The Northeast Regional Summit at UTEC, Inc.
We were surrounded by “madd love” at the last Catalyst Kitchens Regional Summit. Our first regional convening of this kind in the Northeast, the Summit brought together 15 organizations from 5 states for two days of conversation and connection at UTEC in Lowell, MA. A Model Member of our network, UTEC considers “madd love” an organizational core value and demonstrates this through their culture of unconditional acceptance along with the branding of their Madd Love Market for their social enterprise’s retail sales.
“UTEC is a family,” says David Crump, the Youthworker in Residence there. The sentiment was apparent from the moment we stepped foot in the building. UTEC’s mission is to ignite and nurture the ambition of disconnected young people to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success. In 2018, UTEC served 148 young adults in their intensive enrollment program, including their Food Services social enterprise, and reached nearly 600 in total through their Streetworker outreach and engagement.
Like anyone flying into Boston in early February, the Catalyst Kitchens team had braced ourselves for the chill. What we found instead was a warm welcome from our Northeast members and other community-based organizations operating foodservice job training programs around the region. Our Summits are intended to gather like-minded organizations together to discuss topics vital to our work, including student recruitment, program retention, and engaging employers to build career pathways for graduates. Like UTEC, many of the organizations at our Regional Summit provide services for disconnected young people, or “opportunity youth”.
“Our young people know that we understand what they’re going through,” says David Crump, UTEC Inc.’s Youthworker in Residence.
A few key takeaways emerged from our conversation, including:
The importance of providing wrap-around services to support students during their job training.
There was consensus among Northeast Summit attendees that integrated services such as transportation assistance and housing are key to their programs’ success. Assistance with these practical supports helps students to focus their full energy on their learning and growth in a culinary environment. There was a clear agreement on the need to offer better trauma-informed care and childcare.
Establishing an inclusive and community-driven culture.
It became clear that a strong program culture is a key ingredient for success as organizations shared their strategies and best practices around student retention. UTEC, for one, builds their culture through proactive community engagement on the streets. David Crump explained how the UTEC Streetworker initiative engages young people in and out of the program space by showing up for important life events, ranging from court cases to funerals. Many members of the Streetworker team have life experiences that are similar to those of the young adults at UTEC. Other programs at the Summit also echoed the importance of hiring staff members that represent the community they serve. “They see people like them on our team, who’ve come up through a similar background, and it’s relatable,” says Crump.
We believe that the power community can create real change and are thrilled we could spend a few days getting to know Northeast program’s strengths and struggles. Next stop…Houston, Texas!
The Catalyst Kitchens team is looking forward to hosting more Regional Summits across the country this year. Click here to learn more about where we’re headed.
To join in more conversations centered around training programs for opportunity youth, attend our upcoming Youth and Young Adult Workshop in New Orleans, LA.
Learn more about youth-driven training program design at Catalyst Kitchens programs including Appetite for Change and FareStart.