Sen. Sal DiDomenico recently announced that his amendment providing $50,000 for CONNECT in the city of Chelsea was included in the final Fiscal Year 2019 budget. As Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate, DiDomenico was able to secure a number of amendments for his district in the Senate version of the budget, including this $50,000 for CONNECT. After filing this amendment in the Senate budget, he worked to advocate for it’s inclusion in the final version of the budget.
CONNECT helps people achieve sustainable living wage jobs and financial health and well-being by partnering with local agencies to provide essential skills, knowledge and social capital in one central and supportive location.
“CONNECT does great work for our community, and I am very proud to support them through the work that I do in the Senate,” said Sen. Sal DiDomenico. “I know that this additional funding will go a long way towards aiding their ability to empower individuals and help our residents achieve economic stability and financial well-being.”
The informal roundtable discussion brought several stakeholders together to explain their roles to Chair Yellen.
Chelsea’s Jose Iraheta sat next to one of the most powerful women in global finance last Thursday and calmly told Federal Reserve Bank Chair Janet Yellen what it was like to graduate from a quality university and still struggle to find work – what it was like to come from humble beginnings in Chelsea and try to break out into a working world where the margins were very thin.
“Why would I be nervous?” he asked. “It’s pretty unbelievable that I got to talk to her, but it was just my story and that’s easy to tell.” The story Iraheta told was one main reason Yellen made her historic visit to Chelsea – breaking the typical mold of a Fed Chief in talking with regular people at the bottom of the economic ladder. Iraheta and others involved in The Neighborhood Developer’s (TND) CONNECT job training program told about how they had trouble finding jobs or trouble gaining skills that employers wanted – some having trouble doing the simplest things like writing checks – before coming to the ground-breaking program.
After growing up as a “child of Chelsea non-profits and after school programs” such as the Collaborative, ROCA and Centro Latino, Iraheta graduated from Chelsea High in 2006. He received the prestigious Posse Scholarship and was able to attend Hamilton College in New York, but had to take some years off to help his family out by working.
In 2013, he graduated from Hamilton, but taking the next step wasn’t so easy. “It was really hard and I didn’t even know where to start,” he said. “My family didn’t go to college. The jobs we knew were laborer work. It was really tough going to an interview for the first time. It was really tough to navigate the system to get the jobs I wanted.” That, he told Yellen, was the case until he got into CONNECT. “A year ago I didn’t have a job and now I have a job at Citizen’s Bank and bought a house and am able to give back to the community I grew up in by working at the Food Pantry,” he said.
“You should be very proud,” Yellen told him with a big smile. With the red carpet fully rolled out, Federal Reserve Bank Chair Janet Yellen came to Chelsea with much fanfare last Thursday afternoon to visit with TND and learn about housing opportunities and job training programs.
Yellen appeared humble and asked more questions than she made comments.
She started off the whirlwind tour with a walk-through of the classrooms, computer room, and even the daycare facility – briefly waving at the little tots in nursery.
Following that, Yellen sat in on a roundtable discussion where City Manager Jay Ash explained the history of Chelsea to the Fed Chief, noting the great fires of Chelsea and how the last great fire was the best thing to ever happen to the City – as it allowed redevelopment.
He and TND Director Ann Houston explained to Yellen – as they looked out over the Box District – how the housing market meltdown in 2007 and 2008 really hit Chelsea hard. It was a subject that seemed to interest Yellen quite a bit, as she brought up the issue of subprime mortgages and homeowners taking out equity to fix dilapidated properties.
“There were a lot of bad subprime mortgages here,” Houston said. “We were, unfortunately, deeply affected by the subprime mortgage market.” That followed up with a discussion about CONNECT and the six partners that make up the organization.
Marissa Guananja, director of CONNECT, and Linda Rohrer of CareerSource told about how they train and place workers into jobs with partnering employers.
Yellen was particularly interested in how the job market looked and what skills were in demand. “We’re seeing a good increase in people who have access only to part-time jobs and a slow increase to availability of full-time jobs,” said Rohrer. “We see a good growth among all sectors from last fiscal year to this fiscal year…Math skills seem to be really important.
The STEM occupations are really high. People’s math and reading skills are not what they need to be to move into those jobs that are there. Some are coming in with a minimum eighth grade education. Even in advanced manufacturing training, it’s difficult because people don’t even have English language skills, but mostly it’s math and reading.
That’s what we really have to work on to get people into these higher paying jobs.”
However, great hope was found in the roundtable with CONNECT clients such as Iraheta. CONNECT client Christine Torres, a Revere resident who is very involved in Bunker Hill’s Chelsea Campus, told Yellen about how she had burnt out on college at UMass Boston and, believing she could never finish college, pursued a career in cosmetology. However, after having an epiphany and wanting to do better, she turned to CONNECT and found confidence first – and then skills.
