Building Powerful Youth Leaders

January 29, 2019

Thanks to donor support, MassCOSH’s Teen’s Lead at Work (TL@W) program, the amount of young people it reaches continues to grow every year. In this past year alone, TL@W directly hired 34 teens to work for MassCOSH, spending hundreds of hours learning just how strong their voices can be when they organize young people together. 

To further expand the change-making capacity of TL@W and its young workers, MassCOSH is teaming up with SparkShare, a youth empowerment organization created by a co-founder of the celebrated education nonprofit City Year. SparkShare helps teams of young people, ages 15-19, at youth organizations across urban and suburban communities galvanize to create the change they want to see in their community and beyond. Sparkshare has proven to be very successful building and maintaining a powerful network of youth, corporate, civic, and academic organizations, connecting youth changemakers to the people and ideas they need to succeed while giving youth full control over their campaigns. 

“Connections are really important for young people,” said TL@W Youth Director Jenny Fernandez. “These relationships with different organizations will help them in the future and expand their horizons on what else Massachusetts has to offer. Plus, the inter-generational programming that Sparkshare offers is really important, so that adults and youth can learn from each other.”  
Later this year, TL@W will serve as one of eight teams of SparkShare teen changemakers, joining with organizational partners to bring about the changes they see as needed for the world they are growing up in. The teams hail from South Boston, Allston-Brighton, Woburn, Waltham, Needham, Dorchester, Quincy, and Cambridge.  

Initial topics these young people plan to tackle include, improving mental wellness, reducing substance abuse, increasing racial equity, and strengthening community. For TL@W, its focus will be on increasing youth employment in Dorchester and access to employability skills.  

“Young people in Boston need good, safe job so they can help out with things like family stuff, school supplies, and to actually be able to go out and do stuff,” says TL@W peer leader Sophia Bereus, age 18. “Boston is not cheap.” 

In related news, TL@W is also happy to announce its new staff addition, Americorps Promise Fellow Hakeem Foreman. 

Foreman has been a life-long resident of the area, living in Chelsea, the South End and most recently, Mattapan. He also received his education in the area, recently graduating from Bunker Hill Community College with a degree in Computer Science.   

Unlike most past Fellows, Foreman already has a deep connection with MassCOSH. As a high school student, he had worked with MassCOSH when he was with the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation’s Youth Force, helping TL@W with a transportation advocacy project it was working on at the time. He is also acquainted with Youth Director Jenny Fernandez after attending a summer camp she helped manage as a camp counselor just outside of Boston. 

“I think I'm very knowledgeable when it comes to the advocacy side of what we do here,” says Foreman, explaining what skills he will bring to TL@W. “From my past work with Alternatives for Community and Environment and Youth Force, I know how to build connections, how to further develop relationships, all those things that advocacy work requires.”  

During his time with TL@W, Foreman is looking forward to helping teens start and finish a full campaign of their choosing. He also looks forward to educating peer leaders on the benefits of unions and organizing workers, as well as securing livable wages for workers, especially young workers who are sometimes considered undeserving of prevailing wages due to their age.