Winners of the 2020 statewide “Safe Jobs for Youth” Poster Contest are each taking home cash prizes funded by Commonwealth Corporation for their creative posters that highlight the importance of workplace safety and health for teens.
Betsy O’Reilly, 16, of Mashpee, won first place and $500, and her poster will be printed and distributed to schools and other youth organizations throughout the state. Katherine Benninger, 17, of Newton, won second place and $300, and Abigail Johnson, 18, of Templeton, won third place place and $100.
Receiving honorable mentions were Jezebel Abreu, 16, of Lawrence; Noel Alvero, 16, of Quincy; Corinna Dolan, 15, of Ayer; Hailey Garvey, 15, of North Chelmsford; Katelyn Haley, 18, of Templeton; Kassidy Letton, 17, of North Dartmouth; and Renea Smart, 15, of Quincy.
The Poster Contest has been a way of asking teens to help promote safer work for themselves and their peers. Jobs provide youth with opportunities to gain experience, explore different careers, and make some money. Unfortunately, many teens are injured on the job. In fact, teens have nearly double the rate of work-related injuries than adults.
The project has learned from talking with teens about workplace health and safety that many are not receiving adequate health and safety training from their employers; many teens are working without adequate supervision; and many teens expect to have permanent effects from these injuries that occur at work.
The Massachusetts YES Team includes Commonwealth Corporation; the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General; Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; Massachusetts
Department of Industrial Accidents; Massachusetts Department of Public Health; Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards; U.S. Department of Labor, including its Wage and Hour Division; and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. MassCOSH is a nonprofit organization that promotes workplace safety through education and policy development and advocacy.
The first remote graduation in the history of JVS Boston began with applause sound effects and ended with a singalong to “Sweet Caroline,” celebrating the 15 new pharmacy technicians who started the training program in-person and finished it in online virtual classrooms due to COVID-19 pandemic, bolstering the healthcare workforce during the global coronavirus public health emergency.
JVS CEO and President Jerry Rubin told the students during the graduation celebration how he marveled at how the “historic group” of students quickly adapted from the classrooms at JVS to remote learning with smiles and patience.
“You persisted in the face of many, many challenges way beyond dealing with new technologies,” Rubin said. “Finding space to study, computer time to study, dealing with a lot of anxiety, in a time of real anxiety, which is not just distracting but genuinely a real barrier. You never lost focus. You persisted in all of this and you succeeded. That proves something that’s very important: that you will be incredible pharmacy technicians.”
Funded by a $250,000 Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly Workforce Success Grant through the CommCorp-administered Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, JVS’s program provides the training to become a Certified Pharmacy Technician with a guaranteed externship placement at one of its participating externship partners: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, CVS, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, South Shore Hospital, Tufts Medical Center, and Walgreens. Upon successful completion of the program and externship, JVS assists participants in getting a job in the Boston area in the retail or hospital sector.
Rubin noted that JVS was founded in 1938 during the Great Depression, and that the students were graduating into a world of unknowns and uncertainty.
“We need a new generation of frontline healthcare workers now more than ever and you’ve proven that you can do this,” he said. “There are a few things we can be sure of. One is we will recover … We’ve been here before and we’ve recovered before. We know this job market will improve, but know that we’re going to be there with you as you succeed at finding jobs and matching with the employers who are going to need you.”
Ted Mower of CVS Health called JVS its “blue chip partner” in putting in the work to develop the training program, and thanked them for not pausing when the pandemic caused workplaces to shut down in the name of public health.
“Now more than ever we find ourselves in a time when qualified, capable and passionate medical professionals have never been so significant,” Mower told the graduates. “Everyone I spoke with confirmed with me that nothing would get in their way. When I think about integrity, living up to your promises, boy, did you do exactly that.”
Program instructor John Bluestein, who teaches mathematics and law as part of the program, noted that the training curriculum is challenging on its own, and then pandemic struck, forcing the students to pivot to online learning.
“I did not plan for a pandemic. Neither did the other instructors, and neither did the JVS staff,” Bluestein said. “We wouldn’t have been successful without the students. The students really pushed us to keep going forward and deliver the lessons and learning materials. Printing at home, borrowing laptops — it was impressive how ingenious some of the students were. Thank you to the students. If it wasn’t for your drive, this never would have been successful.”
Student Cory Blamire, with a humorous pharmacy jargon-laden speech, said that his fellow graduates showed “moxie” in being able to come this far under such circumstances, likening it to scaling a mountain.
