The sun shone brightly on Broadway last Thursday afternoon – a mild day by typical February standards.
The wind whipped some stray papers around and some leaves left over from the fall blew wildly as cars sped by and pushed them into the air.
However, no sooner had those items been placed back on the ground by the wind than appeared a crew of young adults armed with brooms, rakes, trash bags and shovels.
They moved quickly, sweeping up anything out of place on the sidewalk in front of St. Rose Church. Then they moved on down the road, concentrating on their work and taking seriously the idea of cleaning up Chelsea.
However, it wasn’t a volunteer effort, it was quite literally a last chance.
Those young people cleaning up the City lately are part of one of ROCA’s longest running and most successful programs over the last decade – the KEY program.
James Castellanos – a Library Street resident – supervises the clean-up activities and he told the Record that the program looks to give young people on the edge a chance to get on their feet.
“Basically, we try to show them how to work and how to get some consistency in their actions,” he said. “We’re trying to teach these kids to be consistent. The program takes these high-risk individuals and for the most part this is the first time they’ve ever worked. Most of them come from broken homes or from homes where their parents didn’t provide the right supervision or support. It’s just a chance for them.”
The young people in the program are from Chelsea, Revere, Lynn and East Boston, and many of them are former convicts, parolees on probation or former gang-involved kids.
The program gives them 10 months to complete 60 days of work around the community – supervised carefully by a ROCA manager like Castellanos.
Following that, the young people are placed in jobs with companies that have an agreement with ROCA.
“We help the youths get jobs with employers who work with ROCA, companies like Home Depot, Domino’s, Popeye’s and maybe the new