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New Office of Youth Engagement and Advancement Announced

The City of Boston also announced the grantees of the latest round of the Youth Development Fund (YDF).

Mayor Michelle Wu today announced the creation of the new Office of Youth Engagement & Advancement (OYEA) within the Human Services Cabinet that will support the development, engagement, and empowerment of the city’s young people.  Mayor Wu also announced that Pedro Cruz will serve as the office’s inaugural director, starting in February. Cruz will be charged with leading the work of the Mayor’s Youth Council and the Youth Lead the Change participatory budgeting initiative that were formerly organized under the Department of Youth Engagement and Employment (DYEE), among other projects. The Mayor made the announcement at the Blackstone Community Center joined by Blackstone School leaders, students, and community advocates from youth-serving organizations. 

“Developing and supporting young people across our neighborhoods is one of the most important responsibilities we have as a City,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “The creation of OYEA will ensure that we are working closely with community to wrap around our youth, connecting them with crucial city services and enriching opportunities year-round. I’m grateful to our non-profit grantees for their critical work in our neighborhoods, and look forward to working with Pedro and our community partners to make every opportunity available for Boston’s young people.”

In addition to continuing the existing youth leadership and engagement programs, the new Office will be tasked with bringing youth voices into city decision-making and working to identify gaps in the array of youth programming, including youth sports, that is offered across the city. OYEA will field a first-ever citywide survey of young people to learn more about the challenges  and opportunities of youth in Boston and reinvigorate the annual Mayor’s Youth Summit. OYEA will also serve as a technical assistance provider to city agencies looking to engage young people in their planning and will support the professional development of youth workers across the city.

In September, Mayor Wu announced the move of the city’s youth jobs program, also under DYEE, to the new Worker Empowerment Cabinet, led by Chief Trinh Nguyen. 

“Today’s young people are tomorrow’s leaders,” said José F. Massó, Chief of Human Services. “Making investments today in their healthy development and leadership skills will make Boston stronger now and in the future.” 

"Like I always say, it takes a village to educate our young people," said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Mary Skipper. "Through the Office of Youth Engagement and Advancement, young people will have even more opportunities to develop their social skills, build self-confidence, and participate in various activities that help further them gain skills and knowledge. I thank Mayor Wu and my colleagues in the City for their continued leadership and commitment to Boston's young people. This funding will be pivotal in bringing much needed resources to students across BPS.”

Pedro Cruz is a youth development advocate, artist, poet, and lifelong South End resident currently serving as the Director of Youth Development at Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción. Cruz has 15 years of experience in youth development work, dedicating his career to connecting with young people. He credits formative experiences in Boston’s community centers with helping him find supportive adults that guided his career in youth development and helped him find pathways to self-expression as an artist.

“I am grateful to Mayor Wu for this opportunity,” said Pedro Cruz. “I am a prime example of what happens when a city receives a family with open arms and provides them with housing, education, opportunities, and resources. In my new role, I promise to do my best to make sure every youth in this city has access to the same opportunities and resources that were given to me.

Building on the newly created office, the City of Boston also announced the grantees of the latest round of Youth Development Fund (YDF). Totaling $1.5 million, the grants will be distributed to 60 youth-serving nonprofit organizations in Boston that serve young people ages 10-24. Grants range from $2,000 to $60,000 to support a wide variety of programming including arts, leadership development, mentoring, sports, and entrepreneurship. 

This year’s applicant pool numbered more than 120 applications, which was narrowed through a review process that considered each program’s potential to contribute to positive youth development and engage youth who are most impacted by community violence. The programs funded will serve all neighborhoods in the city, with a higher number available to youth in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan.  

“Love Your Magic is thrilled to be a recipient of a Youth Development Fund grant,” said Ivanna Solano, Executive Director of Love Your Magic. “This award will give us the opportunity to serve more Black and Brown girls and gender expansive youth and provide them with the resources they need to thrive.”

This year’s YDF grantees will enhance the landscape of positive youth development opportunities that are available to young people in Boston. Research shows that positive youth development programs help youth to develop their social skills, form healthy relationships with their peers and with caring adults. YDF grantees seek to meet youth where they are - in neighborhoods and schools. 

For more information about OYEA, please visit here.

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