Issue 8

Dear Roca friends,

I’m writing today with mixed feelings. While the past few months have been extremely exciting for us at Roca, it has been a heartbreaking period for our country. With young children being separated from their parents at the border and treated so brutally, I can barely find the right words to describe my feelings.

We stand by those who seek better futures for themselves and their families.

We stand by those who are so often left out.

We stand by those who want to belong.

I hope that the stories we share with you on this issue of Roca Ink. provide some reasons for hope. From opening our new site in Baltimore (!) to cutting the ribbon at our Holyoke site, Roca keeps growing and serving more young people. One person at a time, we are reminded what true change looks like.

This summer, we’re crunching the numbers on the fiscal year that just ended, so we are worthy of working with young people every day. We’re digging deeper into our work with cognitive behavioral theory (CBT), and looking at the work that still needs to happen with criminal justice reform. We’re excited to share all this progress with you!

Thank you for your continued support and for standing by  young people and families!

Molly Baldwin

Founder & CEO

Join Us Tomorrow: Roca Holyoke Ribbon Cutting

We’ve been lucky to have known many young people from Holyoke over the years, but now we finally have a Holyoke home! Tomorrow afternoon, we will cut the ribbon at our fifth Massachusetts location at 384 High Street in Holyoke.

The Grand Opening is a celebration of Holyoke’s young people and the many partnerships that make this work possible. We will be joined by Mayor Alex Morse, State Representative Aaron Vega, Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi, Holyoke Police Department Incoming Chief Manuel Febo, and Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce President Kathy Anderson.

Roca Holyoke will operate as a satellite office of our main Western Massachusetts site in Springfield. In partnership with the City of Holyoke, we already operate a local transitional work crew, allowing the young people in Holyoke to gain critical work skills while working for their own community. All other Roca signature programming, including CBT, education, and workforce readiness, is offered on-site as well.

Join us to check out the new location tomorrow, Tuesday July 24, 2018, at 4:30 PM at 384 High Street, Holyoke!

The Baltimore Sun and ABC Baltimore Welcome Roca to the City

The front page of the July 4th edition of The Baltimore Sun featured Roca Baltimore, which started knocking on doors that week. “The outreach workers are knocking on doors, but not to investigate or arrest the men. The team aims to do something more radical: hound them in the hopes of creating relationships that will disrupt the city’s cycle of violence,” the Sun wrote.

WMAR Baltimore, the local affiliate of ABC News, took a trip to Massachusetts to learn what Roca is all about. In a story by Skyler Henry, the audience got to see what outreach in the streets of Boston and Chelsea looks like, what Boston partners say about Roca, and why Baltimore partners are excited by Roca’s approach.

It is a tremendous honor and privilege to start working in Baltimore. Our Baltimore team is already out in the streets, knocking on doors, meeting young people, and getting to know them. We are excited to meet so many partners in the city and we look forward to sharing with you what we learn.

Stay tuned for more updates on our Baltimore page!

30 Years of Relentless Impact: Roca’s Annual Breakfast and Upcoming Community Celebration    

Roca is turning 30! And there’s a lot going on!

We kicked off our 30th celebrations a couple of months ago at our Annual Breakfast, with nearly 500 friends, partners, and supporters. We were honored to be joined by John King, former US Secretary of Education, Governor Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and a host of remarkable partners who are part of Roca’s success. Check out these inspiring remarks by our guest speakers!

On October 3rd, we will gather at our home site in Chelsea to celebrate with our community 30 years of partnership and impact. All our friends, partners, and graduates are welcome! We will send more updates in the coming weeks, but please already save the date!

What else? We’re collecting 30 stories of our graduates, documenting the lessons we have learned in the past 30 years, and working on a major campaign to build Roca’s next 30 years. More to come!

What’s New in Roca’s Work with Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT)?

“Now instead of doing a bunch of drugs, I use CBT skill ‘Feel your Feelings’ – I ride the wave, I deal with my feelings instead of fogging my mind” (Chris, a Roca participant)

We’re excited to share with you a new Harvard Kennedy School paper, as part of the Executive Session on Community Corrections, in which Roca took part. The paper tells the story of a project we can’t talk enough about: CBT.

Cognitive Behavioral Theory is an evidence-based practice that has proven effective in reducing violence and criminal behaviors. The only problem: none of the existing CBT programs are designed to reach high-risk young people in the community.

Three years ago, we partnered with Mass. General Hospital Community Psychiatry PRIDE clinic to develop our own CBT curriculum. “Together, we boiled down all the science on CBT and created a simple, useful, and practical curriculum that can be taught in any setting and delivered anywhere,” says Anisha Chablani-Medley, Roca’s Chief Programming Officer. “The only way to have an impact is designing something that makes sense to young people.”

Emily Fish, our Roca Lynn Assistant Director, shares her experience with CBT: “When you are out in the field and so many things are out of your control, having a concrete tool like CBT that you can utilize in your hard conversations with young men is a game-changer. It took our work to a whole new level.”

Our young people took a major part in this incredible project, and we’re still refining and improving based on what we learned. It’s an incredible experience and a game-changer for youth work.

The paper tells the story of creating the curriculum and a few lessons we learned on the way.

Want to learn more? Check out this quick CBT video.

Is Germany Smarter?

When it comes to young adults in the criminal justice system, absolutely.

This spring, Yotam Zeira, our Director of Strategy & External Affairs, joined an educational tour to Germany to learn about their juvenile justice system and correctional facilities. The tour, which was organized by our partners at the Columbia Justice Lab, brought a group of Massachusetts lawmakers, government officials, and other leaders of our criminal justice system, to learn how Germany treats emerging adults ages 18 to 25.

And they definitely do it differently there.

Germany started trying young adults under age 25 as juveniles in 1953. At the beginning, judges were hesitant and used their authority to apply adult law for those between ages 18 and 25 quite liberally. Six decades later, this authority is used primarily for traffic offenses, while the vast majority of other cases involving young adults are tried under juvenile law. Walk into a youth prison in Germany, and you hardly see high-school age teens – 90 percent of inmates are between the ages of 18 and 25. In adult prisons juveniles under 18 are not allowed, and young adults are rarely sent.

Vocational training in Germany’s young adult jails is top notch. The professional certificates young people earn behind the wall can get them high-paying jobs outside, and the criminal record system is designed so that a record wouldn’t be a barrier. If the inmates are immigrants who don’t speak German, the jail’s education staff teach them. When a young person in the jail seems anxious or depressed, correctional officers let them hang out with the rabbits in the jail’s farm. Berlin’s probation officers use their social worker training in their supervision work, and the city’s judges charge court fees only if the young adult is already working and making some money. The efforts of the judges, probation officers, and correctional staff seem to focus on one main goal: to help young people leave their systems in a better shape.

There’s a long way to go and a lot to learn. To see what other participants of the tour thought about the experience, check out Senate Judiciary Chairman Will Brownsberger’s summary here, and reflections from Columbia University’s Vinny Schiraldi here.

Meet Sandra.

Sandra Lopera was awarded Roca’s Vichey Phoung Award, which celebrates each year young people who made tremendous changes in their lives.

“I was a child taking care of a child,” Sandra describes her life at 17. “When you have a kid, you’re on your own. I felt like I was the only one in the world with a situation like this.”

Up against so much, no wonder Sandra felt hopeless. She grew up in an immigrant family in East Boston with very traditional values, and at an early age was caught up in drugs, alcohol, and a social environment she now calls toxic. When she became pregnant, everyone around her just expected her to figure life out: “In my culture, when you have a child you’re seen as an adult.”

But nothing that makes up adult life really worked out. “I had no support, no education, and was working like crazy,” she remembers. Even first steps like getting a GED seemed like a far off dream that would never be possible. She heard from her doctor about a program called Roca – but even going there felt tough.

