Free Exploratory Program at Voke Aimed for Non-Vocational Students

Free Exploratory Program at Voke Aimed for Non-Vocational Students

Northeast Metro Tech is once again opening its doors to non-vocational high school students interested in learning more about technical education.

Through its “Exploring Vocational and Career Technical Pathways,” Northeast is offering a 12-week program for in-district students in grades nine through 12 not currently enrolled at the school to expand their knowledge in one of 13 tech programs.

This is the second year of the program, which is made possible through a $100,000 Cummings Foundation grant that will be used over four years.

“We take our role as our communities’ alternative high school option very seriously,” Principal Carla Scuzzarella said. “This grant provides us with the means to offer vocational and technical opportunities for students who are thinking about options for their future.”

Divided into three four-week programs, students in Northeast’s district who sign up for Exploring Vocational and Career Technical Pathways are welcomed to the school on Saturdays to experience a number of career pathways. The free courses are led by a Northeast instructor and participants get an abridged version of each shop’s curriculum.

Given the success of last year’s pilot program, Northeast is now offering courses in nearly all of its tech programs — automotive technology, business technology, drafting and design, carpentry, cosmetology, culinary arts, design and visual communications, electrical, health assisting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning/refrigeration, metal fabrication, plumbing and robotics.

“Teachers saw the positive impact this program had on communities during our pilot program and wanted to become more involved,” Program Director Joe O’Brien Jr. said. “This is a great opportunity for students who are interested in one, two or three areas of technical study to learn more and gain valuable skills that can be applied in college or a career.”

Additionally, as part of a $106,320 Skills Capital Grant Northeast received earlier this month, the school will expand the drafting and design program for participants through updated equipment and advanced software.

The first of three sessions will begin on Feb. 2 and continue on Feb. 9, Feb. 16 and March 2. Session two will run from March 9-30 (Saturdays only) and session three begins on April 6, and meets on April 13, April 27 and May 4.

Students can attend all three sessions for free, and pick three different shops to explore, or stick with one for 12 weeks. Transportation to Northeast is not provided.

To apply, students should fill out an application here and email it to O’Brien at jobrien@northeastmetrotech.com, or mail it to the school at:

Northeast Metro Tech

Attn: Joe O’Brien Jr.

100 Hemlock Road

Wakefield, MA 01880 Applicants should apply prior to the start of each session. Those who apply in the middle of a session will be placed in the following session. Anyone with questions should contact O’Brien at jobrien@northeastmetrotech.com or 781-246-0810.

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Clean Water:Chelsea Leaders Receive MWRA Grant for Removing Lead Service Lines

Clean Water:Chelsea Leaders Receive MWRA Grant for Removing Lead Service Lines

Lead pipes are often a hidden danger under the streets and sidewalks for a lot of families in Chelsea, but if the City

State Rep. Dan Ryan praised the program and congratulated
Chelsea in being proactive to replace lead service lines.

can help it, that danger will be removed one pipe at a time.

On Monday, the MWRA and the Clean Water Action Group awarded the City of Chelsea and GreenRoots for their early adoption of a program that removes, at no cost to the homeowner, lead water service lines while in the process of other infrastructure projects.

Part of that award included a $100,000 grant to help continue the program and remove more lead water lines as the City encounters them during paving or sidewalk repair programs.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it is a common sense operation, but one that goes the extra step in replacing the line for free – as it usually is the responsibility of the homeowner to pay for the replacement.

“For the last year or more, as we’ve undertaken other construction projects on the streets, when we encounter a lead service line on the street, we are replacing it at no cost to the homeowner,” he said. “The MWRA grant helps ensure we will be able to continue to do that. We all want safe and clean drinking water and having clean water is elemental.”

Over time, lead can leach into drinking water, and studies have shown that lead is a neurotoxin and can affect cognitive abilities with repeated exposure. This is particularly dangerous for children and pregnant women.

“Chelsea is so proactive in doing this,” said MWRA Director Fred Laskey. “They are going through the inventory and going house to house and street to street to get rid of this problem. This is something that should serve as a model in how to prevent the scourge of lead in water. No other community has forged into this.”

Fidel Maltez of the Chelsea DPW said that more than 50 lines have been replaced so far under the program. Some of those were last year and came when they were working on street repairs, including to Shurtleff, Maverick, Clark, Crescent, Lawrence, Tudor and Webster Streets. This year, they will take on Essex Street and will be looking for lead water lines there too.

“Every project moving forward is going to identify and remove these lines with zero cost to the homeowner,” he said.

