When I was reminded that Lowell previously had a youth commission I reached out to former Lowell School Committee member Atty Michael Gallagher and asked him to share his reflections on the Youth Commission. Atty Gallagher was kind enough to share his thoughts.
In 1994, I made a motion to form a Youth Commission and asked then Mayor Bud Caulfield to do the same before the Council and so it was called the Mayor’s Joint Youth Commission. With the help of lots of partners (and young people), the Youth Commission was able to make at least a little bit of a difference, including the following:
* It provided a forum where issues relating to young people could be discussed and solutions developed.
* It gave youth programmers and service providers an opportunity to compare offerings so that gaps could be identified and duplication avoided.
* It persuaded the School Committee to create an Ad Hoc Subcommittee on the Use of Facilities in order to explore changing the way school buildings are used. This subcommittee (on which members of the Commission served) then completely revised the school system’s Use of Facilities regulations, opening up the schools – and their auditoriums, library/media centers, computer rooms and music labs as well as gymnasiums – for neighborhood and community individuals and groups.
* It worked with the Enterprise Community to initiate and develop Lowell’s Community Schools Program which expanded from a pilot project to all five schools in the Enterprise area.
* It helped coordinate Lowell’s Healthy Summer Program which provided educational, recreational and nutritional activities and services at over 50 sites in every city neighborhood.
* It helped spearhead Lowell’s Youthworks campaign which provided job skills instruction and a one-stop job fair for young people.
* It led the effort to create a Youth Opportunities Coordinator.
Family and other commitments forced me to step aside in 1999 (attached is my related letter to then Manager Martin) and, frankly, the last I recall as I was leaving is that the City had developed an ordinance creating the position of Youth Coordinator and that the Youth Commission continued to be active. I’m really not sure about what’s been done since, but I do feel that any effort to rejuvenate it or to start something similar would be great.
Hope all is well.
In his resignation letter, Atty Gallagher pointed out that the commission helped reduce crime and included some suggestions to the program.
We believe that, with your and the Council’s help, these actions have been effective. As the Lowell Probation Department has said each of the last few summers, providing meaningful summer activities for young people has directly led to a reduction in summer crime.
In order to keep us on track, I would respectfully suggest that you and the Council consider taking the following steps (to complement what City Hall, the Police Department, the Middlesex DA’s office and others are now doing):
1. Hire a qualified Youth Opportunities Coordinator without delay.
2. Make the Youth Commission a formal City Commission.
3. Arrange for the YOC to chair the Youth Commission and perhaps the CSAB as well.
4. Make a greater investment in the Parks and Recreation Department, the Streetworker Program and the Community Schools
5. More programming for the most critical age group, 13 to 16-year-olds, in the most critical time period, 3.to 7 PM.