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Posts Tagged ‘youth’

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Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Breaktime Café cofounders Tony Shu (left) and Connor Schoen hosting a kickoff launch party in Boston for a nonprofit that helps homeless youth learn job skills.

Not sure why so many recent posts have had a food angle. I’ve certainly been drawn to stories about food. In this article, a couple young guys who volunteered with homeless youth saw a way to help them move beyond homelessness with a bit of skills training and lots of moral support.

Back in December, as Max Jungreis wrote at the Boston Globe, the nonprofit was just getting set up.

Breaktime Cafe doesn’t look like much. It’s 1,500 square feet of typical office space on Portland Street, with gray carpeting, off-white walls, and tables shoved into corners. But by the time the cafe opens in the spring, its founders hope to transform the office into a resource for Boston’s homeless youth.

“The opening will mark a major expansion of a six-month pilot program founded last year by a pair of Harvard University undergraduates. It offered a handful of homeless youth on-the-job training as baristas, with the goal of bringing them into the workforce and out of homelessness. …

“The plan is to employ up to 15 homeless youth at a time. They’ll serve sandwiches, seasonal drinks, and coffee made from ethically sourced beans. That will be triple the number served in the pilot program, and a small but meaningful chunk of the estimated 325 people between the ages of 18 and 24 who were sleeping in Boston’s shelters and streets in January.

“Schoen said Breaktime has raised about $145,000, with much of the money coming from corporate sponsors and charitable trusts, such as Cambridge Trust and the Harnisch Foundation. He said the cafe also has attracted hundreds of individual donations through crowdfunding campaigns. Donated legal advice, accounting, and other services have helped defray costs. …

“Employees will earn $15 to $18 an hour. Aside from learning how to brew coffee, Schoen and Shu want to teach them financial literacy and professional skills, like writing a resume, personal budgeting, and interview techniques. Part of that will come through one-on-one mentorships with professionals from the cafe’s sponsors, many which are financial institutions like BlackRock and Eastern Bank.

“The cafe will occupy ground-floor space at 170 Portland St. Shu and Breaktime cofounder Connor Schoen, 21, are renting it from Community Work Services, the local branch of the national job-training nonprofit Fedcap, at a ‘very competitive rate,’ Schoen said. …

“The project dates to when Schoen and Shu met as volunteers at Y2Y Harvard Square, a homeless youth shelter run by Harvard students. Shu was inspired to volunteer by his mother, who as a young immigrant to Kansas from China often slept in her car.

‘I knew that it was my duty and my opportunity to use the skills and the resources that I have in front of me in order to pay it forward,’ Shu said. …

“[Schoen] learned that up to 40 percent of homeless adults identify as LGBTQ, according to one study.

“ ‘It just immediately became something I was really passionate about, and indignant about,’ Schoen said. ‘The fact that people are being kicked out of their homes for just coming out just doesn’t make any sense to me.’

“The two men realized that for many struggling young people trying to gain a foothold, there is a tricky period between the end of a work-training program and when they land a paying job.

“ ‘[Where] do they go after that to bridge them to the broader work force and sustainable careers?’ Shu said. ‘That’s what Breaktime does.’

“The business partners, who plan to run the cafe full time after graduating, impressed Brittany Butler, who runs the Harvard Kennedy School’s Social Innovation and Change Initiative, a student mentorship program that birthed Breaktime’s pilot. …

“Erica Grube-Grumt, 26, who graduated from the pilot program in March 2019 and now serves in the Navy — as well as on the new cafe’s advisory board — said it helped to build her self-confidence.

“ ‘A lot of people who are homeless, they feel unheard,’ Grube-Grumt said. ‘They feel like they’re in their own little corner on the street just begging for change, or begging for something to change. To finally be able to step on the pedestal and tell people what it’s like firsthand . . . can really make a provocative change.’ ”

More at the Globe, here.

You may also be interested to read about Land of a Thousand Hills in Lynn and Breaking Grounds (“changing lives one cup at a time”) in Peabody, doing similar work with young people and people with disabilities.

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Homeless Young People

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Photo: Tom Parsons on Unsplash
Concern for homeless youth continues to grow.