He said that any homeowner that thinks they might have a lead service line should contact the DPW at (617) 466-4200. They will send out a technician to verify if it is a lead pipe, and if it is, they will put it on a list for completion.

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Chelsea Gets Community Compact Grant

Chelsea Gets Community Compact Grant

Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito today announced $3 million in technology grants to 44 cities and towns across the Commonwealth through the Community Compact Information Technology (IT) Grant Program. This week’s announcement will benefit more than 49 municipal entities and brings the total number of municipal IT grants issued over the past four years to 188, assisting 250 communities with $9 million in grant funding to modernize their technology systems and deliver service to their residents more efficiently.

Chelsea received $50,000 for implementation of a comprehensive communication and project management package that will improve service, documentation and knowledge sharing.

Lt. Governor Polito made the announcement.

“Community Compact IT grants are a valuable way for the Community Compact program to provide access to resources for major technological projects that might otherwise be unaffordable,” said Lt. Governor Polito, Chair of the Community Compact Cabinet. “A great example is Cohasset’s plan to upgrade its Student Information System for greater productivity and the sophisticated tools that a school district requires to help meet its administrative obligations and its students’ educational needs.”

Cities and towns have used the IT grant funding to upgrade their websites, implement new systems that allow residents to apply for permits and licenses online, improve the security and capacity of municipal IT systems, digitize records and develop other solutions to costly technological challenges.

In addition to the IT grants, the Baker-Polito Administration has awarded $7.3 million in technical assistance grants and $4 million in efficiency and regionalization grants since starting the Community Compact Program in 2015.

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Rep Ryan:State Did Not Retreat on Opiate Legislation, Passes Unanimously

Rep Ryan:State Did Not Retreat on Opiate Legislation, Passes Unanimously

The long-discussed wide- ranging  opiate treatment bill passed the state legislature late Tuesday night just in the nick of time, after a conference committee on Tuesday agreed to a compromise form of the bill that went through many twists and turns over the past month.

State Rep. Dan Ryan, who is vice chair of the House’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Committee and had a big hand in the bill, said he was happy to see that the body came to agreement and voted unanimously on the final bill only hours after the compromise reached the floor.

He said that many hard issues were discussed – such as providing opiate treatment to inmates, creating Safe Injection Facilities, and looking at involuntary commitments for substance abuse treatment – but none of the sticking points caused the bill to derail in the last hours.

“A unanimous vote on such a major piece of legislation, such as the opioid bill, shows what we are able to do here in the Commonwealth,” he said. “Because we don’t retreat into our partisan safe zones, we are able deliver a bill that will go a long way in curbing this scourge that had affected so many communities… I have to thank Speaker DeLeo for appointing me vice-chair of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Committee. My knowledge of so much of the good work being done by others in Charlestown and Chelsea really helped me to shape discussion. I thank everyone in our communities that are doing recovery work.”

Rep. Ryan said he thanked Conference Committee Chair Rep. Denise Garlick and Sen. Cynthia Friedman for their quick analysis of a tough issue.

“After months of public testimony, stakeholder meetings and expert analysis they worked through the weekend processing all of that info and hammered out a bill we can all live with and will save lives,” he said. “Our neighborhoods, hospitals, schools and even correctional facilities will be safer places because of this bill.”

One of the sticking points in the bill was Safe Injection Facilities (SIFs), which allow people to use illegal injection drugs in a supervised medical environment. It is illegal in the United States and opposed by the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts. While that measure had supporters in the Senate, it did not get support in the House. The compromise on that created a commission to study the concept with municipal leaders, including Mayor Martin Walsh – who opposes the idea outright.

A second measure allows a pilot program in county jails and state prisons to allow treatment medicines, such as Methadone, to be given to inmates. Currently, those in treatment when they enter jail are cut off from that treatment. The pilot, however, does not operate in Suffolk County. Only two state prisons are included – MCI-Cedar Junction and the Plymouth treatment facility for men.

Finally, Ryan said the House had been very much opposed to the idea of Section 35 involuntary treatment, but Gov. Charlie Baker was very supportive of the idea. The program is running in Boston on a pilot with the West Roxbury District Court, and it allows police and medical professionals to involuntarily hold certain individuals for the sake of treatment without the approval of family – which is usually required.

The matter was adopted for study by a commission.