“This moxie can only be found when you have a group that’s come together in common cause,” Blamire said. “No one climbs Everest in total isolation. Appreciate the gifts [JVS staff] have given us and don’t squander them. If life is coming as you fast, work seems too hard …. remember that you built up your adaptive defense system by graduating. Moxie is one substance that can’t be controlled or subject to limited refills.”
Leadership is like being the first egg cracked in an omelette.
That’s one of the messages about assertiveness that Cherrell McKoy picked up as a trainee in a workforce leadership program that’s now being offered to employees at Brockton-based Father Bill’s & MainSpring, the nonprofit that provides shelter to the homeless and supportive housing throughout southeastern Massachusetts, including the emergency shelter in the downtown area. McKoy, of Boston, said she’s taken about five classes thus far in the past two months through the workforce training program that’s being funded by the state.
“Now I can utilize what I have learned and feel comfortable to apply for a leadership position with confidence,” said McKoy, a housing case manager, who’s been employed for two years at Father Bill’s. “Not only have I been able to apply those leadership traits to my job, I’ve been able to apply them to my personal life in being a mother, a wife, a daughter and friend. … The three important things I learned from the training are that leaders are teachable, leaders build morale and leaders lead with a mission. At Father Bill’s our mission is no one should be homeless, and I truly believe in that.”
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito came to the training room at Father Bill & MainSpring’s offices on Belmont Street in Brockton on Thursday to announce a total of $10 million in matching funds granted by the state, mostly for private businesses, with 96 grants awarded to 133 employers, which she said will be used to provide training to around 6,500 employees
Guest post by Massachusetts Workforce Association Associate Director Raija Vaisanen
This year, frontline MassHire Career Center staff received training on addiction recovery and trauma-informed approach to mental health to better understand the barriers that some customers are facing as they look for jobs in a tight labor market.
With low unemployment and a shrinking workforce, those who are still looking for work face some of the greatest challenges to obtaining and keeping a job. Working with these job seekers takes more time and a more sophisticated understanding of what they are going through to connect them with jobs that will support their health and recovery. At the same time, job developers need support in communicating with businesses about these workers’ needs and matching these job seekers with employers who understand and offer a supportive work environment.
Participants in the training found Cluff’s expertise and the information shared extremely helpful in increasing their understanding of addiction and recovery. Cluff shared resources that are available for those suffering from addiction and for family and those who care for them; these were found to be particularly useful for participants. Most participants stated they would recommend this training to their colleagues. CommCorp is currently working with MassHire and BSAS on a follow-up to this training, focusing on how to apply this information in day-to-day career center work.
The second training, Transforming Services through a Trauma-Informed Approach, was facilitated by the Central MA Recovery Learning Community KIVA Center. This training was also held in five locations across the state. This training introduced the relationship between trauma and mental health struggles. The facilitators explored what a trauma-informed approach is, why it is important, and how it relates to career center staffs’ work with customers who may have mental health struggles.
In many cases, participants found that they were already implementing a trauma-informed approach in their work with job seekers. The training also helped participants consider how the environment in which they meet with job seekers can be made more comfortable for those with histories of trauma. Many participants reported that their level of understanding what trauma is and how it can impact someone’s life increased through this training. Most participants stated that they would recommend this training to their colleagues, as well.
CommCorp is currently working with MassHire on additional training for career center staff in 2020. As associate director of the Massachusetts Workforce Association (MWA), I see how fruitful this partnership is for the state’s workforce system and MWA looks forward to partnering with CommCorp and MassHire to make sure timely and in-depth training such as this continues for our members.
The first group of students to enter JVS Boston’s Food Industry Training program, funded by a $325,000 Learn to Earn grant awarded by Commonwealth Corporation, received their ServSafe certificates at a graduation ceremony at Spaulding Hospital in Cambridge on Jan. 8.
Program graduate Alix told attendees at the Wednesday afternoon ceremony how she and her fellow classmates would spend two days a week in a classroom setting, learning about food safety, receiving financial coaching, and developing the soft skills employers seek in the workforce like time management. Three days a week, the students would work in the Spaulding Hospital kitchen, where Alix worked on the line plating food for patients and assisting in the preparation and proportioning of meals.
Learning and working in a professional setting helped Alix overcome her anxiety about meeting new people, working in an unfamiliar environment and stretching herself beyond her comfort zone.
