Participant, Young Men’s Program, Springfield
On the first day Josh walked into Roca, 2 years ago, he had no idea his life was about to change. Josh came to Roca after being released from jail where he had been locked up for two months and as a result lost his job and his apartment. He was struggling to get by and did not want to go back to the life he’d lived before. When he first came to Roca he thought he had it all figured out. He would go in and get a job and that would be it. This turned out to be just the beginning of what he would do with Roca and with his life.
First, Josh was assigned his youth worker, Pat. For a full month, Pat reached out to Josh every day and Josh would not respond, he didn’t trust him. After this month, Josh started to answer his calls and to talk to him. They began to grow their relationship. Now, Josh feels he is close with Pat, that they “have a good bond. We talk about things, we argue, sometimes he really pisses me off, but we get through it. We go out to eat, go to the movies. If I need anything, he’ll pick me up. He’s just always there”.
In addition to working with his Youth Worker, Josh has also participated in the Transitional Employment and other programming at Roca. He is working on his GED, has taken CBT skills classes and has moved up to the Advanced Transitional Employment (ATE) crew at Roca, painting and renovating apartments. He is happy working with his hands. In the future, Josh would like to find a career working in construction or in landscaping. He wants a steady job, a house, possibly to attend college and one day his own business.
“My Youth Worker and I have a good bond. We talk about things, we argue, sometimes he really pisses me off, but we get through it. We go out to eat, go to the movies. If I need anything, he'll pick me up. He's just always there”
Participant, Young Men’s Program, Chelsea
Tyler King was raised by his father in Revere. By the time he graduated from high school, Tyler was an alcoholic, drinking heavily and hanging out in the streets. Angry and easily provoked, he caught multiple assault charges. In fall 2013, the Chelsea District Court referred Tyler to Roca, and his name landed on the case list of Josiah Hill, Roca’s Youth Worker in Revere.
Josiah located Tyler, but Tyler continually brushed him off. “I didn’t think I could change,” Tyler remembers, “and I didn’t think it was worth anyone’s time to try to get me to change.” Undeterred, Josiah stopped by Tyler’s house every day for a month. Having no luck with Tyler, Josiah gained the confidence of Tyler’s grandmother and father. Finally, Josiah knocked at the door one day and found Tyler’s father at home. He let Josiah in and pointed him toward Tyler’s room. At last, Tyler relented.
Tyler’s early days at Roca did not always go smoothly. There was a fight, and Tyler was fired from his Roca crew. There were other relapses, as well. Tyler credits Roca for teaching him the difference between “acting” and “reacting” in its Cognitive Behavior Theory (CBT) classes. He also started working in the Roca kitchen with Chef John who, with Josiah, helped Tyler start working through his issues.
Thereafter, things started going much better. Tyler, who had never held a job for long, learned basic work skills in Roca’s Transitional Employment Program (TEP) and Advanced TEP. He also obtained a forklift license, earned industry-recognized Serv Safe, OSHA and CPR certificates, and completed Roca’s culinary program.
In July 2014, Tyler was working two jobs and going to Roca when a tornado flooded his family’s home. Tyler left the second job to undertake the major repairs the house required. “Before Roca,” Tyler says, “if something bad like that had happened, I would have just gotten drunk.” In contrast, Tyler has been sober for over two years and employed at Market Basket, using skills Chef John taught him, for nearly two years. Tyler still comes by Roca, grateful to Josiah, Chef John and Roca for believing in him until he believed in himself.
Tyler’s goal now is to go to college and become a Radiology Technician. Meanwhile, he mentors his younger brother, who is about to graduate from high school and, thanks to Tyler, also works at Market Basket. “I used to worry that that my brother would go down the wrong path, like I did,” Tyler says. “Now I tell him he’s got to go to college, too.”
“I used to worry that that my brother would go down the wrong path, like I did. Now I tell him he’s got to go to college, too.”
— Tyler King
Participant, Young Mothers’ Program, Chelsea
When Zulma sits at her desk at the Department for Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), working on the scanning project she was hired to do, it is a powerful reality that she has come a long way. For the last six months Zulma has held this same steady job which has allowed her to support herself and her two children. She has grown professionally, and socially as she learns to speak up more and enjoy her time with her co-workers. This is not the life that Zulma was living before.
Zulma came to Roca 2 years ago to gain independence from her overbearing partner. She wanted a life where she was able to make her own money and choose how to take care of her children. She did not have her GED, she was in a challenging, sometimes violent relationship. This was a drain on her energy and she struggled to maintain a job. Eventually, she became connected with her youth worker Patricia and Roca. At first, Zulma had a difficult time showing up for the program. She felt intimidated at what she was being asked to accomplish and felt like she couldn’t do anything.
