Center for Teen Empowerment – Somerville, MA

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Project at a Glance

  • Issue Area Community-police relations, Education and youth
  • Engagement Approaches Youth Engagement
Project Description

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Teen Empowerment (TE) engages young people as leaders in local efforts to turn their peers away from violence, gangs, and drugs, and toward positive community involvement. TE organizes in communities with high rates of youth violence, among other risk factors, and places with low rates of youth achievement. Through the program, youth are trained as community organizers and develop effective strategies that involve their peers in creating positive social and instructional change in their communities and schools.

Teen Empowerment began in some of the highest risk neighborhoods in Boston, expanding into Somerville in 2004 at the height of an epidemic of youth substance abuse and suicide. Since its implementation in Somerville, Teen Empowerment has statistically and significantly contributed to the reduction in youth substance abuse, high school dropout rates, and violent crimes among youth in the city. Teen Empowerment Somerville also serves as the lead facilitator for the community-wide Youth Workers Network. TE hires low-income, urban teens to identify the most pressing issues in their communities and to develop a strategy to address those issues.

Each year, more than 90 TE youth organizers conduct more than 150 initiatives involving more than 5,000 youth, residents, public officials, and police in efforts to build peace, tolerance, and community. As part of this process, TE has resolved more than 200 conflicts including those related to homicide, gang activity, and hate crimes and helped to substantially reduce youth violence in urban neighborhoods. In addition, TE provides consulting and training to help other service providers adapt our methods for use in their own programs.

TE’s programs provide essential esteem building and job skills, and programmatic and leadership support to enhance and support youth across the region. TE youth organizers facilitate local and regional youth efforts in fostering positive, healthy relationships with community leaders, most specifically Somerville Police Officers.

Youth Organizers (YO) work to identify critical issues facing their community and to develop a strategy to address those issues. Working with the Somerville Police

Department and its Community Policing initiative, TE facilitates several Youth-Police Dialogues each year, bringing YO and members of the police department together for in depth face-to-face interactions that include role play, breakout groups that focus on issues of concern for youth and breaking down existing barriers between youth and police, and other important discussions as determined by the group. A study by the Rochester Institute of Technology found that TE’s youth-police dialogues resulted in participants gaining empathy, understanding, and respect, with both youth and officers gaining new perspectives as well as new skills for how to work together effectively.

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Somerville is a winner of the All-America City Award.  For more information about the All-America City Award visit:

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