Since I read Sarah Smarsh’s memoir Homeland, I have had to recognize that my difficult childhood was not as difficult as many other people’s. And my difficulties were never exacerbated by the relentless poverty Smarsh’s farming family experienced despite always working hard.

Still, I identified with some aspects of her story, like the wish to run away. In the book, Smarsh would decide to live with a different relative from time to time, which seemed to help her get her head together for a while. I never ran away, but even as an adult, I used to fantasize about ways a child might do that successfully. I finally concluded it’s not possible, despite The Boxcar Children and their apparent self-sufficiency.

It may not be possible to do so successfully, but children and teens do run away. Tristan Hopper and Kaitlin J. Schwan write about youth homelessness in Canada at The Conversation and suggest some ways to help them.

“Despite decades of policy and programming, youth homelessness remains an urgent issue in many communities across Canada. [Twenty] per cent of people experiencing homelessness are youth. Particular groups — Indigenous youth, racialized youth and youth who identify as LGBTQ+ — are at increased risk of homelessness due to intersecting forms of structural and systemic inequity. …

“Given this, there has been an increased focus on homelessness prevention across Canada and globally. … Research shows that meaningful and accessible activities like sports and arts can have significant impacts on youth social connectedness, better developmental outcomes, improved mental health and recovery from trauma. …

“Youth homelessness is a complex social issue affecting people between the ages of 13-24 who are living independent of parents or caregivers and do not have the means to acquire safe and secure housing. …

“A key component of youth homelessness prevention is not only preventing youth from experiencing homelessness in the first place, but also preventing young people from re-entering life on the streets. …

“Social exclusion, loneliness and limited social networks are particularly common issues for those who have recently left homeless status. These experiences powerfully contribute to mental health decline, substance use, feelings of hopelessness and subsequent returns to homelessness.

“Young people exiting homelessness may be housed in locations that are isolated from services, community centres and childcare. This distance can create barriers to accessing meaningful activities and can present challenges to social and political inclusion.

“All young people deserve stable and safe housing, and also the opportunity to be engaged in meaningful activities, [which include] resources that encourage social inclusion … Social inclusion may also mitigate risks of eviction. For example, neighbourhood groups may help navigate conflicts with landlords. This inclusion may help in the development of a new identity as young people re-articulate their sense of selves in a new community.

“Some studies show that youth experiencing homelessness view artistic activity and sports engagement as absolutely critical to their wellbeing, recovery and exits from homelessness. … Recreational sport participation can have several physical, psychosocial, emotional and developmental benefits. … However, for sport programming for homeless youth to be purposeful, the social, political and cultural barriers to participation must be addressed, including time and place of programming, cost of access and cultural acceptance.

“Research has shown that for Indigenous youth, re-connection with cultural practices — including sports — can be a critical component in connectedness and meaning. … We need to [invest] in frontline prevention programming that includes sports and arts activities driven by the needs and interests of the young people they serve.”

More at The Conversation, here. (I believe social scientists like these are doing good work, but their writing is awfully dry. For more-engaging and specific writing on youth in trouble, try UTEC, here.)

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Photo: Hayley Madden/Spread the Word
Theresa Lola is the new young people’s laureate for London. Her writing has been described as “breathtakingly beautiful.”

Poetry will survive at least one more generation, judging from the numbers of young people who are enjoying it and even buying poetry books.

Sanjana Varghese writes at the Guardian, “Poet Theresa Lola, named the new young people’s laureate for London, says she hopes to use the role to help the capital’s demonised youth to find confidence in their voice.

“The 24-year-old British-Nigerian from Bromley, south London, studied accounting and finance at university before turning to poetry. She is the third young people’s laureate, after Caleb Femi and Momtaza Mehri. The joint winner of the 2018 Brunel international African poetry prize, her debut collection, In Search of Equilibrium, was published in February, and was described as breathtaking by author Bernardine Evaristo. …

“ ‘It’s easy for us to demonise young people and social media,’ [Lola] said. ‘Poetry was instrumental for me, to find my voice and to find my confidence, and hopefully it can do that for other young people too.’