“This led to me able to initiate tasks more independently and confidently,” she said. “In the past, I would not be vocal when I found myself stuck in situations where I needed clearer instructions. This became a bad habit of mine, because I stopped advocating for myself and I became timid while at work. Throughout the program, I was guided by JVS staff and learned the importance of self-advocacy, thus improving my work ethic.”
JVS President and CEO Jerry Rubin spoke about serving on Governor Charlie Baker’s task force that examined how to address chronic unemployment in Massachusetts, which led to the creation of the Learn to Earn Initiative. He said when that task force was meeting, the state unemployment rate was around 8 percent, as opposed to the 2.5 percent rate today and subsequent tight labor market.
“When we were at 8 percent, it was certainly true we want to bring everyone in, but at 2.5 percent, we not only want to bring everyone in, we have to bring everyone in,” Rubin said, adding that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities continues to be “outrageously high” compared to the overall unemployment rate. “It’s absolutely ridiculous that, in that situation, anyone who has talent and wants bring that talent to work can’t find a job and can’t give those talents to the employer, the community, and of course to themselves for their own improvement. The LTE project that we’ve been involved with and being partnered with Spaulding in trying to address this issue is a real privilege.”
Anthony Britt, Commonwealth Corporation associate director of Sector Strategies, noted that a successful program and continued success for the graduates requires teamwork, which also includes the support of the trainees’ friends and family.
“You have a great team behind you … Whether it’s Micah [Fleisig, JVS manager of Transitions to Work], your coaches or someone from Spaulding, I encourage you to stay in touch with them to support you,” Britt said. “There’s no shame in looking back at your team and getting support. Your experience helps inform [the initiative]. You’re five people sitting here, but you’re also [helping] folks across the state who might be in other programs.”
Spaulding Director of Workforce Programs Colleen Moran echoed Britt’s comments on how support from family and friends is critical to program participants’ success, and that as the first group to graduate from the program, their experiences will inform and improve the program.
“It really helps to already have one cohort in to know where the challenges are, where the successes are and to be able to talk to the new students about what you guys are doing,” Moran told the graduates.
Spaulding Patient Service Manager Greg Lesperance lauded the graduates’ dedication to punctuality, focus and professionalism, noting how the group was always looking for the next task that needed to be done when in the kitchen.
“It was encouraging to see how excited you were about the program and how much you wanted to learn — truly inspiration,” Lesperance said. “I received cards from all of you, but it was thanks enough to see the excitement you guys had each and every day. Be assured that the skills you learned are not limited to working in the food service industry. They will serve you well in all that you do.
It’s been a busy year at Commonwealth Corporation! Here’s a look back at some of our accomplishments in 2019:
DYS Art Showcase Raises $7,800 for Youth Artists
More than 400 youth, community leaders and families gathered to celebrate and view art created by youth in Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) programs at the 7th Annual DYS “Share Your Art, Share Your Voice!” event on Tuesday, May 14. Held at WGBH Studios in Brighton, this year’s statewide event featured 260 art pieces for sale created by 100 young artists. All the creativity showcased was developed by youth in the care of DYS (youth in residential programs, in the community, and Y.E.S. youth). Young people submitted artwork for the showcase, were paid for their participation, and could sell their work.
SSYI Expand to Serve Young Women, New Cities
Starting in FY20, proven risk young women will be added to the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI) service population. SSYI also added two new cities this year: Haverhill and most recently North Adams. The initiative began in 11 cities and with the two additions now serves 14 cities.
Beyond School Hours Conference
In February, Charline Alexandre (left) represented CommCorp at the Beyond School Hours national education conference in Atlanta. Charline explained the programs CommCorp offers and how we engage young adults in developing transferable skills useful for seeking employment!
CommCorp and MassHire Collaborate on Addiction and Recovery Training
This year, frontline MassHire Career Center staff received training on addiction recovery and trauma-informed approach to mental health to better understand the barriers that some customers are facing as they look for jobs in a tight labor market. CommCorp partnered with the MassHire Department of Career Services to coordinate and deliver the training this past spring and fall. Both trainings were held across the state in five locations.
Learn to Earn Launches Pilots for People with Disabilities
In the FY19 state budget appropriated additional funding to Learn to Earn line The steering committee asked Comm Corp to support program design and implementation for two new pilots that have an explicit focus on serving people with disabilities who receive public assistance supports. The LTE Steering Committee and CC received eight proposals and awarded $50,000 in Program Design grant awards to two partnerships. After engaging in approximately three months of planning and partnership building activities throughout the late Spring and summer, each partnership was awarded an Implementation grant of up to 2 years for an additional total of ~$600,000.