But Roca wasn’t going to give up on her.

“Even when I told my Roca youth worker no and I didn’t want to come back, she kept persisting until I did. Patricia believed in me and showed me that I needed to believe in myself.”

From there, the path for making a life for her and her son Brian seemed more possible. After many months of hard work with Roca, she passed her GED and completed a training to becpme a pharmacy technician. Roca helped Sandra get her work permit and enroll in a CNA program at Bunker Hill Community College, where she discovered again how much she loves helping others.

And every time Sandra was ready to give up, Roca was there to support and push.

Life is different now. As a Nurse’s Assistant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and as part of the DACA program, she now truly is a dreamer. “I have dreams of going to college, and owning a house, and being a role model; not only for my son, but for other young women like me.”

Sandra is indeed a role model. “I’ve come so far and I can go even farther, I know it,” she says. We couldn’t agree more.

Roca extends a special thank you to some generous donors for giving in this quarter!*

  • The Abell Foundation
    Adobe Foundation
    Anonymous Foundation
    Bank of America Foundation
    The Boston Foundation
    Bushrod H. Campbell and Adah F. Hall Charity Fund
    Charles Hayden Foundation
    City of Boston, Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development
    City of Everett
    Clayton Baker Trust
    First Parish Church of Concord
    France-Merrick Foundation
    The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
    The Hearst Foundation
    James G. Connolly Tribute Fund
    Klarman Family Foundation
    Laura and John Arnold Foundation
    The Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Charitable Foundation
    Lewis Family Foundation
    Mabel Louise Riley Foundation
    Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents
    Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance
    MAXIMUS Charitable Foundation
    Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s Metro Mayors Coalition
    Nordblom Family Foundation
    Santander Bank
    Sarah Rollins Charitable Trust
    Silicon Valley Community Foundation
    T. Rowe Price Foundation
    TD Charitable Foundation
    United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley

*All this in addition to the generous foundation, individual, and corporate support over the last quarter.

Issue 7

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!

Molly Baldwin

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

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
    Wellesley College
    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
    Bob Place
    Joanna Jacobson
    H. Furlong Baldwin
    David Jacobs

*All this in addition to the generous foundation, individual, and corporate support over the last quarter.

Issue 6

Dear Roca friends,

If we want to get better in helping young people succeed, we have to study our own data. At this time of the year, we’re wrapping up the analysis of FY17 data, and indeed, there’s a lot to study.

What’s already clear is that the numbers match what we’ve been hearing from our youth workers for a while: sadly, the young people we see are facing more risks than before. With more trauma, more fentanyl around them, and increased availability of guns, it seems that the risks are intensifying. 24/7 presence in social media takes its toll also and puts them in a constant state of hypervigilance – they feel like they need to look over their shoulder, even in their own bedroom.

What does that mean for our work?

This is where the data becomes particularly helpful. We are using data to study how we can improve our young people’s chances of getting a job and holding it over time. Together with our partners, we look at arrest data, violations of probation, and incarceration, and analyze what that tells us about “what works” for young people. And with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we partner with the City University of New York and our evaluator Abt Associates, to study this new territory of what we call, for lack of better words, “elevated risk”.

Most importantly, we continue to focus all our work on the highest risk young people.

Dig into FY17 data on our young men and young mothers programs. Learn more about our model. Stay connected.

Warm regards,

Molly Baldwin, Founder and CEO

Harvard and NIJ’s Paper about Roca

Here’s your chance to dive deep into Roca’s Intervention Model: a new paper from the Executive Session on Community Corrections – a joint initiative of Harvard Kennedy School and the National Institute of Justice – takes a close look at Roca.

The paper goes beyond describing the Roca Model: It explains how Roca aligned its work with the evidence-based practices of community corrections, what theories informed this process, and offers some lessons for the field.

The executive session continues to be a wonderful resource for exploring new fronts in community corrections. Learn more about young adults in the criminal justice system, the benefits of reducing probation population, and much more here.

Business @ Roca: Ali’s Summer Experience

“An intentional approach to business has the power to serve and support those who need it most,” writes Ali Weiner, a REDF Farber Intern who spent her summer at Roca, and we couldn’t agree more.

Last summer, Roca was honored to host Ali for 10 week internship. In the middle of a joint graduate program of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Ali took the past summer to test how various business approaches can advance the lives of the highest risk young people.

It was a busy summer. “We looked at more than a dozen industries, modeled out the dynamics of a few, and made a decision to scale up work in the deconstruction market, signing a contract with a new partner that will create transitional employment jobs for our young people and solve a pressing business need of the partners,” Ali shares.

Thanks Ali and thanks REDF for the privilege to partner with you!

Read more about Ali’s experience here.

Chelsea: Winners of the RWJF Culture of Health Prize

Chelsea won! After a multi-month long process of applications, interviews, and site visits, the City of Chelsea was named the 2017 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize Winner. This is a huge boost for Chelsea as it has worked tirelessly in recent history to make the city healthier and safer for all of its residents.

Roca was featured alongside Chelsea partner organizations such as GreenRoots, Chelsea Collaborative, The Neighborhood Developers, Chelsea Prospers, Chelsea PD, MGH Chelsea and others in a recent RWJF posting about the winners. They wrote that all of these partnerships “…exemplify how Chelsea works: All together.” We agree!

The article focuses on three important areas of the City of Chelsea’s work toward healthy living: environmental restoration, social justice, and health education. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation wrote about the city that, “to address such a wide gamut of issues, they’re changing policy through activism, forward-thinking policies like an aggressive trans-fat ban, sanctuary city protections for undocumented immigrants, and the inclusion of affordable housing in new developments. Though everyone may not agree on everything, there is strong coordination here between city government, health providers, nonprofits, and businesses.”

Roca was featured alongside the Chelsea Hub and many other Roca partners, including the Chelsea Police Department. Chief of Police Brian Kyes commented that, “law enforcement is 10 percent of what we do. The community sets the agenda for us to do our jobs. We listen to their concerns and work together.”

Congratulations to Chelsea and all our local partners!

Read the full story from RWJF here.

our new Playroom

We have a brand new playroom for the children of our Young Mothers Program! Last July, we cut the ribbon on a larger and safer playroom for children – a place where kids can play while their mothers take classes with Roca.

Balancing work and family life is hard for everyone. At Roca, we are honored to meet every day young mothers who struggle to navigate this balance, and we are amazed by their resilience and ability to make things work despite immense challenges. A safe playroom for the children of Roca’s young mothers is just one small step in helping them gain the skills they need to lead safe, stable, and hopeful lives.

“Childcare is always a hurdle for our young mothers, and this new playroom will help provide that service for this special group of young women so they can attend their classes with peace of mind. At Roca, young mothers are changing their lives and make a future for their children every day. This playroom is one step closer to helping us achieve those goals,” said Molly Baldwin, founder and CEO of Roca.

The new playroom was made possible thanks to the help of Marjorie Bride and Terry McEnany. The creative and safe design was done by Caroline Blackman. Thank you for your continued support!

A major step toward criminal justice reform

This week, the Massachusetts Senate is going to vote on a major criminal justice bill that offers a comprehensive and bold approach to criminal justice reform. We are particularly excited that the proposed bill raises the age of the juvenile court to 19, and starts a longer study of further raising the age.

We believe the time is right for true changes in our justice system. And we know our leaders at the House, the Senate, and the Governor’s office understand that as well.

Working with over 1,000 young people across Massachusetts annually, we know how our current laws impact their lives every day. We know that the current approach to young people in the justice system is simply ineffective and unsafe. And we also know better options exist.

Raising the age is a smart approach to public safety, offering an opportunity to enhance public safety, reduce recidivism, reduce public spending, and improve outcomes for young people.

Read Roca’s testimony on raising the age and learn more here.