Other highlights include:

  • Requires electronic prescribing for all controlled substances, with limited exceptions, effective January 1, 2020.
  • Expands access to naloxone (Narcan) in the community by (1) establishing a standing order, providing access to naloxone without a prescription, (2) allowing certain Sheriffs to purchase naloxone at a lower cost through the state’s bulk purchasing program, and (3) allowing local governments and agencies to exchange unexpired naloxone.
  • Establishes a commission to make recommendations on the certification of Recovery Coaches.
  • Mandates that providers check the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) prior to issuing any prescription for a benzodiazepine.
  • Establishes a Center for Police Training in Crisis Intervention to support cost-effective, evidence-based mental health and substance use crisis response training programs for law enforcement, providing the tools to respond appropriately to behavioral health crises.

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MS-13’s East Coast Leader Gets More than 19 Years in Prison

MS-13’s East Coast Leader Gets More than 19 Years in Prison

The leader of the MS-13 East Coast Program was sentenced July 18 in federal court in Boston for racketeering conspiracy.

Jose Adan Martinez Castro, a/k/a “Chucky,” 29, a Salvadoran national formerly residing in Richmond, Va., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to 235 months in prison, the top of the sentencing range recommended by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. Castro will be subject to deportation upon completion of his sentence. In November 2017, Castro pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO or racketeering conspiracy.

After a multi-year investigation, Castro was one of dozens of leaders, members, and associates of MS-13 named in a superseding indictment unsealed in January 2016 that targeted MS-13’s criminal activities in Massachusetts. According to court documents, MS-13 members engaged in a variety of racketeering acts and crimes of violence, including six different murders committed by MS-13 members in Massachusetts between October 2014 and January 2016.

Castro was one of 49 defendants to be convicted as part of this case. All nine defendants who went to trial were convicted and 40 others pleaded guilty.

During the investigation, Castro was identified as the leader of MS-13’s East Coast Program. Most of the cliques in Massachusetts fall under the East Coast Program, which also has cliques in Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, and Ohio.

On Dec. 13, 2015, using a cooperating witness, law enforcement recorded a meeting of the East Coast Program leadership at Castro’s home in Richmond. The recorded meeting provided evidence about the organizational structure, leadership structure, and recruitment system of MS-13 as well as the means, methods, objectives, and operating principles of the gang.  Leaders of the East Coast Program cliques from Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia attended the meeting.

During the meeting, Castro and others discussed how there was enough space in the East Coast Program for the all of the assembled MS-13 cliques to work cooperatively. Castro and others also discussed the need for the cliques to be better at planning and coordinating hits (i.e., murders) and Castro confirmed that murders generally had to be approved by MS-13 leaders before the local members could carry them out. The group also discussed sending money to El Salvador to support MS-13, the need to work together to increase the gang’s strength and control, and the need to kill anyone who provided information against the gang. An El Salvadoran-based leader of MS-13 also participated in the meeting via the phone and provided direction to the assembled leaders.

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MyRWA to Concentrate on Climate Change, Adaptation

MyRWA to Concentrate on Climate Change, Adaptation

On the heels of record-setting flood events in January and March 2018, the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) announced today that it is updating its core mission and resources to help municipalities manage the extreme weather associated with climate change.

“Slowing down climate change is all about managing energy,” said Patrick Herron, MyRWA’s executive director.  “Adapting to climate change is all about managing water—both flooding and drought.  Water is something that we have thought about for over four decades.”

The Mystic River watershed spans 21 cities and towns from Woburn through Revere.  This spring, MyRWA staff met with nearly fifty state and local stakeholders to best understand how a regional watershed association could help municipalities become more resilient to flooding, drought and heat.

“We heard over and over from cities and towns that they can’t manage flooding from just within their municipal boundaries,” explained Herron. “Stormwater flooding in Medford for example, has its origins in upstream communities.  Coastal storms below the Amelia Earhart Dam threaten both New England’s largest produce distribution center and Logan Airport’s jet fuel supply.”

“We’re concerned about the neighborhoods and residents living in the shadows of massive petroleum storage tanks and other industries which are projected to be severely impacted by climate change.  When the flood waters and chemicals reach homes, how will our communities be protected?” asked Roseann Bongiovanni, executive director of GreenRoots in Chelsea.  “We’ve seen neighborhoods in Louisiana, Puerto Rico and Houston be decimated.  Chelsea and East Boston could be next.”

Based on this feedback, MyRWA requested and received a $115,000 grant from the Barr Foundation that will allow the non-profit to work with municipalities, businesses and community organizations on an action-oriented, regional, climate resilience strategy for the Mystic River Watershed.  This grant will allow MyRWA to hire Julie Wormser to lead this new program.