“Sales of poetry books have increased over the last three years, hitting an all-time high of [$15 million in the UK] in 2018. Two-thirds of poetry buyers are now under 34, with teenage girls and young women identified as the biggest consumers last year. …

“ ‘A lot of young people are seeing that yes, [poetry] is reflective of their experiences and upbringing. They’re getting to understand that [it] exists anywhere. I’m hoping to meet so many different young people and help them see the poetry in their lives,’ Lola said.

“ ‘London is so important to me, especially for my craft – it’s such an eclectic city. It inspires me to be a form of myself in every poem.’ …

“The young people’s laureate title was established by writer development agency Spread the Word in 2016. Lola … will work on four residencies around London and a PoetryLab, which aims to nurture talented young poets in the capital.

“Spread the Word director Ruth Harrison said: ‘At a time of political uncertainty, when young people’s lives, concerns and aspirations are often ignored and dismissed, it is vital that their voices are heard by those in power.’ ” More.

My grandchildren are big on finding words that rhyme. Not that a poem has to rhyme, but sometimes that’s where nascent poets get hooked. I have made up some silly poems with the kids while driving home from school, and I expect they’ll always get a kick out of making words go together in surprising ways.

 

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Photo: English National Opera
Young people have fun participating in the English National Opera’s Opera Squad.

Anything that engages young people in the arts — and helps them to start on a lifetime devotion — has my vote. As arts organizations struggle to increase their base of enthusiasts and bring in a new demographic, they might look at the idea of “free.”

Mark Brown writes at the Guardian that as of last December the English National Opera will “offer under-18s free Saturday night tickets in what it has called a ‘seismic’ initiative to attract the next generation of fans. …

“Stuart Murphy, the former channel controller of the youth channel BBC Three who joined ENO as CEO in March, said the initiative stemmed from the company’s core values.

“ ‘We were founded on the belief that opera is for everyone,’ he said. ‘Removing cost as a barrier to entry for under-18s is a seismic leap forward for ENO and for opera as a whole. … We want young audiences to feel alternately passionate, excited and transfixed. We can’t wait to welcome them to the London Coliseum.’

“All the free tickets will be for what might be called the cheap seats in the balcony. But ENO contends the balcony ‘is widely regarded as having acoustically the best seats in the house.’ There will also be no peering round columns as, uniquely, all seats at the Coliseum have unrestricted views of the stage.

“Anyone who is under 16 will need to be accompanied by an adult. But any adult who purchases a full-price ticket in the balcony … will be able to take up to four children for free. Teachers bringing a school group can be accompanied by 10 children for free. Young people aged 16-17 can book one ticket each.

“The tickets will be available for all of the 11 Saturday performances in the spring 2019 season, which includes productions of La Bohème, Akhnaten, The Merry Widow, The Magic Flute, and the new opera Jack the Ripper: the Women of Whitechapel. …

“The ENO initiative will be welcomed by those who argue that the best way to get young people hooked is for them to experience the art form itself.

“Graham Vick, the artistic director of Birmingham Opera Company, has described conventional outreach and education work as a ‘barrier’ to reaching new audiences. ‘You do not need to be educated to be touched, to be moved and excited by opera,’ he said. ‘You only need to experience it directly at first hand with nothing getting in the way.’ ”

Not sure I agree with that last comment. I was 14 at my first opera, La Bohème, and it meant nothing to me. At the very least, I think it would help if kids heard the music in the background at home or school for some days before attending a performance. I could be wrong. No doubt they will all get into Jack the Ripper without help!

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Metro Arts
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student is engaged in a restorative justice program that uses the arts to reach young offenders. Cecilia Olusola Tribble, Community Arts Coordinator of the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, says, “We have been able to work and watch miracles happen every day.”

My friend Diana was the first to explain to me the concept of restorative justice, and I wrote about it here. The idea is to bring a young perpetrator and his or her victim together, if the victim is willing, to learn about the effects of the crime and make restitution. When the process works, the young person turns aside from wrongdoing and keeps a clean record. Today I have a story about how the arts can be part of a restorative justice outreach to youth who are already incarcerated.

Cecilia Olusola Tribble writes at ArtsBlog, “The purpose of the Restorative Justice + the Arts program is to enable artists and arts organizations to provide dynamic program opportunities for youth and families who have interacted with the criminal justice system. Our aim is to equip teaching artists with the tools they need to bolster their practice in ways that lead youth toward productivity, resiliency, and well-being.