Over time, Zulma got to know staff and really bonded with Patricia. “I learned to look for the people who can help me” Zulma says, “now I know everyone, I know who to talk to if I need help”. She began to trust that these people could help her to succeed. She attended GED classes, participated in Roca programming, and shared with Patricia what was going on in her life. With the work done with Roca, Zulma made the decision to leave her troubled relationship. She decided that she could not put her children through an experience of watching her fighting with her partner. She wanted to care for her kids and herself and was empowered to do so.
Zulma learned to work at Roca. Prior to coming to the program, she usually only stayed at a job for a month or two. In being free of her relationship and armed with the skills she learned at Roca, Zulma landed the job with DCAAM, one of many job placement partnerships Roca has established. She has kept this job for 6 months, working diligently and growing in confidence in the process.
Beyond her immediate success at Roca, Zulma now has plans for the future. The project at DCAMM will come to a close and Zulma will need to look for something different, but she is ready. She is interested in working in a job where she interacts with other people and helps in an office. She is looking forward to completing her GED and ultimately attending college to become a nurse working with special needs children. Since coming to Roca Zulma has truly changed her life. We know that our young mothers can and will succeed, Zulma is a perfect example, we just have to give them the tools to do it.
“I learned to look for the people who can help me. Now I know everyone, I know who to talk to if I need help”
Youth Worker, Young Men’s Program
Day to day, Michael Bonds can be found, in a neon green shirt, driving a 15 seater Roca van, searching for and engaging 25 of the highest risk young men in the city of Boston. Michael asks them to come with him on a journey to change their lives. Michael Bonds is a youth worker at Roca Boston.
Michael describes his early life as similar to that of many young people served by Roca. Born and raised in Roxbury, a neighborhood of Boston, he was in a similar cycle of crime and incarceration, ultimately spending 10 years in prison, 3 of those in solitary confinement. This incarceration and release motivated Michael to change the way he had been living. He no longer wanted the life he had been living and wanted a change.
From his release in 2000, Michael embarked on a long hard road. Most businesses in Boston were not willing to hire someone with a criminal record. He began lying on applications just to get hired. This resulted in a revolving door of jobs, all lost when his criminal record was discovered. Despite a lack of support from the outside world, Michael continued to pursue work and a life that was stable and sustainable.
Eventually, through community involvement, Michael ended up working in the youth services field, working with various organizations in the greater Boston area. This is where Michael found his passion for working with young people and seeking to change the communities that serve them. He found Roca in 2015 and was hired as a Youth Worker shortly after the opening of the Boston office.
In an Interview, Michael explained that he so loves his job because it gives him the opportunity to help young people to change their lives. He offers them resources and support which was unavailable to him at their age. In Michael’s words, “I really do care about the lives of the young people in this community. I want them to get it.” Roca has given him the tools to teach young people how to think different and to do different. He is on the ground, doing the work, helping young people to help themselves.
“I really do care about the lives of the young people in this community. I want them to get it.”
— Michael Bonds
Staff, Young Mothers’ Program
Gina Josette works with the Young Mother’s program at Roca. She wears a lot of hats as a Program Coordinator, Youth Worker and Educational Development team member. Right now, she spends a good deal of her days putting out fires, helping participants in Roca’s High Risk Young Mothers Program to address situations in their lives that make long term stability difficult for themselves and their children. When she is not firefighting, Gina is constantly coming up with and implementing ideas of how to prevent crisis, how she can help to create programming that mitigate risks for the young women she works with.
Gina said “I want to be the person I wish I had when I was young, I think I saw that graffiti on a wall or something but it is true, I always think about that.” She considers her role at Roca to be someone the participants will know is there for them without judgment. She thinks it’s important to not just be a mentor but to help be a translator to a world a lot of the young women didn’t even know existed before Roca, a translator to a life without violence and poverty, a translator to an education they might not have thought possible before and a translator to a better life.
Originally, Gina got a degree in finance and worked on Wall Street. In her spare time, she would volunteer doing outreach, but her career was very different to the one she has now. She moved a few times and ultimately came to Roca after hearing about it while she lived in Colorado. She moved to Massachusetts and joined the Roca team.
A motivating factor for Gina is working with the large Latina population of young mothers in the program. “Representation is very important to me. I didn’t read a book by any Latina woman until I was in college…. I think you have to see people at times that look like you in positions of power.” She especially desires to empower these young mothers, to break down stereotypes and help them to succeed.
Since coming to Roca, Gina has done tremendous work for the program. When designing programming, Gina brings in the knowledge that her job is to design education and training that make these young mothers feel smart, that adjusts to their specific needs while raising the bar so they can rise with it.
“I want to be the person I wish I had when I was young, I think I saw that graffiti on a wall or something but it is true, I always think about that.”
