The City of Methuen is among the few communities in the Merrimack Valley that is not home to a formal youth center or agency exclusively dedicated to providing services to its young people.
In response, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently secured $200,000 in state funding toward a Youth Innovation Project in Methuen. The funds have been allocated to Inspirational Ones, a local nonprofit which, in collaboration with Methuen Public Schools and other partners, will initiate the pilot program, creating and implementing a curriculum model to identify and expand outside-the-box learning experiences and career opportunities, with a focus on engaging underserved youth. An essential component of the project is participation by a Youth Advisory Committee, whose members have been nominated by teachers and school staff and include representatives of that underserved population.
Originally, in addition to hiring an executive director and staff to provide programming, the goal was to utilize the funds in part to secure a physical facility in the City of Methuen. As the COVID-19 emergency reframes the way services can be delivered, the focus of the pilot phase has pivoted to embrace the new environment by finding partners with platforms that can provide effective online resources and intriguing virtual programming to introduce local youth to education and workforce paths that were previously inaccessible.
“We are excited to be a member of this partnership and have selected nine Methuen High School students with varying backgrounds, experiences, and interests to serve on the Youth Advisory Committee,” said Brandi Kwong, superintendent of Methuen Public Schools. “It is critical to have the student voices as a part of the decision making as they are the ones who will benefit from the programs. The Youth Advisory Committee will help guide the work to serve our youth. As a school district, we work to provide a wide breadth of experiences for all of our students, but it is wonderful to have community partners who want to work with our students and expand their experiences outside of school. We are looking forward to a positive and long-lasting partnership.”
“When we founded Inspirational Ones, it was to create impact at the community level through youth engagement,” said Susan Leger-Ferraro, founder of Inspirational Ones. “We are committed to bringing innovations for school to career opportunities back to my hometown of Methuen, in collaboration with Superintendent Kwong. It was in the early childhood program at Methuen High that I did my first internship in education. It is an honor to give back, as I believe it is all of our responsibility to strengthen our youth, who are our workforce for tomorrow.”
“Now more than ever during this COVID-19 emergency, youth in our community who are stuck at home, separated from their peers, are in need of vital services to keep them connected,” said DiZoglio. “The goal of this project is to provide them with that connectivity, as well as the mentorship opportunities and social and emotional learning to inspire them to pursue their unique talents and reach their goals.”
“I am so excited to be a part of this youth innovation project that will give the youth the opportunity to expose themselves to a variety of careers and experiences as well as explore their interests with others,” said Brooke Tardugno, a Methuen High freshman.
“I believe this project is exactly what our community needs,” said Natalie Harkins, a Methuen High sophomore. “It is a great opportunity to bring people together and truly connect with one another. I’ve already reached out to people to see if they’d be interested in participating and they all agree it’s an amazing opportunity.”
“I’m excited to introduce a new way to engage youth in our community,” said Molly Beeley, a Methuen High junior. “I think the Methuen Youth Innovation Project will offer our generation a unique and personal connection and will open a new door of opportunities for all of Methuen’s youth.”
“It is truly a blessing to be a part of this project,” said Lukas Karagiorgos, a Methuen High junior. “The Methuen Youth Innovation Project is not only a great way for students and kids from our community to hang out and connect, but also an opportunity to give them the tools and resources they need to succeed in the future. One of our main goals as a student led board is to give all students a voice and allow them to have representation in their education and community issues.”