“In 2016, photographer and musician Nduka Onwuzurigbo heard about the transformation happening in the juvenile justice system and wanted to create a project with the youth in the detention center.

“Since her election in 2014, Judge Sheila Calloway has been restructuring the juvenile justice system in Metro Nashville/Davidson County to include resources to divert children and families in trouble, providing them creative paths toward a better, brighter, and more productive future. …

“[She] mobilized her team to make sure the children in the detention center were able to participate in the photography project. As that singular project was seeing success with the youth who were incarcerated and had a positive community response, Metro Arts in Nashville approached the judge about establishing an ongoing partnership. Since then, Metro Arts and the Juvenile Court in collaboration with the Oasis Center have been able to build the Restorative Justice + Arts program.

“It costs roughly $88,000 to incarcerate one youth for a year in Nashville. For the same amount of money, we have been able to pitch, build, and pilot the Restorative Justice + Arts program. …

“To start the program, Metro Arts held focus groups with our artist community, grantees, arts educators, and other stakeholders. … Next, Metro Arts spent time in the various departments in Juvenile Court. The focus in the court is in the process of shifting from solely emphasizing penalty to giving children and parents the tools to restore healthy relationships and communities. Judge Calloway has explained Restorative Justice in the following way:

‘Restorative Justice moves the conversation from “Who did the crime & what do they deserve?” to “Who has been harmed?”, “What are their needs?” [and] “Whose obligation is it to fix their harm?” ‘ …

“In FY 2018, the artists have been able to serve 424 youth who have been incarcerated, had other involvement with the court, or who are deemed at-risk due to poverty, school attendance, neighborhood crime, poor school performance, or living in an area where fresh food is scarce. …

“It is because of the partnership between multiple government agencies, youth-centered organizations, arts organizations, and artists that we have been able to work and watch miracles happen every day. We have witnessed youth leaving the detention center and seeking out their yoga and dance teacher. … We have watched the miracle where former gang members admit to shooting at each other, but theater and painting classes have bonded them together as brothers with arms entangled. Our hearts are full at experiencing young folks arguing with the characters of an August Wilson play to make a better choice. …

“This spark came from one artist who asked the question and made the difference.” One and one and 50 make a million. More here.

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Photo: Lisa Marie Summer for the New York Times
A German opera company invited current refugees to be part of its production of “Moses,” lending immediacy to the story of exile.

Powerful stories from any century speak to the human condition in any other century. Thus, for example, the story of exile in the opera “Moses” speaks to the sense of dislocation that today’s refugees experience. To drive home that point, an opera company in Germany has invited current refugees to participate in a production.

Joshua Barone reports at the New York Times, ” ‘We tell the story of Moses because it is actually our story,’ one teenager, a refugee from Afghanistan by way of Iran, said in the Hazaragi dialect to the German-speaking audience at the Bavarian State Opera here on a recent Sunday evening.

“Others chimed in: ‘The story of Moses is also my story,’ they said in French, Kurdish, Greek and Arabic.

“They were the cast of ‘Moses,’ a feel-good yet sobering new production by the Bavarian State Opera’s youth program, written for refugees, children of immigrants and born-and-raised Bavarians.

“In the opera, a mixture of new music by Benedikt Brachtel and adapted excerpts from Rossini’s “Mosè in Egitto” [“Moses in Egypt”], the teenagers tell the story of Moses — common ground for followers of the Bible, Torah and Quran — with Brechtian interludes about refugee experiences and current events.

“The director Jessica Glause, who created the libretto based on interviews with refugees in the cast, has concocted a blend of humor, horror and youthful energy that hardly feels like a didactic documentary about Europe’s refugee crisis. Behind the scenes, ‘Moses’ has provided a way to learn German and make friends — in short, to make the process of migration a little less painful. And audiences have responded favorably. …

“Theater about the refugee crisis has proliferated in Germany since migration into the country reached its peak in 2016. But rarely has the hot-button issue — which continues to threaten Chancellor Angela Merkel’s power and fuel the rise of the far-right party Alternative for Germany, or AfD — entered the realm of opera, much less children’s opera. …

“Ms. Glause, who had volunteered on boats in the Mediterranean, also wrote the libretto for ‘Noah,’ after interviewing many of the same young refugees who are in ‘Moses.’ She described the process — hearing stories of loss, danger and fear from teenagers — as acting as both an artist and a counselor.