CBT and other new videos from roca

“I didn’t know what CBT was before I came to Roca,” says Tyleek. Do you? In a new video, Tyleek and other Roca participants and staff explain what CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Theory, is all about.

CBT is a tool for understanding the relationship between our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. In collaboration with Community Psychiatry PRIDE Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital, we’ve developed a CBT curriculum specifically for our young people. After several pilots and in the midst of an implementation study, we already feel we changed the game for ourselves and our young people.

“I felt like they wouldn’t take to it, they wouldn’t accept it,” says Michael Bonds, a Roca Boston youth worker. “But believe it or not, they’ve accepted it and gravitated towards it.”

Roca’s CBT curriculum consists of 10 skills, deliverable in classrooms, in the car, on the street, or wherever the need arises, through short sessions of up to 30-45 minutes. But it’s much more than a curriculum – it’s a new approach to youth work. “It’s definitely a game changer for youth workers, because now you have a tool that you can use to have those hard conversations,” says Tha, a Roca Boston Assistant Director.

Check out the full CBT video on our YouTube page, along with the other new videos on Relentless Outreach, Redefining Police Partnerships, and Transformational Relationships. Share with your family, friends, and colleagues, and be sure to tag @RocaInc on Twitter and Facebook when you do!

Roca extends a special thank you to some generous donors for giving in this quarter!*

  • Amelia Peabody Foundation
    City of Boston, Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development (CDBG)
    Laura and John Arnold Foundation
    Liberty Mutual Foundation
    MA Department of Children and Families, Young Parent Support Program
    MA Department of Public Health, Pregnant and Parenting Teens Initiative
    Nordblom Family Foundation
    Ray Solem Foundation
    The Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation
    Yawkey Foundation

*All this in addition to the generous foundation, individual, and corporate support over the last quarter.

Issue 5

Dear Roca friends, hello!

July is the beginning of the year for us – the fiscal year, but not only that. This is when we analyze our annual data, kick off new work plans, and start implementing our new-(fiscal)-year resolutions. It’s time for reflection, and it’s time for a fresh start.

In the coming months we will share with you some of our reflections. Among other things, we keep learning about the importance of data for our work – both our own data, and the government’s criminal justice data we rely on. We also keep learning about the different risks our young people are facing, and in fact, we suspect that those risks are even higher than before. Stay tuned for more insights on this issue of elevated risk. Finally, we continue to learn about the power of partnerships, and how important it is to have a committed, loving, and relentless staff. They are true heroes.

In this issue of Roca Ink., we do a quick recap of our recent Annual Breakfast and Roca Springfield 7th Birthday Party. We also share with you an innovative policing and information sharing model called      Hub & COR that is already working in Chelsea, and a story of one of our most inspiring police partners, Detective James Slattery. Finally, we take another look at criminal justice reform – we believe that we have a real opportunity for a true change this year, and that raising the age of the juvenile court is our best bet for success.

Here are a few recent opportunities to learn more about Roca:

  • Narrowing Focus Was the Key to Transforming the Lives of High-Risk Youth in Massachusettsa Roca chapter in the Nonprofit Finance Fund and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s new book: What Matters: Investing in Results to Build Strong, Vibrant Communities.
  • A Pay-for-Success Opportunity to Prove Outcomes with the Highest-Risk Young Peoplelearn about Roca’s PFS project in the Spring 2017 Issue of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Communities and Banking.
  • Transform the Central Conversation of Your MovementRoca is featured in Jason Jay and Gabriel Grant’s important and timely book, Breaking Through Gridlock: The Power of Conversation in A Polarized World.
  • Keeping Your Eye on the Long Term in a World of Short-term PressuresThe Drucker Institute highlighted Roca alongside notable thinkers such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos in this month’s issue of MONDAY*.

Have a great summer!

Molly Baldwin, Founder and CEO

Roca’s Annual Breakfast: The Charm of Being a True Pain in the Ass


We didn’t quite expect it, but as it turned out, the theme of this year’s Annual Breakfast quickly became how Roca can really be a pain in the ass. Our young people always say how annoying and persistent we are – and many of our partners agree. After we showed a video of them saying it in their words, our breakfast speakers couldn’t help themselves: MassMutual CEO Roger Crandall said that he always thought they started the MassMutual Foundation to partner with organizations that are pain in the ass; Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, who has known us for years, claimed copyrights for the term, and the event’s emcee, Suffolk Sheriff Steve Tompkins – well, he knows, we truly are a pain in the ass.

But that wasn’t what it was all about: We were blessed this year to be joined by a tremendous group of leaders, partners, and supporters. Our lead funders, MassMutual, Bank of America, and Vertex, inspired us with their generosity and partnership. Our young people, Kerry Gutierrez and Manny Burns, who received this year’s Vichey Phoung Award, inspired us with their courage. Their ability to make deep and meaningful changes in their lives is humbling.

And then there were our featured speakers. Attorney General Maura Healey, JustLeadershipUSA’s Glenn Martin, and Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes shared with us the deep connection between leadership and change. In policing, incarceration, and immigration – perhaps the issues that impact Roca’s young people the most – with the right leader, true change can happen. Each one of them is an inspiring leader in their field and beyond. They are true change makers.

Thank you all for joining us, your partnership, and your generosity!

If you’re inspired by the work Roca is doing and want to be a part of it, donate to Roca today.

Roca Springfield Celebrates 7th Birthday


Seven years in Springfield? We can hardly believe it ourselves. Last month, Roca Springfield hosted its 7th Birthday Celebration at CityStage. We’ve certainly come a long way since our days at our two room office at the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, our first Western Mass home. With a tremendous group of friends, supporters, partners, inspiring young men and staff, we really feel there’s a lot to celebrate.

Our 7th birthday was an opportunity to recognize key partners in the Western Massachusetts location’s development and support over the last seven years. The group included Michael J. Ashe, Jan Callahan, Brian Elliot, Christine Judd, Brian Fitzgerald, and Frank Fitzgerald – each one of them has helped us beyond words. Jack Fitzgerald and Paul Doherty, two of our most inspiring and fondest supporters in Springfield, were both recognized posthumously. In a happy day like this one, we miss them even more.

“Roca gives us hope. Lots of people have given up on Springfield. But Roca is one more positive step forward in this community that is becoming more vibrant,” shared our dear friend Frank Fitzgerald. Thank you, Frank, and thank you to all of our Springfield friends, for making these past seven years possible!

Springfield site director, Christine Judd, recognized two successful young men who have begun to turn their lives around; away from drugs and violence and toward a positive future. We’re so proud of Jesus and Kelvin, as well as our other Springfield young men, in the strides their taking to improve their own lives. True to Roca’s tagline, Chris said to the audience, “I truly believe we are not defined by our past, but by the moment we are ready, willing, and able to change.” We’re extremely proud of our Springfield team and look forward to seeing how they continue to serve Western Massachusetts’ highest risk young people in the years to come!

A New Approach in Policing: Hosting the Canadian Hub & COR Team


Two years ago, Roca helped bring to Chelsea one of the most exciting approaches to modern policing – the Canadian model called Hub & COR. Last month, the Canadian team came back to Chelsea to learn about the city’s amazing progress over the past couple of years and train new teams from Worcester, Springfield, Revere, Everett, and Boston.

Hub & COR is an innovative model to help individuals and families in acutely elevated risk situations. Building on the police’s role of protecting the safety of the community, representatives of multiple agencies in the community meet for a short, focused weekly meeting (the Hub) hosted by the police. Each agency brings to the table cases of individuals or families that meet the standard of acutely elevated risk. If the standard is met, minimal and necessary information is shared and the Hub members assign a leading agency that will conduct a “door knock” to address the family’s needs. The COR builds on the Hub’s strength, leading long-term community goals and initiatives.

