Bryan Stevenson, Activist and Director of Equal Justice Initiative delivers keynote, Kelord Kynard, Roca Springfield participant honored at Seaport Hotel
Bryan Stevenson, national justice system reform leader, lawyer and professor, joined more than 300 state policymakers, criminal justice officials and business and civic leaders today to honor Roca’s 26 years of transforming the lives of high-risk youth in Massachusetts.
Roca, a non-profit based in Chelsea and dedicated to reducing violence, poverty and incarceration among the highest-risk young people, marks its 26th year with having recently launched the MA juvenile justice Pay-for-Success project, serving justice-system involved young men from 16 cities statewide.
In his keynote address, Bryan Stevenson hailed Roca’s singular commitment to creating change in the lives of justice system-involved young people and delivered a stirring call for political, business and community leaders to take action to reform a broken corrections system and make the difficult and brave decisions needed to move forward.
Stevenson recalled a formative moment in his own life and career, in which he explained his work to civil rights leaders Rosa Parks and Johnnie Carr, the organizer of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
After Stevenson described his ongoing efforts to reform juvenile justice policies, overturn wrongful convictions, and confront bias and discrimination in the legal system, Parks promptly replied, “Bryan, that’s going to make you tired, tired, tired.” And without missing a beat, Carr leaned forward to Stevenson, put her finger in his face, and said, “That’s why you’ve got to be brave, brave, brave.”
The event also featured the compelling story– Kelord Kynard of Springfield- who have benefited from Roca’s effective data-driven intervention model for the highest-risk young people in Boston, Greater Boston, Springfield and greater Springfield. Kynard, who had previously served a jail sentence, was honored by Roca for fundamentally turning his life around, taking advantage of the education and employment programming Roca offers, and sustaining a promising career and life as a responsible father.
Molly Baldwin, Roca’s founder and CEO presented Stevenson and Kynard with Roca’s annual peace award, and reminded the crowd that while Roca’s work has proven tremendously successful in keeping young men out of prison, keeping them employed, and creating government savings, Roca’s daily work is often marked by smaller personal victories.
“Our work has never been defined by monumental leaps of progress. Rather, it is most often defined by small, incremental steps forward and the quiet success of individuals learning to make the right choices, one decision at a time: One more gun turned in, one more day sober, and one more day to work on time,” said Baldwin.
This fiscal year, Roca will help transform the lives and behaviors of more than 500 young men through its three-phase intervention program. The model includes rigorous outreach and case-management with lessons in life-skills, pre-job training and transitional employment.
For more information on Roca please visit www.rocainc.org.