“Among the people she spoke with were Ali Madad Qorbani, a young man from Afghanistan who fled to Iran, then Europe, after his father had disappeared; and Zahra Akhlaqi, also from Afghanistan, whose mother came to Europe first while she and her sister waited in Iran, where, she said, they were forbidden from going to school but would dress up like students at home and play pretend.

“Now, their lives are slightly more stable, though just as precarious as any refugee’s. …

“There are still monologues of how and why some of the cast members came to Europe, but much of the material is about reconciling their faiths and cultures with those of Germany — including one humorous passage about trying German beer for the first time. But they also describe how they don’t always feel welcome, such as a scene in which the plagues in Moses’s story give way to one person describing signs near Munich that say refugees overrun Germany like locusts. …

“In interviews, [youth program director Ursula Gessat] and Ms. Glause were quick to say that their job is to reflect the world around them, and that it would be irresponsible to ignore the refugee crisis. Indeed, Ms. Glause said that conservative politicians may change their minds if they met the cast of ‘Moses.’

“ ‘I would tell them to come see this show,’ she said. ‘Come hear these stories.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here.

 

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Photo: Talia Herman for The New York Times
Girls wearing traditional dance attire on the Yurok Indian Reservation in Klamath, Calif. Young people are learning to make regalia the old-fashioned way, from materials like elk and deer sinew.

As dedicated tribal members revive customs that were once disparaged, young people are responding. For youth from the Yurok tribe in California, hands-on creation of traditional dance materials has been the starting point for an awakening of cultural pride.

Patricia Leigh Brown writes at the New York Times, “The gathering known simply as ‘Uncle Dave’s camp’ begins at daybreak on the pebbled banks of the Klamath River, the age-old spruce and redwoods on the bluffs shrouded in mist.

“Here on the Yurok Indian Reservation near the Oregon border, so remote that certain areas have yet to receive electricity, young male campers sit on cedar logs while keeping tabs on a river rock heated in a fire. The rock, hand-hollowed and chiseled with basketry patterns, contains a molten glue made from the dried air bladders of sturgeons.

“The syrupy concoction is a crucial ingredient for making feathered headdresses, hide quivers, obsidian-blade sticks and other forms of ceremonial dance ornaments, or regalia, that are at once works of art and living conduits to the spirit world.

“The fishing camp that David Severns, a tribal member, started over 20 years ago has grown into a grass-roots culture camp dedicated to making regalia the old-fashioned way, before mail-order. The source is nature itself — elk and deer sinew, baleen from a whale stranded in the river and delicate fibers from wild irises culled from forested high country. It is part of a broader revival of ancestral ceremonial practices, including dances and songs, among native youths. …

“ ‘Regalia is collective medicine,’ said Mr. Severns, 54, who spends most of April through October sleeping under the stars with the campers and his wife, Mara Hope Severns, 49, from the Kanatak tribe in Alaska. ‘To make them, you’ve got to have a pure heart, because the character of a person is reflected.’ …

“Each spring, Mr. Severns and the young men erect the camp from logs that have washed downstream during winter rains. Soon, the stretch of river known as ‘Blake’s Ripple,’ for his maternal great-grandfather, springs to frenetic life. It’s a place where finely-crafted cedar boxes holding eagle and condor feathers are hollowed out with an adze, and brothers braid each others’ hair. …

“ ‘You wear your culture,’ said Melissa Nelson, a Turtle Mountain Chippewa who is an associate professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University and president of the Cultural Conservancy, a native-led indigenous rights organization. ‘Young people are hungry for meaning,’ she added. ‘The opportunity to do hands-on work with abalone, clam beads, pine nuts and other materials is a thread to a healthier and more sustainable way of being in the world.’ …

“To the Yurok and other tribes, the regalia, resplendent with abalone and the scarlet crests of woodpeckers, are a dazzling life force. ‘It’s just another bird until you pray for it, burn a root for it, have a dance leader bless it — then it’s regalia,’ Josh Meyer, a camper turned teacher, said of the eagle feathers he was assembling on the beach for the Brush Dance, a healing ceremony for sick children. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service makes eagle, condor and some other feathers available for religious and cultural use. …

“ ‘Spirituality is the basis of who we are as a people,’ said Susan Masten, a former president of the National Congress of American Indians who served as Yurok tribal chairwoman. ‘For young people, a strong sense of culture and spirituality helps with whatever they face out in the world.’…

“Mr. Meyers, the teacher, grew up with alcohol in the family and a lot of anger. ‘A lot of us didn’t have father figures in our lives,’ he said. ‘We looked to Dave for that.’

