Your Future Starts Now

"Your Future Starts Now" coordinators. L to R – Jeff Herd, Assistant Program Director, CHD; Lauren DuBois, Extension Educator, Mass Extension, 4-H; Sharon Bess, Employment Specialist, CHD; Richard Romboletti, Director of Juvenile Justice, CHD and Kimberly Lee, Vice President of Development, CHD.

Following a negative path can end up in many ways, leaving damaging marks on ones future. However, the Center for Human Development and 4-H, are looking to make sure there’s a new and positive path ahead for a group of young men, who are currently in detention.

That’s where “Your Future Starts Now” comes into play, an effort is being made to ensure that once they leave their respective programs, they don’t head back into a negative direction, but instead take what they learn and use it towards bettering their future.

“Your Future Starts Now” a four-week program covering professionalism, entrepreneurship and leadership skills for youth in detention programs at the Center for Human Development (CHD), a collaborative program put together by the Department of Youth Services, CHD, UMass’ extension of 4-H and Student Bridges.

Starting July 12 and running every Tuesday and Thursday until Aug. 4, this pilot program will coach a total of eight young men, between the ages of 16 to 18 years-old, at CHD’s Tinkham Road location.

The significance of this program is invaluable for everyone involved, the goal is to provide a hands-on educational experience while acknowledging the need to teach real world skills.

“It became really clear that we had an opportunity to change the environment in which our young men go back into,” Kimberly Lee, vice president of Development at the Center for Human Development said. “It’s not enough for us to have them just serve their time – we want them to do what they need to do in order to be responsible and make sure that when they return to their environments in a way that makes them stronger, more resilient and more capable of becoming productive contributing members of society.”

By teaming up with 4-H, a global youth development organization, CHD is making that goal possible.

“As an extension, the goal of 4-H is community outreach. We want to bring university resources into the community,” said Lauren DuBois, extension educator, 4-H Youth Development Program, UMass Extension.

“We’re going to be bringing in people from the community, mostly men, to speak to these young men about professionalism, entrepreneurship and leadership, as well as bringing in a 4-H based curriculum,” DuBois said.

With a curriculum covering topics from leadership to defining role models, the program will incorporate key note speakers including East Longmeadow’s Center Square Grill Co-Founder & Proprietor Bill Collins and Chef Andrew Brow as well as Professor Chris Tinson of Hampshire College, to name a few.

“What was really important to us in this program is making sure our youth had a voice. We didn’t want to bring in horticulture just because we think they might like horticulture, we wanted to bring in programming that was reflective of their interests and aspirations,” Lee said.

On the first day of the program, Suit Up Springfield will be there to get the young men fitted for professional suits, a first time experience, for many of the participants.

CHD Employment Specialist Sharon Bess will be responsible for helping the young men build their portfolios and analyzing their job readiness skills, in hopes that they will be marketable once they get back into the community.

“This will change the trajectory of their lives. They will be able to get back out into the community and have something to keep them busy so that the negative influences can’t really play a part in their lives anymore,” Bess said.

Jeff Herd, CHD assistant program director, talked about the recent success stories in CHD programs, restating the significance of programs like this.

“One of the recent graduates of another program left with a total of six certifications in various trades and was able to work for Home Depot,” said Herd.

“It’s nice to see and hear the stories of the kids who get out of the programs and are applying what they learned here. I’m very excited because this will be a big change from the usual way we discharge our kids – they’re going to have a lot of tools that will make a difference.”

Richard Romboletti, CHD director of Juvenile Justice, added to Herd’s statement by saying, “What we’re providing with 4-H is a very nice marriage, in the sense that we teach them DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skills, help them make attachments, work on relationships and give them an education. This is a perfect opportunity to give them another risk factor reduction, by giving them employment skills and making them employable. We already have similar programs going and this one fits right in.”

Upon completion of the program on Aug. 4 the young men will participate in a graduation ceremony, with family and supporters in the audience, they will receive a formal certificate and their specially fitted suits.

If you’re interested in helping or contributing to Your Future Starts Now, contact Kim Lee, at KLee@CHD.org.

Article by Ellanje Ferguson | eferguso@masslive.com
originally published on July 11, 2016, http://www.masslive.com/living/index.ssf/2016/07/chd_and_4-h_to_bring_your_future_starts_now_a_program_for_young_men_in_detention.html

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