— Gina Josette
For the last nine months, Grant has spent his Tuesday afternoons meeting Chelsea, helping participants in the Young Men’s program prepare for their HiSET (formerly GED). He found out about Roca while researching social justice organizations. Roca was an ideal organization for Grant, a Spanish speaker interested in immigration and criminal justice issues.
Grant’s experience at Roca has been both trying and gratifying. Building trust with Roca’s high risk young people takes time and a great deal of work. Success for Grant is when the participants ask to work specifically with him or ask about him on days he isn’t volunteering, small indications that he is building relationships with these young men.
He relays a story of one young man, who had some early struggles at Roca. “Now he has a job and an apartment with his girlfriend and he said to me ‘I got to learn English’ and is all fired up to work with me. I was like, alright, this is progress and was really happy about that”.
Overall, Grant deeply values his experience at Roca. Outside of Roca, Grant is involved in a few of business ventures. He explains that “It’s impacted me because I get caught up in the day to day business world and then when I come in here it puts all of that into perspective.”
“It’s impacted me because I get caught up in running businesses, the day to day in that world and then when I come in here it puts everything in my world into context.”
— Grant Devine
Deputy Executive Director
Springfield Housing Authority
The Springfield Housing Authority has hired young men through Roca to help with renovation projects for a few years, making Roca an integral part of the Housing Authority’s success. “Roca has become invaluable to us,” explained Michelle Booth, Deputy Executive Director, Springfield Housing Authority.
Through this partnership, Roca’s participants are learning skills for projects like cabinetry, grounds keeping practices, custodial issues and construction. “They are learning what it means to create a quality project. This program also makes sense from a business side—Roca adds value and helps us complete tasks in a more cost-effective manner,” said Booth. Another area Roca is hired to help with the Housing Authority’s inspections, keeping everything up to code and learning what it takes to pass these inspections.“I would absolutely recommend Roca to any business,” added Booth. “Roca is a great service for the City of Springfield and for our young people!”
“They are learning what it means to create a quality project. This program also makes sense from a business side—Roca adds value and helps us complete tasks in a more cost-effective manner. I would absolutely recommend Roca to any business.”
— Michelle Booth
Division of Capital Asset Management & Maintenance (DCAMM)
The need to digitize a number of financial records over at the Division of Capital Asset Management & Maintenance (DCAMM) created an opportunity to once again partner with Roca, employing a group of women from the Young Mothers program to help with the project. Mel Klayman, Information Manager at DCAMM explained that these women have the opportunity to learn valuable skills in an office setting, scanning software, how to use shared drive systems and converting documents and electronic files, while also learning to juggle between their job and their busy lives at home. The assignment is contract-based, with most of the participating women earning internship experience for Roca to help in future job opportunities.
“The job is going well,” said Klayman. “They are not only learning skills on how to use the technology, but also how to work independently in an office. On our end, we train them and so far these women have been great workers—very steadfast and diligent. We’re very happy with their work and their performance.”
“I think this is a really great opportunity for Roca to think about records and information management as a niche to focus on. There’s a really great need for that type of work, and the skills the women learn here are transferrable,” Klayman added.
“They are not only learning skills on how to use the technology, but also how to work independently in an office. On our end, we train them and so far these women have been great workers—very steadfast and diligent. We’re very happy with their work and their performance.”
— Mel Klayman
On a sunny Sunday in April, 20 people flocked to Turnstyle Cycle to take a spin class celebrating Margo Lindauer’s birthday and raising funds for Roca’s High Risk Young Mothers’ sports program. The event was a great introduction to spin for many of Margo’s friends and family as well as a lucrative fundraiser for Roca.
A mother herself and an expert in the field of domestic violence, Margo knows a bit about the High Risk Young Mothers Roca works with. “I thought ‘it’s my birthday and I have everything I need, why not do a fundraiser to raise money instead’. I was hoping this might make the fund for Roca a little bit bigger and also help maybe bring a spin class to Roca!”, Margo said in an interview. So with that, she reached out to Roca.
Margo was moved by the fact that Roca provides athletics programming in addition to the rigorous intervention model designed by Roca to mediate risk for our Young mothers. Margo explained that when working with such high risk populations, self-care and exercise are frequently overlooked out of a need to address more immediate crises. She feels Roca is special in that it offers both high risk intervention as well as a holistic approach to being a mom and being happy. This is key to when our young moms move beyond Roca and into happy productive lives.
This event was wildly successful. There was a good turn out the day of, connections made with other people interested in Roca’s young mothers program, and most exciting, Margo Raised $1,500 for Roca’s High Risk Young Mothers Sports program. We are so grateful to her and her community of family and friends for their support!
“I thought ‘it’s my birthday and I have everything I need, why not do a fundraiser to raise money instead”
— Margo Lindauer