“On his exquisite regalia box, Mr. Meyers chiseled a triangle pattern meant to suggest the back of a sturgeon, burnishing it with a torch to give it a coppery patina. ‘I showed up one day and never left,’ he said of the camp. ‘Making regalia is a big part of who I am.’ ”

More at the New York Times, here.

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Looney Lu

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I was passing the wetlands in Blackstone Park this morning when I stopped for a while to get a better look at a water bird. Was it a heron? What heron is brown? Maybe it was a bittern.

When the bird flew into a tree, I returned to the walking path. That’s when I noticed a young man with a fancy camera parked along the river. I asked him if he was looking for birds.

“No,” he said, “but I can show you what I’m doing if you are interested.”

He told me that he makes videos to encourage young people to get up early and not waste their lives sleeping. He said he wants them to enjoy this beautiful world. He calls himself Looney Lu. He showed me his most recent video, which states that old people sleep all he time but young people shouldn’t. 🙂

Looney Lu’s been taking videos every day since his birthday, but by the time he edits them, he says, they get posted more like every other day.

I was quite taken with his enthusiasm and his early-bird philosophy. I checked out his site and decided to share his first YouTube video. Personally, I’m not offended by the colorful language, but that’s a kind of warning to folks who might be.

I hope you think Looney Lu’s high-energy talk about setting goals is as much fun as I do.

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Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
“You’re free to be yourself here and grow in so many ways,’’ said Phedorah, a worker at More Than Words. Boston landlord Stuart Rose is supporting the nonprofit with low rent in Boston’s pricey South End.

I’ve often thought how a charitable landlord could give new life to a town where empty storefronts are proliferating. Of course, a landlord needs to make a living like anyone else, but supporting artists or worthy causes when he has many buildings can increase the value of all his properties.

Stuart Rose is a landlord offering low rent to a charity, and it isn’t even in a decaying neighborhood. He is really just doing good.

Rose is supporting More than Words, “a nonprofit social enterprise that empowers youth who are in the foster care system, court involved, homeless, or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.”

Megan Woolhouse writes at the Boston Globe, “Raise a toast, the former Medieval Manor, boarded up for more than a year, will come to life again as a sprawling used bookstore with an unusual social mission.

“It will be run by More Than Words, a nonprofit whose employees are youth from troubled backgrounds who often live in foster homes and homeless shelters.

“Moreover, the owner of the building on East Berkeley Street elected to give More Than Words discounted rent instead of giving in to the tide of gentrification washing over this corner of the South End. The five-story brick building is surrounded by some of the most expensive new real estate in the city, with its neighbor, the Troy, charging as much as $4,600 for a unit.

“ ‘This is 100 percent the convergence of everything right in the world,’ said Jodi Rosenbaum, who founded More Than Words 13 years ago. ‘You don’t see that very often.’ …

“The building has been owned by Stuart Rose for decades, who agreed to lease Medieval Manor’s former space to More Than Words at below-market rate for 13 years. Rose declined to be interviewed, saying through a spokesman that he didn’t want to be ‘knighted’ for his good deeds. …

“More Than Words describes itself as a social enterprise, and provides on-the-job training for youth who have faced problems in court, at home, or in school and struggled to find work. More than 70 percent of its youth have been involved with the foster care system and 40 percent in the courts. The teens also receive intensive case management working with counselors, who help them work through issues and identify goals. …

“The first-floor space will need a significant renovation after decades as a bawdy haven for Renaissance meals. More Than Words has launched a $5 million fund-raising campaign, and Rosenbaum said Liberty Mutual has already donated more than $1 million after its chief executive, David Long, visited the facility.”

