In the wake of a shooting just outside its doors last year, the Dorchester YMCA says it’s stepping up its commitment to providing teens with activities and programs this summer. The Y, along with the Boston Foundation and the My Summer in the City program are launching an ambitious slate of summer events as part of its Urban Agenda effort.
Beginning July 11 and lasting through early September, the Y will offer family nights, teen nights, community cook-outs, sports leagues, lifestyle groups and other activities at its Washington St. location. The Y is also welcoming 283 teen members that will attend programs free of charge.
Parties for local teens will be held once a month. Executive Director James Lozano said that both police and city street workers will be present for the parties. Nineteen-year-old Aaron Brown was shot and killed last August outside of a YMCA dance. Lozano said that he is working with authorities to maintain safety.
“We like to keep it around 200 [party attendees], it keeps us in control,” Lozano said.
By working more closely with street workers, Lozano said, YMCA staff have been able to ferret out gang-related conflicts before they turn violent.
“I didn’t recognize that there were street workers,” Lozano said, “I didn’t really know about them, so it opened the doors to street workers and they’re in my building more.”
Though attendance at the meeting was sparse, only a handful of the 50 people invited were on hand, Lozano, along with senior Vice President of Development for the Greater Boston YMCA Harold Sparrow and Dorchester Y Board of Advisers president Greg Wilmot, were enthusiastic about the summer programs.
In attendance were Boston Police District B-3 Community Officers Cynthia Brewington and Jose Ruiz.
Ruiz said that organizations like the Y are successful with teens because they provide discipline to youngsters who may not be exposed to it in other settings. The officer said that he once encountered an eleven-year-old boy who assaulted his own mother and tried to excuse his violent behavior by saying that the attack would only amount to four hours in juvenile lockup.
According to Ruiz, District B-3 also offers many programs and events for young people in need of safe places to spend their time, saying that in many parts of the city there are populations that “can’t spell the word hope, let along expect it.”