“The Barr Foundation’s climate resilience grantmaking has historically focused on Boston. Yet, we know climate change is no respecter of city boundaries. If some act in isolation, neighboring communities could actually become more vulnerable,” said Mary Skelton Roberts, co-director of Barr’s Climate Program. “It is our privilege to support MyRWA’s efforts to advance solutions at a more expansive, watershed scale.”

As executive director of The Boston Harbor Association, Wormser was instrumental in in drawing attention to Boston’s need to prepare for coastal flooding from extreme storms and sea level rise.  She coauthored Preparing for the Rising Tide and Designing With Water and co-led the Boston Living with Water international design competition with the City of Boston and Boston Society of Architects.  She will join MyRWA as its deputy director beginning July 1st.

“Three of the US cities most engaged in climate preparedness—Boston, Cambridge and Somerville—are located in the Mystic River Watershed,” said Wormser.  “This grant will allow us collectively to share information and lessons learned since Superstorm Sandy with lower-resourced municipalities.  By working regionally and with the State, we can also create multiple benefit solutions such as riverfront greenways that double as flood protection.  It’s very inspiring.”

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City’s Façade and Signage Program to Kick Off on July 12

City’s Façade and Signage Program to Kick Off on July 12

The City of Chelsea will begin a downtown façade and signage improvement program in a kick-off meeting on July 12.

Business and property owners in the downtown, as well as other interested parties, are invited to this meeting to learn about the rollout of the program and to meet Nathalia Hermida.

Hermida will be available throughout the summer to provide free design services for signage and façade improvements of downtown properties. During this meeting, Hermida will detail the design process, what assistance she’ll be able to provide and how to engage her services.

Along with responding to inquiries solicited through this meeting, Hermida will also be approaching specific identified properties. Those interested in the program who cannot attend this meeting should contact Mimi Graney, Downtown Coordinator at mgraney@chelseama.gov.

Design consultation with Hermida will be available both in English and in Spanish.

The City of Chelsea Façade and Signage Program meeting will take place on Thursday, July 12, at 8:30 a.m. at Chelsea City Hall, third-floor Committee Room.

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Changing Lives:New Pilot Program a Hit Right Off the Bat with CHS Students

Changing Lives:New Pilot Program a Hit Right Off the Bat with CHS Students

In the big scheme of $100 million-plus budgets, $150,000 is pretty small potatoes, but that small allotment approved by the City Council went a long way to instantly changing the trajectory of dozens of Chelsea High (CHS) students last Thursday, May 10, when they learned that the City would pay for them to finish their Associate’s Degree after graduation.

CHS Principal Priti Johari made the announcement to 94 seniors that qualified for the new pilot program approved by the Council about one month ago. At first, there was an air of disbelief.

But after about 20 minutes, there were smiles and a lot of tears from students gathered there – many of whom had given up on going to college.

Guidairys Castro said she had been accepted to UMass Dartmouth, Roger Williams and two other colleges. However, even with financial aid, it was still out of her reach, and even though she gathered more than 12 college credits at Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) through the dual enrollment program over the past two years, she said she wasn’t even going to be able to pay for finishing that Associate’s program.

“I would say this is life-changing,” she said. “It definitely changes everything for me. I wasn’t thinking about getting to go to college. This is a very good opportunity for me. I didn’t think I would have the money I needed to finish and then go on to a university. I applied to so many colleges and got accepted, but when the financial aid numbers came back, I realized it wasn’t going to happen for me. Today, that all changed.”

On Thursday, Castro sat down with the other 93 seniors who qualified, most not knowing what the big announcement was going to be. Johari said students had to complete 12 credits, and if they agree to stay in Chelsea and go to BHCC, they can finish their Associate’s Degree on the City’s dime as part of the program.

“This is a special group and a really exciting announcement,” she told them. “The City of Chelsea is investing in you. That is exciting…They want you to go to college and graduate, then come back to Chelsea. We want higher education to be more affordable. I know a lot of you have big dreams and can’t go to college because of money. City Manager Tom Ambrosino and the Council wanted to take money away as an obstacle.”

Ambrosino was heartened to hear of the scene after the announcement, and said it made him believe that the program is worthy and should be continued next year.

“I’m thrilled because this is exactly why we did that program and how we wanted it to work,” he said. “We wanted it to change people’s lives.”

Others in the room were relieved because they were going to have to pay out of pocket to finish at Bunker Hill.

Barbara Mendez and Emily Romero said they were going to have to take a year off to work full-time, perhaps more than one job, to be able to pay for going back to Bunker Hill next year.

With the announcement, that all changed.