Read about all the plans at the Globe, here. There’s more on the youth program here. It’s a great organization, and I can say on the basis of numerous visits to the storefront in Waltham, you’re sure to find a good book there.

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Love this story by Leigh Vincola at EcoRI News.

“The Harvest Kitchen Project is one of the many arms of Farm Fresh Rhode Island that keeps local food circulating in our communities. The program takes area youth, ages 16-19, who are involved with juvenile corrections, and puts them to work making sauces, pickles and other preserves.

“The teenagers participate in a 20-week job-readiness program that prepares them for employment in the food industry. The program touches not only on kitchen skills but the on the many aspects of work in the culinary industry, from sales and customer service to local farm sourcing to teamwork and cooperation. …

“For the past several years, Harvest Kitchen has operated out of a commercial kitchen space in Pawtucket.”

But when Pawtucket Central Falls Development (PCF) “approached Farm Fresh with its rehabilitation plan for 2 Bayley St., a downtown [Pawtucket] multi-use building that would include affordable housing, retail space and job-training opportunities, the match seemed perfect.” More  at EcoRI, here.

I’ve been buying Harvest Kitchen’s applesauce at the Burnside Farmers Market, and I’m being completely honest when I say it’s the best applesauce I’ve had in years. That’s partly because I love chunks in my applesauce, but also because it’s sweet with no sugar added. If you return the empty jar, you get 25 cents back on the next jar.

Harvest Kitchen offers cranberry and strawberry applesauce, too. Other products include dried apple slices, peach slices in season, whole tomatoes, pickles with veggies, dilly beans and onion relish.

In addition to PCF, organizations that have helped to make this happen include Rhode Island Housing, RI Department of Children Youth and Families (Division of Juvenile Correction), Amgen Foundation, Fresh Sound Foundation, The Rhode Island Foundation and TriMix Foundation.

Find sales locations here.

Photo: FarmFreshRI

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Dan Holin, who used to run a Concord-Lowell volunteer partnership called the Jericho Road Project, is now director of special projects at UTEC in Lowell. (UTEC doesn’t use the longer title its youth founders originally came up with, but since people ask, it was United Teen Equality Center.)

UTEC describes itself as a nonprofit that “helps young people from Lowell and Lawrence, Mass., trade violence and poverty for social and economic success. It works to remove barriers that confront them when they want to turn their lives around and offers young people paid work experience through its social enterprises: mattress recycling, food services and woodworking.”

On May 15, Acton’s Pedal Power joined members of the Concord-based Monsters in the Basement bicycling club to share their bike-repair expertise with young people who wanted to acquire bikes and learn to maintain them. Holin, a serious biker himself, organized the event to give UTEC young people two things that he said they normally lack: transportation and fun.

At the event, one of them, Sav, recounted his story of change. Before UTEC I never talked to anyone,” he said. “I was a problem child on the streets. I was hanging around with gangs, selling drugs. I don’t do that now. Seven months ago, I moved from a place with nothing positive. Atlantic City. I let my family know I’m ready to live life. It was hard for me to get into something good: I’ve got a lot of tattoos and a record. But I’m in the culinary program here. It’s a family. They make you feel like you are somebody that has a chance. They give me love like a family. They changed my life for the better. There are so many new things to do here. Yesterday I went kayaking.”

More here.

Sav, in sunglasses, got a good bike at UTEC’s bike event in Lowell on May 15. The bike will provide transportation to his job at UTEC. It will also provide some much needed fun.

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In Helsinki, Finland, where young people traditionally leave home at 18 but can no longer afford urban rents, Millennials are applying by the hundreds to live with the elderly.

According to Kae Lani Kennedy at Matador Network, “Retirement homes are serving as more than a community for the elderly. These facilities are providing affordable housing for the city’s growing population of homeless millennials.

“ ‘It’s almost like a dorm, but the people aren’t young. They’re old,’ explains Emil Bostrom, a participant in ‘A Home That Fits,’ a new housing project that allows millennials to move into retirement communities. Bostrom is a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher, and though he has a steady income, it is not enough to compete with 90,000 other renters in a city that has roughly 60,000 affordable rental properties. …

“Bostrom, along with many other young adults, can enjoy discounted rent in exchange for socializing with the seniors in their community. …

“By interacting with a younger generation, the elderly involved with ‘A Home That Fits’ have the opportunity to be engaged in an active and diverse community, instead of being left behind in a forgotten generation.” More here.

