NorthStar will run programs for at-risk youth

NEW BEDFORD — NorthStar Learning Centers will take over the administration of two programs that help at-risk New Bedford youth.

Maria Rosario, NorthStar’s executive director, said her agency will begin running the New Bedford Shannon program and the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative on July 1. Both programs have been administered by United Way of Greater New Bedford, which is transferring management of them to NorthStar, which since 2018 has operated a program to prevent youth gun violence under a public health grant.

“We had been looking at alignment of these programs with other organizations doing similar work,” Rosario said of her discussions with United Way President and CEO Michelle Neves Hantman. “It made sense for both organizations,” as well as the participants in the Shannon and SSYI programs.

NorthStar runs early childhood education, a mental health clinic, family services and public health programs for residents of the city. Rosario said NorthStar focuses on building the skills and enhancing the abilities of the youth it serves, rather than on the problems those young people are facing.

New Bedford Shannon, operated in partnership with the New Bedford Police Department, is dedicated to building a safer community by preventing gang violence and serious delinquency for at-risk youth and young adults ages 10 to 24. It is supported by the Commonwealth’s Charles E. Shannon Community Safety Initiative and administered by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. The program operates under the Comprehensive Gang Model, and includes a Street Outreach/Case Management Team, as well as a coordinated law enforcement response through targeted suppression and prosecution.

The goal of New Bedford Shannon is to prevent the onset or further escalation of gang involvement and serious delinquency in New Bedford among moderate and high-risk youth. Youth can be referred to the Shannon program by the Department of Youth Services, the courts, schools, law enforcement and other providers.

It offers outreach/case managers who work in the community, mediation services at school,  mental health counseling provided by a licensed clinician, LGBTQIA support groups, grief and trauma support, subsidized employment, financial literacy and career training, among other services.

The Safe and Successful Youth Initiative is operated in 14 Massachusetts communities and serves young adults ages 17-24 who police have identified as gang-involved, perpetrators of weapons offenses or engaged in frequent illegal activity. It offers street outreach and engagement, behavioral health assessment and support, education, job readiness training and career planning, and help with housing or child care to assist its clients in building successful and productive lives.

United Way has managed and supported the programs for five years, providing a solid foundation and framework for both. Funding under the United Way’s leadership has increased by 250 percent, enabling a broad impact on at-risk youth in the community.

“We have been talking about this move for several months,” said United Way’s Hantman. “We are proud of the work we have done on these two programs. It was essential we find a trusted partner who shares our mission to support New Bedford’s youth, and NorthStar has great experience and a proven track record serving this population.”

New Bedford Police Chief Paul Oliveira has worked closely with both the New Bedford Shannon and SSYI programs and believes they make a real difference in reducing serious crime and in helping New Bedford youth lead safer, happier live

“Crime prevention starts with knowing our youth, hearing them out and delivering smart, integrated services that help them find their place in our community. Both NorthStar and the United Way make a big difference in New Bedford,” said Chief Oliveira.

Rosario said the New Bedford Shannon and SSYI programs will continue operating out of their current locations in New Bedford at their respective locations on Nash Road and Purchase Street. But with the administrative transfer, the programs will benefit from working closer and more collaboratively with NorthStar’s Heal Center, which works with youth ages 17-24 who have been exposed to gun violence. The center is supported by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Gun Violence Prevention Intervention, Treatment and Recovery Services.