“I had been going to UMass Boston for four years and still only had two years worth of credits,” she told Yellen. “I had quit and I did not believe I could finish school and I gave up on myself. When I came to CONNECT and met Ann Houston, I began to believe in myself. I realized I had to believe in myself again before I could get the skills I needed. Now, I’m going to Bunker Hill Community College and I plan to transfer to Boston University for a degree in Urban Affairs and Theology. My life is on a whole new course.” Yellen nodded, with clear sentiment showing for the young woman’s story. Clearly, it was a model she hoped could be replicated all through the country.
We are certainly very honored to have Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen visiting our city.
Mrs. Yellen is an international figure and a leader of the world’s economy. She has produced outstanding accomplishments in her field and is admired and respected by economists and financial professionals across the globe. She has studied and taught at the world’s most prestigious institutions, having graduated summa cum laude from Brown University and having received her Ph.D in economics from Yale University. Mrs. Yellen was also an assistant professor at Harvard and a lecturer at The London School of Economics.
Mrs. Yellen was set to tour the city and visit CONNECT, a consortium of local organizations in Chelsea’s The Neighborhood Developers (TND) headquarters. TND Director Ann Huston understands the magnitude of having an international figure here, saying that Yellen’s visit is the biggest event in her organization’s history.
We echo City Manager Jay Ash’s excitement in having the opportunity to show our city to Chair Yellen. Ash has guided our community to the national All-America City Award and this is another proud day for a city that has been receiving consistent, national recognition for its programs and organizations’ collaborative efforts.
Mrs. Yellen’s visit to Chelsea puts our outstanding CONNECT program in the national spotlight. We’re sure Chair Yellen will enjoy hearing about the success of this fine program that helps residents who are trying to find employment opportunities.
Thank you, Chair Yellen, for honoring our city with your visit.
The U.S. President may be the commander-in-chief of the world’s best military and the leader of the country’s political system, but the Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank (The Fed) holds the keys to the world economy – and she’s coming to Chelsea today, Oct. 16.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will visit CONNECT, a consortium of local organizations in Chelsea’s The Neighborhood Developers (TND) headquarters on Gerrish Avenue. CONNECT works collaboratively to provide integrated employment services for local residents related to economic instability, housing, and financial and educational opportunities.
Chair Yellen will tour the facility and meet with consortium leaders and local residents. She will hear about conditions in the local economy and the community and how programs like CONNECT are making a difference for residents who are trying to enter or re-enter the workforce.
TND Director Ann Houston said the visit by Yellen is probably the biggest event in her organization’s history.
“It’s an incredible honor and speaks volumes about the fact she deeply cares about the lives of ordinary people,” said Houston on Wednesday morning. “I don’t know who else has set aside this sort of time to come out and spend time talking with clients of CONNECT. She wants to talk to people in the program and learn from us about the Working Cities Challenge. It shows she’s not just concerned about how the economy works for big corporations, and that is certainly important, but clearly, though, she’s also interested in how that trickles down to regular citizens’ lives.”
City Manager Jay Ash said he’s excited to show off that corner of the City to Chair Yellen.
“I’m very excited about Chair Yellen’s visit to Chelsea because it will allow us to spotlight our combined work at CONNECT, the TND led partnership of six organizations that are combining services under one roof to help residents prosper,” said City Manager Jay Ash. “CONNECT is a central part of our Working Cities Challenge initiative. The Working Cities Challenge is the brainchild of the Boston Fed and a significant contributor to the already strong Chelsea collaboration raising our collective efforts to better address prosperity, quality of life and physical conditions specifically in the Shurtleff-Bellingham neighborhood and generally throughout Chelsea. We’re very fortunate to have a great relationship the Fed, and I’ll be saying so to Chair Yellen. In some respects, Chair Yellen’s visit is consistent with what I’ve been telling our local partners since we’ve were designated a WCC community; that being that the eyes of the entire country are on Chelsea, and for all the right reasons.”
One of the main reasons that Yellen was clued into things happening in Chelsea is the City’s successful competition in the Boston Fed’s Working Cities Challenge. That grant program called on several small to mid-sized cities to showcase how they solved problems together within their community.
Chelsea emerged as one of the winners, and was uniformly praised by Boston Fed officials for collaborative work between municipal government and organizations like TND.
“There is deep research, some done by the Fed, that helps us make real change – significant change,” said Houston. “It’s easy to go down a path that doesn’t yield good results. The Fed has done a lot of research that has informed us about successful transformation to small and mid-sized cities.”
Yellen will arrive around 12:30 p.m. Oct. 16 and will tour the facility and talk to participants and community leaders. The event comes with a high-level of security and will not be accessible to the general public.