Driscoll, Miller, Others Featured Guests at Roca Annual Breakfast

Special to the Record

Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, advocate and Chairman of the Jordan Brand Advisory Board (NIKE, Inc.) Larry Miller, and Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni joined Roca young people and community stakeholders in celebrating Roca’s 36 years of work directly supporting high-risk young men and women at their annual breakfast.

“Roca has tirelessly spent 36 years striving to help young men and women confront trauma and violence so they may find hope and live the fulfilling lives they deserve,” said Molly Baldwin, CEO and Founder of Roca. “We are incredibly proud to celebrate 36 successful years for Roca with the partners that make this work possible, and are especially proud of the young men and women that make our work so rewarding.”

Councilor-at-Large Leo Robinson, Metro Credit Union Vice President Saritin Rizzuto, City Councilor Lisa Santagate, and Councilor-at-Large Roberto Jimenez Rivera.

The breakfast’s keynote event centered around a unique “fireside” chat in which Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll spoke with Larry Miller about his journey from prison as a young adult to business executive and leading criminal justice advocate. Miller shared how after serving time in prison for murder, he hid his past after being denied employment. However, he decided to go public with his story and advocate for sentencing reforms while working to reduce the stigma around incarceration.

“Roca’s mission to relentlessly reach out to high-risk young people and help them address the trauma that has filled their lives is essential,” said Larry Miller, advocate and Chairman of the Jordan Brand Advisory Board (NIKE, Inc.). “It’s wonderful to see an organization that believes in expanding educational opportunities, fostering hope and providing people second chances.”

“Roca has spent decades helping the highest risk young men and women confront unimaginable challenges and live rewarding lives,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “Our administration is deeply grateful for our partnership with Roca as we work to meet young people across Massachusetts where they’re at, and provide them with the resources essential to changing their lives.”

The breakfast also included awarding Hampden County District Attorney Gulluni with Roca’s James E. Mahoney Award. DA Gulluni has committed himself and his work to the Emerging Adult Court of Hope (EACH) program, which offers young adult men facing criminal charges the chance to alter their lives by having their charges dismissed and records sealed. To emphasize the program’s success and profound impact, EACH program graduate Zayanah Dickson delivered the James E. Mahoney Award to the DA.

“Receiving Roca’s James E. Mahoney Award stands for more than just plaudits. It represents that through our partnership with EACH, our emerging adult specialty court, that we have had an impact in disrupting the cycle of poverty and incarceration, and we’ve helped young people change their lives for the better.” said Hampden District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni. “Roca is an indispensable partner in the Springfield area, and together we will continue to strengthen our community by empowering high risk men and women to strive for better futures.”

“For the rest of my life, I will be grateful that it was in Hampden County that I made poor choices and got arrested,” said EACH program graduate Zayanah Dickson. “What a blessing that was because it was there, in DA Gulluni’s Emerging Adult Court of Hope, that I was offered a second chance and the opportunity to build a better life.”

Roca also issued awards for two young people participating in their program: Justin Fowlkes and Jalexis Velez. Fowlkes, who is part of the Baltimore Young Men’s program, and Velez, a part of the Springfield Young Mothers program, have worked tirelessly through trauma and urban violence to find hope and drive life-long change.

Additionally, Roca showcased data highlighting the immense success of their program. The Massachusetts Young Men at a Glance 2023 data revealed that the organization served over 900 young men in the Commonwealth with a 90 percent retention rate. For those enrolled less than 24 months, Roca met young men where they were, conducting over 55,000 relentless outreach efforts in hopes of participants continuing with the program. Ninety-five percent of participants enrolled 24 months or longer had no new arrests and 98 percent had no new incarcerations.

Alongside this, independent findings from the consulting and research firm Abt Global, titled Reincarceration among Roca participants in Massachusetts, notes how Roca participants possess lower reincarceration rates than the state average. The report analyzes reincarceration rates of Roca participants and members of the Massachusetts sample from 2017 – the most recently-available information where at least two of the following years are not impacted by the pandemic. Specifically, the data explains how Roca participants possessed lower reincarceration rates than the state at one, two, and three year follow-ups, including those with a history of violent offenses. Over time, the state’s reincarceration rate is 30 percent higher than Roca’s.

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