UTEC nurtures the most disconnected youth in Lowell to trade violence for success.
UTEC's mission and promise is to ignite and nurture the ambition of Lowell's most disengaged young people to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success.
UTEC’s nationally recognized model begins with intensive street outreach and gang peacemaking, reaching out to the most disconnected youth by meeting them “where they’re at” and facilitating a peace process between rival gang leaders. Each young person in our target population (16-23, dropped out of school, homeless, gang or criminally involved) receives at least three years of intensive case management. UTEC engages youth in workforce development programming blending transitional employment with social enterprises in food services, multimedia, and maintenance/cleaning. We provide educational options through GED preparation and an alternative diploma program. Values of social justice and civic engagement are embedded in all programming, with special emphasis in our organizing and policymaking work both locally and statewide. Ultimately, UTEC’s unique model can provide a pathway from the street to the state house for older youth most often overlooked and considered disengaged.
- Mission | Theory Of Change
- History | Track Record
UTEC was founded in 1999 by a group of young people who wanted to develop their own teen center in response to gang violence. The organization’s founding teens worked with adults from the Downtown Neighborhood Association and local non-profits to make the drop-in center a reality. With an initial grant of $40,000, UTEC was able to hire an Executive Director in early 2000.
UTEC initially offered athletics, cultural arts programming and a small leadership team, with outreach to gang-involved youth. In 2001, UTEC held its first peace summit, bringing rival gang members together to broker a peace treaty. In 2002, UTEC hired a former gang member to conduct more effective outreach to gang involved youth, and peacemaking programming became a highlight of our organization. Over the years, our programming grew to include case management, secondary education, local and statewide organizing, and workforce development and training programs.
In 2006, UTEC purchased a historic church building that has evolved into a fully-functional youth center. Construction on our 7,500 sq ft addition began in May 2011, with completion anticipated by fall 2012. The completed “green building” will meet LEED Platinum standards and house youth-run café, performing arts space, and classroom space.
- Grant Usage
OPF’s grant would be used to expand UTEC’s Workforce Development (WFD) program, which currently offers 28 slots for paid job-training opportunities. Youth participate in work crews that blend soft skills development with training in culinary arts, building maintenance, or multimedia technology. Each crew is also a social enterprise: our culinary crew provides baked goods to Tufts University’s Dining Halls, and our Maintenance crew provides janitorial services for a local property management company.
Youth work 20 hours a week for $8-10/hour, working up as they demonstrate consistent attendance and progress through performance reviews, as conducted by their staff crew leader. Our tiered program allows for tangible consequences for unexcused absences or poor job performance, while our “no fire” policy assumes multiple chances for young people to develop work habits and skills. On average, youth work through the program in 9-18 months. WFD youth also work with a Transitional Coach (or case manager) for wraparound support services and attend UTEC’s alternative education classes until they attain their GED or diploma.
- Financial, Staffing, & Project Summary
The organization has 25 staff and the ED (and highest paid employee) is only making $55k. Their financials look rough because they have a million dollar surplus (!!), but those funds are restricted for the capital project and construction on that project just began. Much of their money comes from federal, city, and state grants. Since those funds have been largely reduced, UTEC is scrambling for individual and foundation money right now.
- Working Group Analysis
UTEC’s work strongly aligns with OPF’s mission and vision. They are reaching Lowell’s most disengaged youth and instilling values of social justice and civic engagement. They facilitate gang peacemaking (Peace Summit!) and provide workforce training, educational opportunities, food services, and much more. They are supporting at-risk and disengaged youth to reach social and economic success. UTEC clearly aligns with all of OPF’s core values. UTEC was founded by young people, for young people.
By the numbers –
- Help 82% of youth resolve major conflicts successfully and peacefully
- 55% of youth made significant progress towards achieving educational, professional, and personal goals – including leaving gang life and violence behind
- Youth Empowerment Corps: 150 volunteers (mostly youth) served over 26,000 of service in the Lowell community – serving nearly 600 youth.
- Nominator Endorsement
Dulcie Madden: Every so often, I come across a nonprofit that not only has a mission that I believe in but that also has a culture I am completely aligned with in terms of dedication, passion, creativity, and fun. UTEC is one such nonprofit, and in addition to embodying these elements, it also exemplifies each of OPF’s core values throughout its work in a way that sets the organization apart. I’ve had the opportunity to visit their office multiple times, and each time I’ve been struck by three things: the sheer number of youth at their center; the energy and excitement of the youth and UTEC’s staff; and the incredible dedication and commitment of the organization to Lowell, its core demographic, and its community. Moreover, UTEC acts in both fresh and purposeful ways to help ensure that youth in the Lowell area have a pathway to success and that the organization has a sustainable course to do so.