Since 2015, the Chelsea Hub has completed more than 200 door knocks, built critical cross-agency communication channels, and helped the different agencies stop working in silos. Roca has been there from the first day – bringing the model to Chelsea, participating in every meeting, bringing to the table appropriate cases, and taking the lead on door knocks when it was the right fit.

We were so privileged to spend time again with our Canadian mentors, led by Saskatchewan Deputy Minister of Justice Dale McFee. They remind us time and again that with strong partnerships, smart use of data, true commitment to helping our most vulnerable neighbors, and no excuses, there are real reasons to be hopeful.

Roca Recognizes Somerville Police Department’s James Slattery


Police partners are key to our success, but when the partnership gets to the point where we knock on doors together, we can truly change the world. One such case is our work with Detective James Slattery of the Somerville Police Department. When Somerville Police Chief David Fallon assigned him to be Roca’s liaison, it was new for him and us. Two years later, we can’t believe there were times when Jimmy wasn’t a Roca partner.

In a recent conversation, we asked Detective Slattery about his experience of coming to Roca as a cop. Interestingly, he mentioned not only our joint efforts to do outreach together, but also his experience of just being with us here. “To see someone like me in the building on a regular basis, over the course of time these young men become more comfortable. I’ve even had a few ask me to step outside to ask me questions no one else could answer.”

Over the past couple of years, Detective Slattery has gone above and beyond for the young people at Roca, and for the safety of his own community. Sitting in circles, participating in classes, working with partners and answering any questions, Slattery is helping us all understand what real commitment to safety, to strong community and to young people can look like. “Detective Slattery is remarkable. His work truly changes the lives of young people in Somerville and beyond. With his participation, dedication, and hard work, we are able to break down barriers and build a new kind of relationship between police and the young people in our local communities, and create a new understanding between both parties that maybe was not there before,” said Molly.

Want to Reduce Recidivism? Raise the Age.


While the legislature continues to consider criminal justice reform, there’s an emerging focus on recidivism: what would help people stop coming back to the criminal justice system? As everyone seems to agree that recidivism is highest at the group of young adults (ages 18-24), we believe that raising the age of the juvenile court to 21 is our best bet.

Massachusetts’ juvenile justice system is one of the best in the country. Both DYS and the juvenile court are experts in individualized approach to each case, focus on education and rehabilitation, and regularly connect young people to services that help them stay out of harm’s way and succeed. The science and experience on the ground are clear that young adults are still developing, growing and changing. Instead of processing them at the one-size-fits-all adult system and adult jails – systems that keep producing the worst outcomes – this is the time to focus on solutions that work.

As mentioned by our friend retired Judge Nancy Gertner in a recent Boston Globe op-ed, Harvard Psychology Professor Joshua Buckholtz put it this way: “If an evil genius scientist were hell-bent on using the most up-to-date neuroscientific insights to make youthful offenders more impulsive, aggressive, and antisocial, he could do no better than the adult prison: constant uncertain threat, being disconnected from communities, subject to long periods of social isolation, a regimented life that undermines their ability to learn to plan. He would break their ability to associate ‘good’ behavior to future beneficial outcomes — a trait necessary for them to begin to envision a different life for themselves — by limiting access to meaningful occupational training and education while imprisoned, and/or ensuring that their occupational opportunities are impaired once released.”

We couldn’t say it better. If we want better outcomes, let’s start with policies that make sense. The four bills in front of the legislature that propose to raise the age to 21 would be a huge step forward.

New Animation Video: Roca’s Young Mothers Program!


Here’s a new video to watch! We’ve been working with young mothers since Roca’s first day, almost 30 years ago. Since then, our work with young mothers has become laser-focused: we serve the young mothers who are so high-risk, that they wouldn’t even open their door when help is offered. We believe that those high-risk young mothers and their babies can have stable, safe, and amazing lives, and that with the right approach, they too can accomplish all their dreams. This new video explains just that.

Roca extends a special thank you to some generous donors for giving in this quarter!*

  • Bank of America Charitable Foundation
    Beveridge Family Foundation
    Bushrod H. Campbell and Adah F. Hall Charity Fund
    Commonwealth Corporation
    MA Department of Public Health, Bureau of Community Health and Prevention
    MAXIMUS Foundation
    Moses Kimball Fund
    People’s United Community Foundation
    TD Charitable Foundation
    United Way

*All this in addition to the generous foundation, individual, and corporate support over the last quarter.

Issue 4

Dear Roca friends,

“How do the changes in immigration policies impact the young people at Roca?” we are asked again and again these days. And indeed, we work in communities with many unaccompanied minors, young men and young mothers who have witnessed and experienced unimaginable violence and trauma in their home countries and on their journey here.

Changing policies impact our young people immediately. When they feel that they belong, they are safe, and they are welcome – they can plan their future, stay out of harm’s way, and go to work. When they are being targeted, marginalized, and blamed for any problem – they hide and they are terrified. And that’s not only hard on them, that’s also less safe for everyone.

But this is why we are here.

We believe young people can succeed and change, even when it seems impossible. This work is never easy – in fact, on a good day, it’s very hard – but the privilege of working with young people is worth it. Just recently, AP featured Roca’s work, in a story that was published in over 80 media outlets in the country and beyond. This story too is a good example for the challenge and the privilege of doing this work.

With Roca’s Annual Breakfast less than a month away, we’re sharing with you in this Issue some of the exciting things we’ve worked on in the past few months. We were honored to give a TEDx talk in DC, read poetry, advocate with young people at the Massachusetts State House, work on changes in the law that would raise the age of the juvenile system to 21, and celebrate an award won by one of our most inspiring youth workers, Roca Boston Assistant Director Tha Thai!

Thank you and see you at Roca’s Annual Breakfast on May 8th!

Molly Baldwin

Founder and CEO

Roca tedx talk


Watch Molly Baldwin telling the story of Roca, how relentless we are, and what it takes to help young men stay out of jail!

Linette, a Roca young mother, shares her poetry


In January, Linette Nieves, a Roca young mother, with Molly Baldwin, joined Mass Poetry and other leaders and organizations in the Boston community for “An Evening of Inspired Leaders” to share works from their favorite poets. Molly recited “The Rhythm of Time” by Bobby Sands, and Linette, a writer herself, read an original poem “Justice the Broken System.”

This was a great opportunity for leaders from around the community to talk, enjoy the writers’ work, and to reflect on its connection to their own lives. Roca is blessed to be connected with many organizations in the greater Boston area and this event provided the opportunity to get to know them better.

Read Linette’s original poem below and all other poems recited on Mass Poetry’s website. You can also watch the video from the event!

Justice the Broken System

I call the system broken
I only have spoken
Not just on facts
But please sit don’t overreact
After all don’t I have rights
So why fight me
Isn’t it call freedom of speech!
We live a life full of lies
But we take it in as if we’re eating pie
Will this ever end
All this violence
All these young folks
Reaching their hand to the wrong alliance
Mother losing their kids to system
Mother losing their kids to the street
But please tell me our system is not broken
Running away from the past
Coming to a place known for its freedom
But I have no right
But I work as hard as people who got rights
I call the system broken
But please sit don’t overreact
I’m just trying to get an education
But these fees are tragedy
Just like this sad melody
Single mom doing it on their own
Trying not to frown
But then again don’t overreact
The system not broken right?

-Linette Nieves

Young People at the State House: Why Roca


“Roca helped me turn my life around,” Tyvone Williams from Springfield shared at the Massachusetts State House last month in front of a large audience. He joined other Roca participants, staff, police officers, mayors and leaders from other programs, reminding our legislators that young people matter.

The Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI) is one of the greatest examples of a true partnership between police departments and community-based organizations. Every year, as state representatives and senators are debating about the budget, young people and law enforcement gather at the State House to make sure our legislators hear about it and continue to fund the program.

