Saturday, March 2, 2024

Many people have asked us what we think needs to be done about the recent youth violence in Cambridge. It is important that we discuss specific responses that can immediately begin to address the economic disenfranchisement and the social disconnect of many 17- to 30-year-olds. Those of us who grew up here know these are not new challenges, and know well of the class and race divide. Rather than speak more to the same old characterizations of this tale of two cities, no matter how appropriate, we know that this cycle will continue if we do not create a solution-focused strategy supported by policy. Below are a few starting points, not in any particular order, that can serve as the first steps on a long road toward recovery and healing.

  • Deploy community leaders throughout the city who are known and trusted resources to engage the 17- to 30-year-old demographic to perform a needs assessment. Use this data to inform a strategic plan that includes targeted interventions that support intended outcomes.
  • Implement a citywide violence prevention and intervention program that leverages a cross section of stakeholders to provide structure, support and pathways to success.

  • Prioritize a middle-school identification and intervention that promotes literacy, self-actualization, confidence-building, community mindset, conflict resolution, mental health, resiliency, career development and more with the intention of creating a personal profile that informs each student’s road map to Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.
  • Create an assistant city manager for human services for 17- to 30-year-old programming. This work is very different than child care, youth and teen work. This body of work requires an innovative strategist who knows and understands the nuances of the city, can work with a cross section of city departments and has extensive experience working with Cambridge residents.
  • Expand the office of College to Success to include postgraduate support. Build upon the goal of ensuring all graduating students have a plan that maps their next steps whether it includes college, trade school or the workforce by implementing proper support to serve as a consistent resource and accountability partner. Given the near half-million-dollar investment made in each student from pre-K to graduation in our public schools, it’s imperative we secure a prominent return on investment.
  • Work with former Boston Marty Walsh – now the U.S. secretary of labor – to address the conflict with marijuana laws that are sending mixed signals and disqualifying individuals from many jobs, including building trades, for using legal drugs on their own time.
  • Invest in a complete revision of the Cambridge Works program, preserving the high-impact elements and filling the gaps by rounding out the experience to include higher pay and better job options with the possibility of longevity and post-program supports.
  • Call on county sheriffs to be accountable for employment and support upon reentry by those recently released from imprisonment. Short periods of incarceration are the opportune time for intervention and training, but taxpayers must demand more than stockpiling offenders.
  • Reestablish the “nine week” reentry employment program as a viable option for those residents looking to rebuild their foundation after being incarcerated. This program will serve as a vehicle to gain relevant skills required to compete in today’s employment sphere.
  • Work with the business community and local employers to establish career pathways prioritizing our most overlooked Cambridge resident populations.
  • Immediately assess the space allocation and resources given to our technical programs at CRLS. Over the years, significant numbers of students and parents have asked for a high-quality, diverse technical education, and it has not been delivered. Given the vast investment in construction in Cambridge over the past decade to support innovation, it’s clear the trades and other entrepreneurial ventures are a viable and lucrative career path for our students.

There is no question the City of Cambridge is facing a crisis, one that requires us to set aside our pride, egos and political agendas to come together to create solutions for a long-standing ailment that so badly needs a cure. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can solve most issues when our actions support our intentions.

Ty Bellitti, co-president of My Brother’s Keeper Cambridge

Tony Clark, co-president of My Brother’s Keeper Cambridge

Anthony Galluccio, former mayor and state senator and current youth sports coach