By Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce

While many students traditionally headed off to summer vacations, for the past nine years, some area high school and college students have participated in the Worcester Youth Leadership Institute. The program offers students an in-person, six-week learning experience which exposes them to a variety of businesses, Worcester industries, and mentors. The Institute is part of a broader effort by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce to develop and mentor Worcester’s future leaders.

The Institute is a partnership between the Worcester Chamber, MassHire Central Workforce Board, the United Way of Central Massachusetts, United Families for Change, Worcester Community Action Council, and the City of Worcester’s Youth Opportunities Office, and DPH with support from DCU, Reliant Medical Group, Webster Five, and GFI Partners, the sponsors of this program.

“The goal is simple – expose Worcester’s young people to the myriad of businesses, leaders, mentors, and possibilities available in their own communities,” said Timothy Murray, president and CEO of the Worcester Chamber. “These students are our future leaders. We want them to know and understand that their community can offer them a unique college experience and fascinating job opportunities, and provide insight and perspective on the city’s history, leadership, business community, and government make-up.”

Coordinated by Walter Jovel, the Institute identified 25 youth, ages 15 – 21, who are participating in the city’s YouthWorks employment program and who were nominated by their employer. These youth participated in a six-week, summer leadership program as part of their employment program.

“We think this is an awesome opportunity to enhance our employment program,” said Jeff Turgeon, executive director of MassHire Central Workforce Board. “These students have already shown initiative by participating in the YouthWorks program, and by offering an extended learning experience outside of the typical workday, are able to give them a unique experience and hopefully a greater appreciation for their community.”

The Institute, which ran this year from July 7 to August 11, introduced the participants to the business, government, education, and nonprofit sectors in a variety of ways including talks and question-and-answer sessions with the leadership structures of various sectors and organizations.

The youth participants were all a part of the Worcester Youthworks employment program, where they worked Monday through Thursday at the City or at area nonprofits. Topics included leadership focus areas from the Worcester fabric, such as entrepreneurism, economic development, public health, nonprofit organizations, and city government.

The program launched in 2014 after conversations between Tim Murray, George Smith, and Ron Scott from United Families for Change, Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty, City Manager Edward Augustus, and City Councilors Philip Palmieri and Sarai Rivera. All of the partner organizations came together and have graduated 150 students over the past nine years.