We were honored this year to advocate together with Rep. Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke), Rep. Adrian Madaro (D-Boston), Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo, Boston Police Superintendent-In-Chief William Gross, and many other supporters at this event. At the end of the day, though, it was Tyvone who really reminded us why it all matters.

Tyvonne gave a shout out to his youth worker, Hamzah, who keeps pushing and supporting him every day. They drove all the way from Springfield to make sure that people at the State House know that they too should invest in young people, and that change is possible. See more photos here.

Raising the Age to 21


In an ideal world, after a young person commits a crime and the justice system responds, they will never do it again. In the real world, in our current justice system, young adults reoffend more than any other group. What are we doing wrong?

The criminal justice system misses too many opportunities with young people. It doesn’t offer enough rehabilitation, doesn’t prepare them to go back to school and jobs, leaves them with criminal records, and sends them to adult jails hoping they will somehow learn to do better next time. The result? 76 percent of those released from Houses of Corrections in Massachusetts find themselves in court again within three years of release. What our system does now just doesn’t work – and that’s not safe for anyone.

But several bills that are now considered my Massachusetts legislators, proposing to gradually raise the age of the juvenile court and Department of Youth Services to 21, can make a difference.

The juvenile justice system is much more suitable to holding 18, 19, and 20 year-olds accountable. It is focused on development and education, connected to more services, keeps the process confidential, and gives young people a better chance to stay out of crime and move on with their lives. We have one of the best juvenile systems in the country – we should use it.

Brain science and developmental psychology know that 18-to-20-year-olds are still not fully-mature adults, but you don’t need a Ph.D. to know that. If we want a justice system that achieves effective results, we should start doing things differently.

Massachusetts should raise the age to 21. It is time to be national leaders, and make sure young people’s cases are handled by a system that can help them succeed. Adult courts and adult prisons just fail young people, and make all of us less safe. A gradual, responsible change of the law, will create better future for young people and better outcomes for our justice system.

Roca Boston’s Assistant Director Tha Thai Receives the Light of Dawnn Award


In February, Highland Street Foundation, along with community members and the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network awarded Tha Thai, Roca Boston’s Assistant Director, with the Light of Dawnn Award. The award is presented annually to three nonprofit professionals working in Massachusetts who demonstrate marked compassion and unwavering commitment to serving those in need. Tha, who started at Roca as a youth worker, earned the award for his exceptional ability to build trust and promote behavior change with Roca’s high risk young men.

With Tha’s years of experience as a youth worker, he has helped train other youth workers at the organization on better ways to connect with the highest risk young people. Tha also leads Roca’s effort to build relationships within the Boston community, specifically with police, to learn more about how to best approach and connect with young people in the city.

“Tha is a unique character, with a humble and respectful approach—he has a special way of interacting with people that really earns him respect,” said Roca’s Founder and CEO Molly Baldwin. “His commitment to young people, to Roca and to building these connections to better the Boston community makes him so deserving of this award.”

The Light of Dawnn Award was created to honor the life of Dawnn Ashley Jaffier, who was tragically killed at 26-years-old from gun violence. She was a budding professional in Boston’s nonprofit community, and these awards honor her life and dedication to giving back.

Roca Annual Breakfast


Roca’s Annual Breakfast is rapidly approaching! Each year, the Breakfast is an opportunity to raise funds for Roca and bring together partners, supporters, and friends to address issues facing the young people Roca serves.

This year, we are excited to welcome Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey; Founder and President of JustLeadershipUSA, Glenn E. Martin; and Chelsea Chief of Police & President of the Massachusetts City Chiefs, Bryan Kyes as our speakers. Their wealth of knowledge and experience around topics of incarceration, policing, and immigration will lend themselves to a great discussion on the greatest civil rights issues of our time.

There’s still time to join us! To purchase tickets please register through our Annual Breakfast page. For questions, reach out to Ryan Keefe at

Roca extends a special thank you to some generous donors for giving in this quarter!*

  • Charles Hayden Foundation
    City of Springfield
    Frederick C. Lutze and Christian Rausch Family Foundation
    Ellen Abbott Gilman Trust
    Gisela B. Hogan Foundation
    John Hancock Financial
    Marjorie Bride and Terry McEnany
    Metropolitan Mayor’s Community Safety Initiative
    New World Foundation
    Sarah W. Rollins Charitable Trust
    TJX Foundation
    W.K. Kellogg Foundation
    Wellesley College

*All this in addition to the generous foundation, individual, and corporate support over the last quarter.

Issue 3

Happy New Year!

As 2017 takes its first steps, we at Roca focus on our young people: how we can help them change their lives, even when it’s difficult, even when it’s dark and cold outside.

We are not deterred by destructive criminal justice policies or political uncertainty – we know that, much like young people, policies can change and improve. Our young people need us to work harder for them and be even more hopeful than before.

This holiday season provided many reasons for hope. As we share with you in this issue of Roca Ink., thanks to your generosity, Roca’s young people received holiday gifts and, more importantly, were able to give gifts to their children. This holiday season, more people tried our new online fundraising platform (the winter is an excellent time to run a 5K for young people), and a Roca volunteer organized a beautiful fundraiser art show at a lovely coffee shop. That’s awesome.

But the holiday season also reminded us why we need to get back to work – and fast. Many of our young people, especially in this time of the year, need our services. A new report tells us how harmful and uneven the impact of incarceration is on specific neighborhoods in Boston, all the more reason to find more effective solutions. And while there’s a real concern that criminal justice reform in Massachusetts is further out of reach than some thought, focusing on young adults (ages 18 to 24) in the justice system emerges as one of the most promising steps forward.

So there’s a lot of work ahead! For a taste of what the work looks like day-to-day you’ll hear from Anisha, who tells us about Roca’s new Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT) curriculum and its next steps.

And lastly, I am so honored to share that, next month, I will be speaking at TEDx PennsylvaniaAvennue in Washington, D.C, an event that will focus on the not-so-small subject: “Within 10 Years.” I look forward to being inspired by all the fellow speakers at this exciting event.

Stay warm and stay in touch!

Molly Baldwin

Founder and CEO, Roca

The Holiday Season at Roca


The holidays can be a time of great joy and generosity for many. This year, the holidays at Roca were just that. With many different initiatives, Roca was determined to make the holidays bright for everyone who knows us.

Each year, Roca’s development team runs a targeted holiday fundraising campaign, with the goal to fundraise for holiday gifts for all Roca Young People and their children. With the growing number of participants, this number was over 1,000. With help from our Board of Directors, development staff, corporate sponsors and many other partners, Roca was able to provide over $10,000 in food and gifts to Roca participants. Beyond that, with generous donations from Melrose Daycare, Toys for Tots and a team at AON Risk Management, we were able to provide gifts for 500 children of Roca participants.

Roca participants and staff stepped up to give as well. Lead by Chef John and many young mothers’ staff, dozens of young mothers worked tirelessly, baking 1,200 cookies for Roca friends and partners. This was an ideal way for young mothers to make some extra money around the holidays, test whether baking cookies can be a viable social enterprise at Roca and spread the holiday spirit to those we know and love.

It has been a great year for Roca and we were lucky to celebrate that with our participants, their children, our staff and our partners. Each site hosted its own holiday party, bringing everyone together to exchange gifts and enjoy the season together.

See more pictures here.

Art for Roca at the Pavement Coffeehouse


On a cold night in the beginning of December, a group of Boston artists, Roca staff and young people and members of the Boston community came together at Pavement Coffeehouse to sell art and fundraise for Roca. The artists agreed to donate half of the proceeds to an organization of the curator’s choice. Organizers Adam Bieda, a Boston University student, and Allison MacDonald, Pavement’s art director, chose Roca.

