Rally against youth violence
By Jim Coughlin
Worcester’s Youth Center on Chandler Street, at the site that formerly housed Capitol Toy, was the scene on Saturday, June 26, of a rally against youth violence. It was organized by youth at the center. It ran from 11 a to 3 p and began with opening ceremonies that featured brief remarks by the center’s director, Sam Martin, Mayor Joseph Petty, as well as Worcester-area state representatives Mary Keefe and David LeBoeuf. Also present were Nydia Colon, director of Creative Leadership at the youth center, and Etel Haxhijaj, one of four candidates vying for the open City Council district seat in District 5.
In interviews with this InCity Times/CECELIA reporter, both Colon and Haxhiaj spoke passionately oabout the problem of youth violence. However, neither woman made any specific reference to incidents of youth violence within Worcester. Haxhijai said, “I define violence as responding to a lack of opportunity experienced by homelessness. If young people are not having opportunity, these conditions can lead to violence.” She formerly served as the executive director of the Worcester Public Schools Dynamy Program for four years, from 2009 to 2013.
Colon said the Youth Center “uses time to test out the waters to find out what they, (the members of the youth center) are good at for interests in a vocation and to pair that with evidenced-based curriculum to have a conversation with the kids.” She said before the pandemic hit, the youth center was serving an average of 60 young people a day and, once Covid 19 hit, they were serving between 20 and 25 students between the ages of 14 and 24.
After the ceremony, those in attendance were served food outside the center: a choice of either hot dogs and hamburgers or Mexican food. During the event, many of the center’s members performed in the main hall. Among them were Jayliany Rivera, 15, a Junior at Worcester’s South High and Shardai Sam-Clarke, 27, of Worcester, who told me she is a songwriter. The song she sang before about 40 people was about, “healthy examples of what love should look like.”
The center’s Executive Director Director Sam Martin was presented with a Resolution that was jointly co-sponsored by Representatives Keefe and LeBoeuf.