And check out a post I wrote about the same phenomenon in Cleveland, here. Both initiatives sound like fun to me.

Video: Seeker Stories

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While we’re on the subject, here are two more poetry events scheduled for spring.

Nancy writes, “Some of your readers may also be interested in the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, in Salem, May 1 – 3. Marge Piercy and Richard Blanco will be among the many well-known poets reading.”

She also notes that if you are near Providence in March, you may want to attend the Poetry Out Loud recitation competition for high school students. The statewide competition will be held at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, with 15 students from schools across Rhode Island reciting poems (by such people as Shakespeare, Mary Oliver, Robert Frost, etc.) in hopes of qualifying for nationals. Info here.

Another inspiring poetry competition for youth is the one depicted by the movie Louder than a Bomb, in which students compose their own poems and perform them. My husband and I were impressed by what the creative opportunity and the discipline did for some at-risk kids. You can get the movie from Netflix, which describes it thus: “Capturing the combined creative spirit of more than 600 Chicago-area teenagers who are participating in what’s billed as the world’s largest youth poetry slam, this documentary highlights the joy of language and the power of collaboration.”

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I love listening to Worcester-based WICN (jazz radio). Bonnie Johnson had an especially good show yesterday, opening with Cynthia Scott and 3rd, 4th & 5th graders of PS32 in Brooklyn, NY, singing “Dream for One Bright World.”

“There is a new day dawning
“The time is now
“The world is ready for a change …

“Let’s teach out children to care
“To help one another
“And mend broken hearts
“So many children in the world
“Have never had a chance
“Their time has come …

(More lyrics here.)

You can listen to WICN online at wicn.org. Bonnie Johnson’s program is described at Colors of Jazz. “Bonnie Johnson is host of Colors of Jazz on Sunday afternoon from noon-4 pm. If you asked the Worcester native how she found jazz, she would tell you that jazz found her. As an undergraduate student at Howard University in Washington, DC, Ms. Johnson became a fan of the Quiet Storm featured on the college station WHUR-FM. …

“Ms. Johnson appreciates the diversity and the evolution of music. As a self-taught electric bassist, she has enjoyed many years of playing various types of music with her daughter and close friends in a family band. Growing up, she sang in the St. Cecilia Girl Choir at All Saints Worcester. …

“Ms. Johnson holds B.A. in Liberal Studies and M.S. in Communications and Information Management degrees from Bay Path College. She believes the future of jazz is in our children, stating, ‘Music and the arts is one area that gives young people an outlet and release of creative energy. While there are many children exposed to music through lessons and attending live performances, there are too many more that are not.’ One of Johnson’s primary goals as host at WICN is to reach youth in creative ways through community engagement.”

That’s something to think about on Martin Luther King’s birthday — and maybe to act on, too.

Bonnie Johnson, host of WICN radio’s Colors of Jazz 

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I was so happy to get this hopeful update on Kids4Peace Boston today.

“For a while last summer, as violence escalated in Israel/Palestine, the possibility of Israeli, Palestinian and US youth coming together for a Kids4Peace camp seemed pretty unlikely.

“But despite countless barriers and uncertainties, all 25 young leaders — Muslims, Christians and Jews from Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Boston — did make it to be together on that beautiful mountaintop in New Hampshire. …

“Being in the presence of one another and listening, really listening, to each other’s stories is the crucial first step in the Kids4Peace experience.

” ‘I came to Kids4Peace to try and understand the different viewpoints that each kid has. Some people don’t understand that someone with a different opinion than you can be right without making you wrong.’
~Participant from Boston

“In the midst of violence, in the midst of despair, there are people who turn towards each other rather than away. This summer 25 peace leaders and their families proved that they are the kind of people who choose to turn towards. These young leaders walked away from camp feeling empowered by and connected to others who believe, as they do, that together peace is possible.

” ‘To be a peacemaker is to hold our hands together, and to help each other not killing each other, to treat each other as humans.’ 
~Participant from Jerusalem”

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