First-Ever YouthWorks Professional Convenings Held
CommCorp held its first-ever YouthWorks Professional Convenings during August in Worcester and Quincy. These events brought together more than 200 young people who participated in the YouthWorks Summer Jobs program and 70 employers and partners for two days of learning and networking.
YouthWorks Evolves Program Model, RFP YouthWorks is changing to an innovative program model with a tiered approach that is age, stage and path appropriate, building off two decades of commitment to youth. Also, this year YouthWorks released its first single RFP for year round funding, a change from previous practice of release separate summer and year-round RFPs.
Community Service Day
CommCorp spent one April morning helping sort and packing donations at Cradles to Crayons. Between CommCorp and teams from New Balance, Learning Prep and Abington Schools, 433 kids were helped in a few hours.
CommCorp Wins Competitive Governors Association Grant
On behalf of the state, Commonwealth Corporation won a $150,000 grant and consulting support in the National Governors Association’s “Educate for Opportunity” grant competition. This funding will help advance our work to better understand the market of adult learners in Massachusetts, and advance ideas for how state and federal financial aid resources could be better utilized to support adult learners.
Reinventing Work Initiative Presents Phase I Findings, Begins Phase II Design
The Reinventing Work Initiative hosted an event on Oct. 16 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to present its Phase I findings, and on Dec. 10 hosted its first Phase II design session. CommCorp and EOLWD are partnering with the Boston Fed on this initiative to better understand the challenges and opportunities that exist to redesign jobs for lower-income or entry-level workers.
Lifelong Learning RFQ Released On June 12, CommCorp released an RFQ for creating digitally enabled, competency-based training for entry-level health care workers. It’s the first step taken to implement the recommendations of Gov. Charlie Baker’s Commission on Digital Innovation and Lifelong Learning. Funded by a Strada Education Network grant and the Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly Workforce Success Grants, CommCorp will award three $200,000 grants to partnerships of employers and higher education institutions/training organizations.
STEM Research Brief Released at Boston Foundation Event
Hands-on learning, employer partnerships & building skill pathways are among the most important actions the state can take to address the diversity gap in STEM occupations, panelists said at a STEM Week event on Oct. 24 hosted by The Boston Foundation. Secretary Acosta opened the event with an overview of the workforce data in Commonwealth Corporation’s “See Yourself in STEM” research brief, compiled by Evaluation Director Gene White.
BOG is Now L.E.A.D.
The Bridging the Opportunity Gap (BOG) Initiative is now L.E.A.D.: Leadership, Employment, and Advocacy Development. DYS-involved youth are learning to L.E.A.D. as they transition back to their community and attain the skills required to find a job. Through real-work experiences with L.E.A.D. grantees, these youth can practice self-advocacy and self-awareness skills, build relationships with supportive adults and peers, and gain leadership, employability and life skills.
The Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund team conducted a program design process for two grantees who received funding through the second round of Learn To Earn awards. Both programs, JVS and HMEA, intend to serve people with disabilities who are receiving public assistance. Through these engagements, the WCTF team has developed a learning community that includes several members of different state agency partners such as the Department of Transitional Assistance, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Executive Office of Education.
During an initial convening, the WCTF team featured a workshop facilitated by Work Without Limits, a initiative out of the UMass Medical School that aims to increase the employment of people with disabilities through employer engagement, training, consulting, and benefits counseling. At the meeting, Bonnie Rivers, director of employer relations at Work Without Limits, facilitated a session called “Pick A Disability.” This activity is geared toward increasing understanding of the assets and barriers associated with different forms of disability, while highlighting common misconceptions and assumptions. Attendees appreciated the opportunity to reflect on personal and professional experiences as well as how to better serve these populations. Both partnerships have started their first cohorts this fall and we look forward to continued learning over the next two years.
Hands-on learning, employer partnerships and building skill pathways are among the most important actions the state can take to address the diversity gap in STEM occupations, panelists said at a Massachusetts STEM Week event on Oct. 24 hosted by The Boston Foundation.
Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta provided a brief overview of Commonwealth Corporation’s “See Yourself in STEM” research brief, which laid out workforce data that illustrates the lagging diversity in STEM jobs.
