(Boston, MA) – Today nearly 300 supporters of Roca, the nationally recognized non-profit that helps at-risk youth finish school, find jobs, live out of harms way and become members of their community, attended its fourth annual breakfast fundraiser at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. The record breaking attendance during difficult economic circumstances underscores the importance of the services Roca provides.

«We are losing too many young people to violence and poverty and instead of looking at ourselves to figure out what we need to change, what we need to do differently, we blame our young people,» said Molly Baldwin, executive director of Roca. «We work with young people everyday to help them do things that matter and change their lives so they can live and succeed but we wouldn’t be able to do that without the support and encouragement of law enforcement officials as well as political and community leaders who are here with us today. Together, we can keep young people out of harm’s way and in turn, our communities will thrive through their participation and leadership.»

Recent reports show that nationally 10-15 percent of all young people ages 14-24 feel disconnected from education and employment. Failing to meet the needs of high-risk youth will result in the same outcome: uneducated and unemployed youth becoming increasingly dangerous creating a growing burden on public safety, communities and the economy. Roca is dedicated to ending this cycle of violence.

«Roca has helped me to not only turn my life around but understand that I am worthy of another chance at life,» said Zaida Gonzalez, Roca participant. «My mother was dealing with a drug addiction, I was running the streets, drinking, and causing harm everywhere. I realized that I could not keep going down this path and with Roca’s support I was able to accept and love myself, take accountability and change, but it didn’t happen over night. I also took custody of my younger siblings because I did not want them to have to go through what I went through. Now I am working full time, and going to Bunker Hill Community College part time. I am able to take care of my brother and sister and work with my mother on her rehabilitation. I have learned to pursue my dreams because I am worth it and so are the young people who are too often left behind.»

The Journal of Criminology estimated that it costs a local community between $250,000 and $2,000,000 in social and incarceration support over the life time of each young person who is admitted into the penal system. Roca has a record of success training and supporting young people until they are living out of harm’s way and economically independent citizens for a fraction of the cost that ignoring this problem creates: an average of $4,880 per young person.

«No one wants to see a young person in jail,» said Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes. «It is not only a significant economic cost to the community but it is also preventable. I have seen firsthand the success Roca has helping at-risk youth make important life changes. The fact is it works and that is why I am here today to support them.»

At the fundraiser, attendees participated in a peacemaking circle, an aboriginal communication methodology taught to Roca by the Tagish Tlingit people that is believed to be successful in tackling hard issues, violence, accountability and peacemaking. The peacemaking circle sparked a dialogue among participants about the need to change the way we address urban youth violence in our community.

Roca was founded in 1988 and has a well-established record of success reaching disenfranchised and disengage


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