“We were going to work for a year, but now there is no point in doing that,” said Mendez.

Both were interested in nursing, and early childhood care. The plan was to finish the Associate’s and transfer to a university – which is the popular route nowadays for students wishing to save significant money on college.

“Most of us in this room are the first to even consider college in our families,” said Romero. “It’s a big achievement for our family. They are going to be so happy to hear this. I feel this is really going to help me because I was going to have to pay out of pocket, and I didn’t know if I would have the money. It’s a great opportunity.”

For David Cruz, the scholarship is going to speed up his career path, as he wants to finish up at Bunker Hill and transfer to Bridgewater State. There, he wants to study aviation so he can be an airline pilot.

“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do as long as I can remember,” he said with a smile.

The applications for the new program were due on Monday, May 14, and many of the 94 eligible students were expected to apply.

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MCU Selected to Take Part in Equity Builder Program

MCU Selected to Take Part in Equity Builder Program

Metro Credit Union (MCU)  has been selected to participate in the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston’s Equity Builder Program, which assists local homebuyers with down-payment and closing costs assistance. Metro received $110,000 through the program, which is available on a first come first serve basis. Homebuyers, at or below 80 percent of the area median income and complete a homebuyer counseling program are eligible to receive up to $11,000 to be used in conjunction with Metro’s flexible loan programs and reduced fees.

“We are pleased to be able to offer this assistance to help ease some of the challenges associated with a home purchase. Homeownership is key to building wealth and creating financial stability, and programs that assist homebuyers are a critical component in ensuring that our communities continue to thrive,” said Robert Cashman, President & CEO, Metro Credit Union.

Since 2003, the Equity Builder Program has awarded more than $35 million in EBP funds assisting 3,150 income-eligible households to purchase a home.

 To learn more about applying for assistance, please contact a Metro Mortgage Specialist at  877.696.3876 or visit MetroCU.org.

About Metro Credit Union

Metro Credit Union is the largest state-chartered credit union in Massachusetts with over $1.3 billion in assets, and serves more than 170,000 members. It is a growing, federally insured financial institution and a leading provider of a full range of financial services to anyone living or working in Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Plymouth, Barnstable, Bristol or Worcester counties in Eastern Massachusetts, as well as Massachusetts state employees and retirees throughout the Commonwealth. Founded in 1926, Metro Credit Union is a non-profit cooperative institution, owned by and operated for the people who use and benefit from its products and services. Metro uses superior customer service and technology to deliver a full range of financial products to consumers and businesses in eastern Massachusetts. Learn more about Metro Credit Union at www.metrocu.org

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Drug Court Graduation Brings Tears of Joy, Celebration of Change

Drug Court Graduation Brings Tears of Joy, Celebration of Change

On Tuesday, April 10, at Chelsea District Court, the courtroom was filled with people who had arrest records as long as the Declaration of Independence. They sat at the tables where defendants usually sit.

They’d all been there before numerous times due to their addiction, drug use and petty crimes. This time, though, they were there to graduate – to acknowledge that they’d completed a program at least 18 months long with the courts that helped them turn their lives around.

The program is Drug Court, and it was innovated in Chelsea in 2000 and continues strong through the support of judges, probation officers, recovery coaches and other resources. It is a last stop, last chance for many people who have been in and out of jail for their entire lives.

“It saved my life,” said Erin Eckert, cradling her young toddler girl and noting that she was at the lowest one can get while on the streets of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass in Boston’s South End – known as Methadone Mile. “It took me a long time to do this and make the decision. When I did, it literally saved my life.”

On Tuesday, seven people graduated from the program. Most had been in jail several times, had years or decades of court involvement. This time, though, they changed that trajectory. Most had been clean for more than a year, and most were employed. Families and supporters came to celebrate.

SJC Justice David Lowy was the keynote speaker, sharing how he had lost a cousin last year to opiate overdose. Almost all of the big players in the state’s judiciary were in attendance.

Everyone cried, but they were tears of celebration and relief.

Chelsea started and innovated the program years ago, and now there are drug courts in many of the urban District Courts that are built on that same model. It is a strike against the opiate epidemic, and one that works for many people.

“This last time I was up and down with it,” said Kristen Barnett, who entered the Drug Court in February 2015. “All I know is I changed my life this time. I don’t know what to say why I did it this time, but I did. I’m happy to be here today.”

Those graduating included:

  • Joseph Barbarisi
  • Kristen Barnett
  • Meredith Downing
  • Erin Eckert
  • Heritier Kindoki
  • William Paskell
  • Mynor Velasquez

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