For instance, gender representation in Massachusetts STEM jobs is just about equal—49.5% women, 50.5% men—but within the four occupational categories, there are major differences. Women hold 77% of health care practitioner & technician jobs, but only 26% of computer & mathematical jobs and 15% of architecture & engineering jobs. Also, fewer women are receiving engineering or computing degrees and even fewer are pursuing jobs in those fields after attaining such a degree.
Acosta called the figures around women obtaining those degrees and not going into those fields “stunning.” She recently visited a high school junior classroom where students were working on a robotics experiment.
“I looked around the room … there was not one girl in that class. Something’s wrong with that,” Acosta said. “Obviously something is happening to discourage girls from continuing on this path.”
When it comes to race and ethnic representation, 76% of STEM workers in Massachusetts are white, close to the overall state job average of 77%, but like the data around gender, this again masks other differences. Hispanic/Latinx are underrepresented in all STEM occupations, black/African Americans are underrepresented in non-health care occupations, and Asians are overrepresented in the non-health care occupations. As with women when looking at specific STEM degree majors, black/African Americans and Hispanic/Latinx workers tend to have smaller shares of STEM-related degrees and even when they have such degrees, they are less likely to have related STEM jobs.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito stressed in her opening remarks that with Massachusetts’ innovation economy continuing to grow, and with it the number of STEM-related job openings, it is critical to have enough skilled people to fill those jobs. Meeting that demand means accelerating the talent pipeline and diversifying the workforce in the innovation economy.
Accelerating the talent pipeline is a combination of three C’s, Polito said: classroom, curriculum and connections.
“When I was growing up it was more about, ‘here’s the content, I’m going to memorize it and take a test,” she said. “Applied learning, hands-on learning is clearly the best approach to helping kids develop skills content-wise, but also around problem solving and critical thinking. And while we transform the classroom with our capital investments, bringing in CNC machines and 3D printers, we need to think about how to get students into the workplace. That’s what we hear from employers everywhere we go.”
Secretary of Education James Peyser said on the panel that the state’s STEM Advisory Council seeks to provide foundational skills and experiences to all K-12 students—in particular around applied learning—to develop pathways for students and to foster employer partnerships. He cited Massachusetts’ progress on early pathway development through investments via Skills Capital Grants in vocational schools, community colleges, and occupational training programs.
“At some level, the academic community can take us only so far,” Peyser said. “We need to have that connection to the employers who can provide those work-based learning experiences, and then also show students the way to the future as to what their own possibilities can be. These pathways are not just pathways to further study, but toward their career.”
Those pathways don’t always end with obtaining an advanced degree, either. The See Yourself in STEM research brief points out that one out of five STEM jobs only require a postsecondary certificate or associate’s degree.
Travis McCready, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, said a person can get an associate’s degree and work at one of the many growing biomanufacturing plants in Massachusetts with a starting wage of $80,000 a year. Or, someone could work at the Depuy Synthes manufacturing plant in Raynham that manufactures 85% of the artificial knee systems in North America.
“The skill set necessary [for that work] is not a PhD,” McCready said. “We spend a lot of time trying to educate you about the depth and breadth of opportunity in this ecosystem. … Some of this we’ll lay at the feet of our students, but we need to be smarter about what this range of opportunity is so we can continue to coach and encourage our kids.”
Industry recognized credentials are one tool that empowers young people to pursue a career in STEM without necessarily requiring an advanced degree, according to Jackney Prioly Joseph, director of Career Readiness Initiatives at the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education. Those credentials signify the accumulation of technical skills and knowledge useful to employers, and they’re “globally portable,” Prioly Joseph said.
“Currently, we have top notch vocational schools in Mass. What we can do is learn from them,” she said. “Employers look to them to provide them with the employees who have the right skills. If we can expand that to more students in the Commonwealth, we’d see a lot more students being prepared for these jobs.”
It’s also important to help women, people of color and others underrepresented in STEM continue along career pathways once they enter the field, according to Carolina Alarco, founder and principal of BioStrategy Advisors LLC and a co-founder of Latinos in Bio.
Alarco cited a Massachusetts Biotechnology Council report on gender in the workplace that said in entry-level positions, biotechnology and life sciences have a generally even split between men and women. However, at the level of function head and beyond, including C-level and board positions, there is a huge disparity, with 75 percent of the C-level positions in life sciences and 85 percent of the board positions filled by men. It requires a change of culture within companies and training on equal treatment, she said.
