn more about their amazing resilience and how we can help them make big changes in their lives.”
Bringing our Young Mothers Program to Western Mass. is a tremendous learning opportunity. We know that a critical part of proving our intervention model is piloting it in another location. Our lessons from Springfield will inform our work in Chelsea and beyond, and will take our model to the next level.
As always, partnerships are a big part of how we make change possible. Our partners in the city, including the Springfield Police Department, Springfield Probation, Planned Parenthood, the YWCA, Square One, Department of Children and Families, and Baystate Medical, will be key for the success of this new program.
We’re so excited to get started!
Roca’s Very Own Superstar: Alycia Gay
Our Superstar youth worker? We have so many! Out on the streets, engaging with young people, teaching CBT, dragging them to work crews… but one really stood out this year: Alycia Gay. For her relentless use of data, she won Superstar Foundation’s Veronica Award this year.
Here’s why Alycia is a superstar: she has superior abilities in establishing deep and meaningful relationships with the young people on her caseload. At 100% caseload capacity, she still meets 65% of her weekly contact standards. Chris, her director in Roca Springfield, shares that she’s quick to ask for help when she needs it, she develops new strategies to keep young people out of jail and in work and programming, and implements them quickly.
Just look at her numbers: 95% of her young people have not been rearrested and all of them have been placed in jobs. We think that’s pretty incredible!
And most importantly, Alycia keeps learning from her own data, always trying to get better for young people. Go Alycia!
To read the full story from the Superstar Foundation, click here.
Boots on the Ground in Holyoke
If you’ve seen Melvin, Nasir, Mike, and Edwin around Holyoke and wondered if something has changed in Roca’s work in the city, you’re not wrong. We’ve opened a satellite office from a temporary location and will soon have a new Holyoke site!
Holyoke isn’t new to Roca – we’ve been working with young people in this Western Mass. city for years. Now, instead of driving everyone to Roca Springfield, we’ll be able to stay local and do more.
We love Holyoke. Mayor Alex Morse, Police Chief James Neiswanger, State Representative Aaron Vega, First Justice Maureen Walsh, and so many others have been Roca champions for years, and we’re so honored to be able to expand our work in the city.
Stay tuned for a ribbon cutting ceremony soon!
The Young People of the Annual Report
Missed our annual report? Here are some of the most amazing stories young people shared with us.
- “I wasn’t going to do Roca. With other programs it’s like – you go, you go, but if you don’t want to come, then don’t. You don’t have a choice with Roca. If I don’t want to come, Tha will be on my door tomorrow, Adrian will be on my door. They annoy me. And then when I come I end up liking it.” – Abdie, Roca Boston
- “I was so lonely. Maybe that is why some guys get into gangs, the gangs tell them ‘we are your family, we will always be with you.’ We are alone most of the time. We have no one to talk to.” – J., Roca Chelsea
- “Sometimes I feel like I haven’t done anything with my life. I get frustrated and I feel low and like I want to give up everything. And then my youth worker shows me that I have done a lot. Roca gave me support and push toward my goals. I see my future more clearly now. I used to say, ‘oh, I don’t know, maybe’. And now I’m like ‘yes!’” – Karla, Roca Young Mothers
These young people are our inspiration. This is why we come to work every day.
To read these stories and the rest of Annual Report click here.
Roca extends a special thank you to some generous donors for giving in this quarter!*
- Porticus Foundation
Frederick C. Lutze and Christian Rausch Family Foundation
Sills Family Foundation
New World Foundation
The Hyams Foundation
The Janey Fund
The Annie E. Casey Foundation
East Boston Foundation
State Street Foundation
MA Executive Office of Human Services
City of Chelsea
City of Springfield
City of Lynn
City of Holyoke
Margie Bride & Dr. Terry McEnany
H. Furlong Baldwin
*All this in addition to the generous foundation, individual, and corporate support over the last quarter.