|Every day, there is another national news story of gun violence, including in Uvalde, Texas, a Latinx community much like Chelsea. Even though Massachusetts has the second lowest firearm mortality rate in the United States, many of our youth still live in fear of gun violence in our city. With recent reports of guns taken to local schools and violence in broad daylight, La Colaborativa’s youth are speaking out about the need for more youth-focused programs, spaces, and support.
This week, our RIOT Squad youth made their voices heard, advocating for increasing funding for teen spaces, an expansion in youth jobs, more affordable housing in the City of Chelsea, and greater focus and access to youth mental health services. What is RIOT? RIOT Squad is a La Colaborativa program where youth are empowered to become agents of change in our community, trained in community organizing, and implement projects that uplift disenfranchised voices and serve their community. Our youth are facing the greatest mental health crisis of our time, where many students face bullying, violence, and poverty as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. It is now more important than ever to listen to these future leaders about what they need and how to support them through these difficult times.
Many programs, such as La Colaborativa’s summer youth job initiative, were created to tackle these problems in our communities, can no longer serve the community as they once could. The program, created to give local youth the opportunity to earn money, gain valuable skills, and find an escape from gang violence, has helped hundreds of youth find stable footing. However, we had more than 600 youth seeking placement at only 200 open positions, leaving many more without direction. We are so proud of our youth for being such fierce advocates for change.
Our youth will continue to advocate for affordable housing and safer schools and engage directly with City leadership to make Chelsea a better, safer place for all youth. Their next stop? Creating video testimonials and talking with our legislators and policy makers at all levels to show them what it’s like to be a youth member in our community. Your continued donations and support ensure that these youth, and many more, will receive the support they need.