“I think that basically reflects a lot of what kids decide to study or not. When they decide to pick a career, they also look at the industry and workplace, and if that particular career is not welcoming to women, they’re going to know that and not want to go into studying for a STEM career,” Alarco said. “I think we can get women who have been successful in STEM careers come to high schools and to encourage other women to pursue STEM careers.”
Hearkening back to the Lieutenant Governor’s remarks on changing the classroom dynamic and evolving curriculum, Burlington Schools Superintendent Eric Conti said that his district is focusing on computational, algorithmic thinking because “we believe it’s the new literacy.” He pointed out that the science pathway of biology, chemistry and then physics introduced in 1890 still exists in schools today, and those topics are only in that order because it was alphabetical.
“It’s not that all these students are new computer scientists, per se,” Conti said. “We want every citizen to be a healthy, learned and moral citizen, and that is going to need some knowledge in computer science because it’s going to impact their lives. Our students need to not only learn how to use the devices … they need to know how the devices work.”
Local and state officials joined Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta, CommCorp staff, MassHire partners and First Student Inc. workers at First Student Inc. in Marlborough on Thursday, Sept. 26 for the announcement of the first-ever round of Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly Workforce Success Grants for FY19 through the Workforce Competitive Trust Fund (WCTF).
The event started with CommCorp’s VP of Sector Strategies Theresa Rowland welcoming attendees and expressing, on behalf the WCTF team, their gratitude for the Governor’s Office and the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOWLD) in assisting with improving business competitiveness by upskilling of current and future workers, as more than $4 million was awarded in the WCTF grants.
The 18 awarded grants, named in memory of Senator Kenneth J. Donnelly, target jobs in healthcare and social assistance (approximately $2.6 million in funding), information technology ($500,000 in funding), and occupations identified in the Commonwealth’s Regional Skills Blueprints. Those occupations include accommodation, food service and hospitality, construction, finance and insurance, and transportation and warehousing.
“[Senator Donnelly] was the lead Senate sponsor of the Middle Skills Act and consistently fought for WCTF funding,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. “It’s only fitting for these set of grants to be named after him.”
Followed by brief words of gratitude from the Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant, Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Carmine Gentile, attendees took a tour of First Student, which transports 5 million students every day across North America, providing full-service transportation and management, special-needs transportation, route optimization and scheduling, maintenance, and charter services for 1,100 school district contracts.
More than 400 youth, community leaders and families gathered to celebrate and view art created by youth in Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) programs at the highly anticipated 7th Annual DYS “Share Your Art, Share Your Voice!” event on Tuesday, May 14.
Held at WGBH Studios in Brighton, this year’s statewide event featured 260 art pieces for sale created by 100 young artists.
All the creativity showcased was developed by youth in the care of DYS (youth in residential programs, in the community, and Y.E.S. youth). Young people submitted artwork for the showcase, were paid for their participation, and could sell their work. This year the event raised $7,887.24— 15.59 percent more than last year.
This event reinforces the Commonwealth’s investment in educational and workforce development for youth in DYS programs. For the last decade, the agency has used arts education as a youth engagement strategy and opportunity for positive youth development.
Outside of the Art Gallery, more youth artwork was displayed featuring programs and community partnerships where guests met and spoke with the artists, learned more about the various services, and participated in hands-on demonstrations and educational activities. Partner booths included Actors’ Shakespeare Project, representing community and residential theater-arts programming; Bridging the Opportunity Gap programs including Diesel Works featuring original handmade metal work for sale; and Exclusive Tees, the youth-led custom silk screen social enterprise run by Commonwealth Corporation – just to name a few.
Gio, a teen who participated in the Diesel Works Welding Program in Holyoke, expressed how grateful he was for the opportunity to learn a new trade. “Because of this program, I plan to pursue a career in welding,” he said. “I never thought I would be interested in this but I actually like it a lot. It’s fun.” Gio explained that without the program, he probably would be doing something he shouldn’t.
After viewing the art and networking, attendees were led into the WGBH auditorium for an array of live performances by the youth. First welcomed by DYS Deputy Commissioner Ruth Rovezzi who stated how proud she is of the youth and acknowledged their hard work, the audience watched performances that included hip-hop dance, poetry and rap, drumming and singing.
For the past seven years, Commonwealth Corporation has supported the DYS Arts Showcase and would like to thank everyone who participated and made a purchase. If you weren’t able to buy any pieces, no worries! An online store will be up in a few weeks of youth Arts available for purchase!