Adam first found out about Roca when he led a group of volunteers on a service project at Roca Chelsea. He left this experience inspired and was determine to do further work with Roca. “Roca’s mission closely aligns with my values,” Adam said. “Everyone I spoke to, both staff and young people were so inspiring and really opened my eyes to what can happen when people work for change. I want to be a part of that.”

Roca was thrilled to host the Boston University student volunteers and even more thrilled that that experience turned into an art fundraiser event. “You just never know what doors people will open for you,” says April Spataro, a Roca program manager who worked closely with Adam on this project. “It means so much that the work that we do with young people is inspiring others. I’m happy he saw what we do and wanted to give back, and so quickly!”

The event brought in over $1000 for Roca that was put toward holiday gifts for young people and their children. Adam and Allison were very happy with the turnout and are looking forward to doing an event like this again in the near future. We at Roca are looking forward to supporting them in this next event and helping anyone who wants to arrange more events!

From Our Youth Workers: Outreach in the Winter


“We’re like the postal service – we do outreach in any weather,” says Dennis Platt, a Roca Youth Worker. “You can’t let the change of seasons affect your drive to help young people.” And indeed, even when it’s cold, Roca’s Relentless Outreach continues. We know that showing up is the one thing that helps build trust with young people and push them forward.

But that’s easier said than done. A couple of weeks ago, temperatures in the Boston area dropped to five (-10 with windchill!), and knocking on doors didn’t seem like a great way to open the morning. “When it’s cold, they need us even more,” says Maria Jose Albarbari, a Youth Worker at Roca’s Young Mothers program. “Especially with the babies, this is critical – everything takes longer and is harder to do.”

In this part of the country, cold winter is the reality, though. “In our work crews, we have to help them learn that the snow can’t be an excuse for not showing up,” Maria Jose explains. “We can give them a ride, and we will do it and will be flexible when they are early in their change process, but the goal is to help them understand that in a real job they will need to do it without us.”

CBT at Roca: What’s Next?


Think differently to act differently – Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT) teaches us how emotions, thoughts and actions are interconnected, and how we can change our behaviors based on how we feel and think. Over the past couple of years, Roca has taken a deep dive into CBT in order to make it useful, practical and accessible to our young people.

Together with Massachusetts General Hospital Community Psychiatry PRIDE clinic and with support of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Roca has developed a simple curriculum, which includes ten basic emotional literacy, emotion regulation, and interpersonal skills. “We’ve trained all frontline staff in the program, and ran three pilot rounds including focus groups and evaluation,” explains Anisha Chablani-Medley, Roca’s Chief Program Officer. “We needed something practical that young people can put into practice right away – not nice in theory, or overly academic or so clinical that it shuts them down instantly – just clear, simple language and usable skills that when practiced over and over, become second nature.”

CBT is now an inseparable part of Roca’s programming, and Roca is studying the appropriate impact and dosage of the curriculum, in preparation to testing the program in other settings. “First, we need to translate it to Spanish and see how to adapt it to our young mothers’ needs,” says Anisha. “But if we really we want to create a great impact, we need to find other places to try this CBT curriculum, improve the technology around it, and conduct rigorous evaluation.” All of these next steps, she promises, are underway.

Boston’s Geography of Incarceration – A Reality That Has to Change


A new report tells us what we’ve already known, in a new and disturbing way. In some Boston neighborhoods, every other building contains a resident that has been incarcerated. Millions of dollars are poured on locking up young men of color from a handful of blocks. And all evidence are that these specific neighborhoods have reached the “tipping point” where imprisoning residents hinders public safety instead of enhancing it.

The report, issued by MassINC, the Boston Foundation, and the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, looked at Suffolk County’s data in a brand new way: where did the people at the House of Corrections reside before being locked up? How many of them come from specific neighborhoods, such as Franklin Field and Egleston Square, and what does it mean for these neighborhoods? And, not less important, how much does the whole thing cost?

The findings are devastating and should serve as an immediate call for action. A key finding is that Roxbury residents are incarcerated at twice the rate of Boston residents as a whole, making Roxbury the neighborhood with the highest incarceration rate. Further, more was spent on incarcerating Codman Square residents in 2013 ($7.5 million) than the total budget for gang prevention grants statewide ($6.5 million). These findings reflect harmful policies and poor allocation of public dollars.

Change is necessary and possible. In a powerful op-ed co-authored by Roca board member and former secretary of public safety Kevin Burke together with Wayne Budd and Max Stern, they conclude: “When Beacon Hill leaders issue a package of legislative reforms […], let’s hope they take a comprehensive approach that strikes the right balance. As the neighborhood maps contained in this new report plainly show, anything less will not do.”

Criminal Justice Reform: Young Adults Are the Key


No doubt, this is the time for Beacon Hill to take up criminal justice reform. With the Senate President making the issue a priority, a study project led by the Council of State Governments (CSG) nearing its end, and the greater-than-ever need for change, many wonder what is the next step. Effective steps will have to look closely at those who offend and re-offend at the highest rates – young adults.

Massachusetts’ criminal justice outcomes for young people ages 18 to 24 are poor. Specifically, jail turns out to be one of the least effective and most costly responses to their offenses. Three-quarters of the 18-to-24-year-olds released from Houses of Corrections are re-arraigned within three years, and more than half of them are re-incarcerated.

There is a better path. Developmentally-appropriate response would move the younger people in this group, the 18-to-21-year-olds, to the juvenile justice system. The juvenile courts can hold these young people accountable in a more individualized and rehabilitative system, which is better suited to prevent future justice system engagement. The older ones, the 21-to-24-year-olds, should remain in the adult justice system but receive greater confidentiality protections and specialized sentencing provisions to help them get on the path to employment and self-sufficiency more quickly.

With a new legislative session starting this month, Roca remains committed to working with policymakers to make these changes in the Massachusetts justice system a reality. Our young people and our communities deserve it. It is time.

Roca extends a special thank you to some generous donors for giving in this quarter!*

  • Adelard A. Roy and Valeda Lea Roy Foundation
    Annie E. Casey Foundation
    Bank of America Charitable Foundation
    Barr Foundation
    Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts
    Devonshire Foundation
    East Boston Savings Bank Charitable Foundation
    Liberty Mutual Foundation
    Marjorie Bride and Terry McEnany
    Santander Bank
    Speedway Children’s Charities
    The Janey Fund
    The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation

*All this in addition to the generous foundation, individual, and corporate support over the last quarter.

Issue 2

Dear friends, partners and supporters,

This month marks 20 years in our building at 101 Park Street in Chelsea, I can hardly believe it! So much has changed, and in a funny way, so much has stayed the same. There’s no greater source of inspiration than all the brilliant young people who we’ve been privileged to meet here in the building, and continue to meet in the 21 communities we serve.

Roca’s new website, which we are launching now, will tell you about our history – and much more. We dive deep into our Intervention Model, share stories of our young people and our team, and give you more opportunities to get involved and connect. Check it out.

The fall is a good opportunity to look back at the fiscal year that just ended. In this issue of Roca Ink. we invite you to take a look at our outcomes report and the newly-released 2016 Annual Report, and explore the accomplishments of our brave young people. Josh, a Roca participant from Springfield and Kristen, an Educator in Boston, give us a glimpse of their past year as well.

We were so honored to be invited to the White House this month, and to be featured as one of the country’s major innovators in the National Institute of Justice’s Environmental Scan of Young Adult Justice, so we thought we’d share this news with you as well!

Finally, in this Issue we are honoring two of our long-standing partners. We thank Sheriff Michael J. Ashe of Hampden County, who is retiring soon, for his tremendous support of our work in Springfield. We also thank The Children Trust for their 18 years of partnership with us in running the Harbor Area Healthy Families Program. It is our deepest privilege to take this opportunity to thank them.

