ROCA Key Program

February 9, 2012
By

Clean up crews in ROCA’s KEY program have been sprucing up the streets of Chelsea lately, and it isn’t a volunteer effort. It’s a last chance. ROCA Supervisor James Castellanos said that the program looks to place the high-risk youth into jobs with employers that work with ROCA. Inset photo is James Castellanos of Library Street.

The sun shone brightly on Broadway last Thurs­day afternoon – a mild day by typical February standards.

The wind whipped some stray papers around and some leaves left over from the fall blew wild­ly as cars sped by and pushed them into the air.

However, no sooner had those items been placed back on the ground by the wind than appeared a crew of young adults armed with brooms, rakes, trash bags and shovels.

They moved quickly, sweeping up anything out of place on the sidewalk in front of St. Rose Church. Then they moved on down the road, con­centrating on their work and taking seriously the idea of cleaning up Chelsea.

However, it wasn’t a volun­teer effort, it was quite literally a last chance.

Those young people clean­ing up the City lately are part of one of ROCA’s longest running and most successful programs over the last decade – the KEY program.

James Castellanos – a Li­brary Street resident – super­vises the clean-up activities and he told the Record that the program looks to give young people on the edge a chance to get on their feet.

“Basically, we try to show them how to work and how to get some consistency in their actions,” he said. “We’re try­ing to teach these kids to be consistent. The program takes these high-risk individuals and for the most part this is the first time they’ve ever worked. Most of them come from bro­ken homes or from homes where their parents didn’t provide the right supervision or support. It’s just a chance for them.”

The young people in the program are from Chelsea, Revere, Lynn and East Bos­ton, and many of them are former convicts, parolees on probation or former gang-in­volved kids.

The program gives them 10 months to complete 60 days of work around the commu­nity – supervised carefully by a ROCA manager like Castel­lanos.

Following that, the young people are placed in jobs with companies that have an agree­ment with ROCA.

“We help the youths get jobs with employers who work with ROCA, companies like Home Depot, Domino’s, Popeye’s and maybe the new


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