CHELSEA, Mass. — Having successfully recruited its fellows over the summer, the KLCC group here is already on the move and enthusiastic about what it will achieve in the years ahead.
(left-right) Aziza Moussad, Anisha Chablani and Maria D’Addieco were part of the planning team that recruited fellows for KLCC in Chelsea. Photo by Cheryl D. Fields
Chelsea is a compact community of 1.8 square miles. Heavily residential with numerous angled streets and 5 way intersections, the physical landscape seems to support the mixing of people from diverse backgrounds. The streets are typically bustling with young people and adults of many different races. The City Hall houses both the City Manager and the Superintendent of Schools. Roca, the host agency for KLCC Chelsea Fellowship, is just one block from police headquarters. Though Chelsea is a small part of the Boston landscape, it seems to have created its own identity. Heavily populated by immigrants, Chelsea residents include Hondurans, El Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, and Colombians as well as immigrants from Africa and Eastern Europe. Many residents work at the airport, which is 5 minutes away.
Roca recruited its KLCC fellows by posting flyers (explaining the program and the commitment required of participants) in strategic areas of town; talking to a variety of community groups and individuals; and ultimately holding a series of conversations with interested individuals. The process resulted in the selection of 16 youth and 9 adult fellows as well as a group of alternates who will stand in reserve in case one or more of the original fellows can’t continue for some reason. The alternate group is Roca’s way of anticipating fluidity within the fellowship.
The Chelsea KLCC fellows include: Leondra Hawkesworth, Bobby Pereira, Gladys Garmendia, Erica Sullivan, Larry Gregory, Mary Angie Maldonado, Anthony Carmenatty, Hector Morales, Jonathon Vega, Meiling Cardona, Natalia LeHardy, Azziza Mousaad, Karen Garcia, Isaiah Cornejo, Lucia Colon, Wuendy Aguilar, Matthew McLaughlin, Jeremy Fischer, Mariam Levy, Angie Rodriguez, Maria D’Addieco, Jorge Ortiz, Miuret Neal, Esli Melgar and Damaris Nevarez. The alternate corps includes approximately 10 additional young people from the community.
Half of the youth fellows are new to Roca and half have experience with the organization. In addition to seeking candidates from within its ranks, Roca reached out to schools, churches, and community groups, such as the Boys and Girls club, during its recruitment process. They told prospective fellows to expect to commit about 20 hours per month over a two-year period. The leadership team realizes they will need to build this commitment as they go along. The adult fellows include members of the local school district, the police Weed and Seed program, and a parent organizing group. A couple of Roca staff members also have been included so as to integrate the fellows’ work with Roca’s work.
“One new adult fellow we talked to was Matthew McLaughlin from the police department,” wrote KLCC CO members Dale Nienow and Elayne Dorsey in a recent Roca site visit report. “[Matthew] said Roca had a good reputation and he was excited about the connections to youth they can offer.” The CO members also reported that a KLCC advisory board member from the local school district shared her excitement about working with Roca, specifically on an alternative discipline program for the schools.
Roca staffers admit that not all organizations in Chelsea are fans of their work. “After realizing that in order to help make real meaningful change in our community and for young people, Roca shifted how we showed up with community partners and began to build bridges as opposed to infuriating people with our old ways of fierce advocacy,” says Anisha Chablani, the KLCC project lead. “Now, with KLCC, we have the opportunity to deepen the partnerships we’ve built around an opportunity that can also have huge impacts on change efforts in our community,”
In addition to forming its fellowship, Roca has successfully assembled its KLCC community advisory group. Members of this team include Frank Garvin, police chief; Jay Ash, City Manager; Dr. Thomas S. Kingston, Superintendent of Schools; and Luis Prado, Director of the city’s Department of Health and Human services. Roca’s intention is for the advisory group to help open doors and remove road blocks for the fellows’ work. They want the advisory group to be engaged and connected to the process.
The fellowship began meeting in September and intends to meet several times per month for 2-3 hours throughout the fall. Most of this time will be spent working on team building and Circle training. “Circles are a process that have the power to bring people together around their own personal hopes and visions and that allow a great deal of trust building to happen so that we can move toward collective actions and visions,” says Maria Pizzimenti, KLCC community coach.
The fellows also have begun to participate in community discussions on key issues such as the local impact of the federal sweeps to deport immigrants who are engaged in gang violence. Fellows recently produced a digital storytelling video focusing on the issue of Teen Prostitution in the Chelsea community. The video was showcased at a community-wide event hosted at Roca on September 29Th. It is the first in a series of digital storytelling pieces that the fellows plan to use to publicize their work in the community as well as to document social change over the course of the next two years.
“I am very excited to be part of KLCC and I think it is a great opportunity for the City of Chelsea to finally make some changes through the leadership of young people,” says Maldonado.