In case you missed it, make sure you see the 2-minute animation video on Roca’s Intervention Model. And of course, stay in touch and get involved – we love hearing from you!

All the best,
Molly Baldwin
Founder & CEO

2016: Growth, Change, Learning

981 young people walked through Roca’s doors this year. 16,613 times Roca’s Youth Workers met young men in person. 87% of graduates had no new arrests. These numbers, and many more stories, make up our 2016 Annual Report.

This year we devote our annual report to the risks that our young people take by choosing to change their lives, and the risks we are taking with them and with our partners. Roca is more focused than ever on the young people at the highest risk – young men and young mothers who are not yet ready, willing or able to participate in programming and change their lives.

At the end of this fiscal year, we are proud of their accomplishments. 711 high-risk young men were engaged in Roca’s Intervention Model, and even though they are not mandated to be with us and are not ready for change, 76% stayed with Roca. 270 young men were enrolled in our Transitional Employment Program, and learned hard and soft job skills. Of the 238 young men who completed the intensive two years of the model, 87% had no new arrests, and 88% held their jobs for 6 months or more.

Our young mothers’ program has grown a lot as well. 141 young mothers were served this year. We’ve placed 48 of them in jobs, and 94% of these young mothers held their job more than 6 months. Our Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT) curriculum was implemented this year both with our young mothers and our young men.

We invite you to read more about our close work with police departments, with employers and with other partners in the full 2016 Annual Report. For the data-savvy among you (we know you are there!), we also share our comprehensive Fiscal Year 2016 Performance Benchmarks and Outcomes Report. And of course, there’s even more on our website!

Meet Josh.

On the first day Josh walked into Roca, two 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 Cognitive Behavioral Theory (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. We have no doubt that all of this is within his reach.


Teaching High School Education Anywhere and Everywhere

“Even if they’re not going to answer, it’s important that they know that I was on the other side of the door,” shares Kristen, Educator at Roca Boston. She doesn’t wait for young people to come to her HiSET classes – she goes out to them, relentlessly. “’Relentless Outreach’ means me knocking on the door, hearing them inside and just knowing that they know that I showed up for them.”

Kristen first read about Roca in a Springfield newspaper, and soon joined the Roca Chelsea team. From her first day, even before she figured out how the Model works, she loved it: “It was very clear that guys felt comfortable here, which automatically made me believe that what people were doing here was real.”

Soon after Roca Boston opened, Kristen joined the new team. One of her main challenges was teaching young men who had very high safety issues, due to their gang and street involvement. “I’ve taught at a hospital’s cafeteria, in libraries, one of the universities has a community room we can use, and also parks, coffee houses, restaurants – anywhere where they would feel comfortable.” When we ask why she works so hard to find new locations, Kristen explains: “The bottom line is that they are usually trapped in their house and if I can get them out of their house, they can actually do something productive.”

This format of “portable programming” is an innovative way to meet young people where they are, and accomplish whatever is possible for them, regardless of safety issues, regardless of educational level. Kristen carries in her backpack classes for all levels. “If they are really close to the test level, I push and I push and I push with them. I’m at their house multiple times a week whether they are answering or not because they are so close. If someone can’t type or read, I think, what do they need to get a job and hold a job? They need to be able to read instructions, they need to be able to type something, it’s about quality of life at that point.”

Kristen continues to help young men reach the finish line, one class at a time. In the past year 9 high-risk young people completed their HiSET tests with her, and she continues to teach classes wherever she can. “I’m not mad about the time you didn’t answer the door, I’m just trying to do what we’re trying to do today.”

Washington Recognizes Roca’s Innovations

The White House and the National Institute of Justice lead the way in exploring effective models for young adults in the justice systems – and highlight Roca as a pioneer in the field. The effort to rethink young adult justice is now a national movement.

 My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), President Obama’s initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential, hosted Roca at the White House this month. At a “What Works Showcase,” MBK featured 33 of the nation’s premier interventions and organizations working to achieve MBK’s goals. Roca was proud to be included as one of the evidence-based programs helping keeping kids on track and giving them second chances. Shannon, Adrian and Sulai from our Boston team represented Roca at this event.

The Environmental Scan of Developmentally Appropriate Criminal Justice Responses to Justice-Involved Young Adults is the most comprehensive national report on programs and interventions for young adults in the justice system. Published by the National Institute of Justice, the environmental scan found 66 programs targeted at this age group. Roca was highlighted as one of the most innovative programs in the country.

Roca is privileged to be featured in these important efforts to find evidence-based solutions for young adults in the justice system. We are inspired by the other programs featured, and hope that together we can help find effective ways to serve more communities and young people.

A Special Thank You: Healthy Families

For the past 18 years, Roca has had the privilege of partnering with The Children’s Trust, operating the Harbor Area Healthy Families Program. It was our honor to serve young families in the communities north of Boston through this tremendously important home visiting program.

Over 2,500 young families received Roca’s Healthy Families home visits since 1998. These home visits provided family support and coaching, which wrap around first-time parents and help them create stable, nurturing environments for their children.

Roca remains an avid supporter of the home visiting model. Our home visitors were privileged to meet so many young people in the years Roca hosted the Healthy Families program, and helped them develop parenting skills, overcome challenges and set personal goals.

We have learned, grown and developed in these 18 years of work with The Children’s Trust. Roca will continue to refer young mothers who are receptive to home visits to other Healthy Families providers in the area.

A Partner, A Leader: Thanking Retiring Sheriff Michael J. Ashe

You don’t need to be a Hampden County resident to know this Sheriff. For the past 41 years, Sheriff Michael J. Ashe has led the county to explore new ways to serve its residents. For Roca Springfield, Sheriff Ashe was there even before day one: giving advice, opening doors, leading by example.

Last month, Roca had the honor of hosting an event to thank Sheriff Ashe for all his work with us. In Roca’s 29 School St. building in Springfield – named after the Sheriff and his brother, Jay – Roca celebrated this event with partners and friends. Chris Judd, the Director of Roca Springfield, expressed what so many of us feel: “Roca Springfield is so blessed to have you in our corner… We can only hope our relationship with the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department continues to thrive for the next 41 years.”

And indeed, there’s a lot to be thankful for. Roca’s Intervention Model is based on close partnerships with criminal justice agencies, and the Sheriff Departments in each of our communities are lead partners. Sheriff Ashe was exactly the kind of partner we hope for wherever we go – cares deeply about the work, and was not afraid to find new ways to help young people change their lives. “He’s not just any sheriff, but one who would change the world,” Molly Baldwin said at the event, “He continues to learn and to lead in so many ways, and has helped so many people.”

Telling Our Story: New Animation Video, New Website

A couple of months ago we shared with you Roca’s 2-minute animation video, and today we add our new website. We hope they will help you learn more about the changes young people make at Roca every day.

In the past few months, we have been working on new ways to tell our story. We started with the Roca 101 animation video, with the nearly-impossible mission of capturing our Intervention Model and our daily work in two minutes. Planet Nutshell, a Cambridge-based animation studio, was our partner in this journey. Josh and his team spent time with us in circles, talked with young people, toured the building, and went to the drawing board. We’ve exchanged scripts, storyboards, designs and animations, and drove each other crazy until Andre and Eric were born. They feel so much a part of Roca, that we sometimes think we see them in the hallways!

Our new website was another opportunity to think about all of you – friends, partners and supporters of Roca. We asked ourselves what we need to do to make sure you have easily-accessible answers to all your questions about Roca. We wanted to bring to the front our young people and their accomplishments, and give you all the information you need – from financials, to data, to the latest news from Roca. Whether you’re new to Roca or have known us for years – you’re always welcome. Dive in!

