Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce leads program, now entering its eighth year, to introduce youth ages 15 – 21 to area businesses, civic leadership 

While many students traditionally have headed off to summer vacations, for the past seven 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 Chamber to develop and mentor Worcester’s future leaders.

The Institute is a partnership between the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, 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 with support from DCU, UniBank, Reliant Medical Group, 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, Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. “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. They are participating in a six-week, virtual 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 will run from July 9 to August 13, will introduce 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.

“UniBank is honored to partner with the Chamber and DCU, Reliant Medical Group and GFI Partners in sponsoring this year’s Worcester Youth Leadership Institute. Such programs are essential at this time – allowing each of us, as individuals and as community organizations to learn from one another and to enrich one another – thus making our community one that is tight knit and mutually supportive. UniBank’s involvement in our community over the past 150 years – is made manifest through our giving back to a community that has given us so much. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to sponsor such a life transformative experience,” said UniBank CEO, Michael Welch.

“We believe that supporting the Youth Leadership Institute is an important investment in our community,” says Linda Coccola, chief administrative officer at Reliant Medical Group. “It is very gratifying to be associated with a program that uniquely prepares Worcester’s youth for bright futures.”

The youth participants are all a part of the Worcester Youthworks employment program, where they are working Monday through Thursday at the City or at area nonprofits. Topics will include 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 125 students over the past seven years.

“We want to continue to engage graduates from previous summers to help build a sense of community for future and past participants in this program,” stated Raquel Castro-Corazzini, Youth Opportunities Coordinator for the City of Worcester.