UTEC helps at-risk youth make a better future for themselves


UTEC, our Q4 Povery and Health beneficiary, provides education support, work experience and citizenship activities for at-risk youth and young adults in Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts. One of their clients, Jimmy, has written a guest post about what UTEC has helped him acheive and how different his future looks thanks to his work with them. 

My name is Jimmy. I have three siblings, a mom who worked a lot, and a dad who was there but not really there for us. Since my mom worked so much when I was in high school, I picked up a third shift job to bring home some money. But working and going to school was hard. Tired all the time, I started falling asleep in class or not going to school so I could catch up on sleep. Eventually, I was arrested for truancy and sent to foster care and an alternative school.

I made it back to the regular high school but dropped out after my girlfriend and I learned that she was pregnant. But I wanted my kids to have a better life than I did, and UTEC was a way I could do that.

It took a while for me to really settle in at UTEC. I struggled to stay motivated and to juggle my responsibilities as a father. But UTEC never gave up on me. My transitional coach at UTEC set me straight. He helped me realize how important my own success was to the future of my children.

UTEC helped me be a better father. I’d spent enough time in the wrong places with the wrong people – that’s how I got shot at, more than once. But UTEC is the right place with the right people. I’m getting used to what it means to work towards a future.

At UTEC, I earned my high school credential. I am learning new skills by working in their social enterprises to support my family now and find a permanent job next. I’m taking night classes at Middlesex Community College, working in Café UTEC, and looking for an internship to gain new experience.

My kids drive me to do better. I want to be around more than my parents could, and I want to give my girls some of what I never had, like a family vacation. My main focus is to buy us a house. I’m even looking into first-time homebuyer classes now. A nice house to raise my kids in sounds like a pretty good step and a decent life to me.

I am where I am because of who I am, the work I’ve done, and the motivation from my children. But UTEC helped me get here by giving me the time and tools to get it right. And they’re helping a lot of other young people too.

UTEC’s mission and promise is to ignite and nurture the ambition of our most disengaged young people to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success. UTEC’s nationally recognized model begins with intensive street outreach to reach proven-risk youth “where they are.” Each target youth (16-24 with a history of criminal or gang involvement) receives an average of 2-3 years of intensive support services in our enrollment program. UTEC provides workforce training through our social enterprises and alternative education through onsite HiSET (GED) preparation. Social justice and civic engagement are embedded throughout, with special emphasis in our organizing and policymaking work, locally and statewide. UTEC’s primary outcomes are: reduced recidivism, increased employability, and educational attainment. The long-term recidivism rate of UTEC-enrolled youth is less than 15%, compared with a statewide average above 70%.