Roca extends a special thank you to some generous donors for giving in this quarter!*

  • Anonymous
  • Frank Reed and Margaret Jane Peters Memorial Fund I
  • Highland Street Foundation
  • James W. Rollins Charitable Trust
  • The Kresge Foundation
  • State Street Foundation
  • Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc.
  • Yawkey Foundation

*All this in addition to the generous foundation, individual, and corporate support over the last quarter.

Issue 1

Dear Roca friends, partners and supporters,

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to our new newsletter, Roca Ink. As much as you love the name, I know you will love the content – this is our way to keep you up to date with everything that is going on at Roca! And as always with Roca, there’s a lot.

In this issue, you will learn about our newest site in Lynn (we’re growing!), a beautiful partnership between the Young Mothers Program and CVS, the artwork prepared by our young people in Chelsea, and Goldman Sachs’ help in their annual volunteer day at Roca. We’ve also included another opportunity to watch the courageous remarks we heard this year at our Annual Breakfast – I just watched all of it again, so inspiring!

I also wanted to share with you that I had the privilege of speaking at Lesley University’s commencement this year. It was funny to put a cap and a gown on again, but it gave me the opportunity to share with the graduating class some of my thoughts on justice, and how we can get there.

We always want to hear from you, learn from you and find new ways to help young people transform their lives. So stay in touch, give us feedback, support Roca and get involved!

All the best,
Molly Baldwin,
Founder & CEO

Roca Opens a New Site in Lynn

Roca will serve as many as 100 high-risk young men in Lynn from its newest site, opened last month. The city’s leadership joined Roca for the ribbon cutting ceremony, led by Chris Mullins, a Roca participant. Since 2014, Roca has served Lynn’s young men from its headquarters in Chelsea, and Chelsea will remain the home site of the Lynn operations. From the new offices, Roca will operate a work crew as part of Roca’s Transitional Employment Program, and will offer HiSET, Cognitive Behavioral Treatment (CBT) and workforce readiness classes.

Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger offered a warm welcome. “To me, this is a huge boost to the city,” he said at the event. Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins, Senator Thomas McGee, Rep. Brendan Crighton, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Jamie Cerulli, Lynn Housing Authority, Eastern Bank and the Tower Foundation, all joined the celebrations. Dozens of Roca partners in the court, probation, Catholic Charities, North Shore Career Center, LYSOA, SSYI and others came to check out the new space as well.

“We already serve fifty young men through the Pay for Success Project, and we are reaching out to many more through the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative”, explained Emily Fish, the Assistant Director leading the Lynn program. “Our goal is to reach 100 young men, and our youth workers are spending days and nights in the streets to bring them in.”

Support Roca’s newest site in Lynn today.

CVS Pharmacy and Roca Young Mothers Program Celebrate Exciting Partnership

Eight young mothers graduated from the first Roca-CVS Pharmacy Technician training, paving the way for another group starting in the fall. The 10-week training offers not only a job but a career in pharmacy. “It has been an incredibly successful pilot,” said Jonathan DaSilva, Regional Learning Center Manager for CVS Health, who instructed the course with Lois Contreras from Roca. “All eight mothers who started this program have graduated successfully, and Lois’ individual work with each one of the mothers is a major part of this success.”

Among the graduating class was Ann-Marie Taylor, a 21-year-old mother to a 2-year-old son, who has already started working at a CVS Pharmacy in Charlestown. “The training completely changed what I want to do with my life,” she said. “It gave me a job with a real option for career growth, and I can already see what future trainings are open for me at CVS Pharmacy and how they will help me promote my career and education.”

Gail McDonough, Chief Business Development Officer at Roca, agrees. “Pharmacies across the country need talented employees and these young mothers deserve this wonderful opportunity to start their career.” For Roca’s High Risk Young Mothers Program, which will grow this year from 100 to 150 mothers, this is a promising new step. “We have exciting partnerships with new employers underway and we are always looking for additional employment partners that provide pathways to quality training and employment opportunities,” Gail concludes.

Tyler King Receive’s Peace Award At Roca’s Annual Breakfast

What an inspiring morning at Roca’s 11th Annual Breakfast! We had Governor Baker’s important words about criminal justice reform, Roca Participant Tyler King’s amazing speech about his journey at Roca, San Francisco’s District Attorney George Gascon’s highlight of his bold work, Dan Lyons’ wonderful support, Sheriff Tompkins and Kendra Sanon’s hilarious emceeing and, as always, Molly’s vision and leadership, calling us all to take risks for young people.

Thank you all who joined us that morning! Your support, partnership and commitment to Roca make our work possible, and give hundreds of young people each year the opportunity to change their lives. The last year has been a tremendous year of learning, growth and accomplishment for our young people, and none of this could have happened without you.

Check out some photos from this great breakfast. If you missed our breakfast, you can still support Roca todayget involved and stay in touch. We look forward to seeing you next year!

Goldman Sachs Volunteer with Roca

For the third year in a row, the Goldman Sachs team joined Roca participants for a full day with our work crews. Goldman are more than the primary investors in Roca’s Pay for Success Project and generous supporters – they are true partners. Year after year, they send us a team of employees who clean parks and streets with us, meet Roca participants, sit with us in peacemaking circles and learn about our nation-leading high risk Intervention Model.

Two and a half years into Roca’s Pay for Success Project, we’ve learned a great deal. Goldman Sachs goes way beyond making this learning process fruitful and inspiring. Together, we study Roca’s data on the project, explore new ways to improve our work, and take up another notch our understanding of social investment. As Gold Sponsors of our Annual Breakfast, Goldman Sachs supports Roca even beyond the Pay for Success Project.

This year, the Goldman team met some of the most courageous young mothers in Roca’s High Risk Young Mothers Program. In work crews, in circles and over lunch, Goldman had the opportunity to see why we are so excited about this program. Thank you Team Goldman for coming over!

Volunteer with Rocasupport our Young Mothers Program and learn more today!

Roca is Going Artsy at the Chelsea Art Walk

Artwork created by young men during Roca Chelsea’s Paint Night was displayed at last month’s Chelsea Art Walk as well as a stunning mural created by Roca’s young mothers with local artist, Laura Smith. Hundreds of visitors buzzed through Roca, grabbed a home-made fruit parfait, learned about Roca’s work and, of course, watched the art.

“Some guys tell me they haven’t painted anything since elementary school,” shares April Spataro, a Roca youth worker leading the Paint Nights. But the art classes are not just for fun – like many activities at Roca, they are yet another opportunity to practice Roca’s Cognitive Behavioral Treatment (CBT) curriculum, developed together with Massachusetts General Hospital. “Two core skills of the CBT curriculum are learning to ‘fill up your tank’ with pleasant events, and practicing how to be present instead of thinking about the past and the future all the time,” April explains. “This is exactly what we practice in Paint Night.”

Also displayed in the Art Walk was a beautiful mural, created by nearly 30 Roca young mothers with the direction of the artist Laura Smith. Through six weeks of work, each young mother contributed to the mural a piece that represents her own journey of growth and development. A cactus, a rose and a flower were part of the images captured in the mural. In a piece written by the artist on the process, she quotes one of the young mothers, who now completes her education with Roca. This young mother chose the image of seeds to describe her own story: “I am working my butt off right now to graduate high school while raising my little girl.  It’s like I’m planting all of these tiny little seeds and some are finally breaking through the ground.”

Support Paint Nights and Roca’s Young Mothers Program today!

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Roca extends a special thank you too some generous donors for giving in the last quarter!*

  • REDF
  • John Hancock
  • Harbus Foundation
  • MAXIMUS Foundation
  • Moses Kimball Fund
  • Bushrod H. Campbell and Adah F. Hall Charity Fund
  • Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation
  • Jane’s Trust
  • Amelia Peabody Foundation
  • Roy Hunt Foundation
  • Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation
  • Nordblom Family Foundation

*All this in addition to the generous foundation, individual, and corporate support over the last fiscal year.