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They say “seeing is believing” so I jumped into the car on Monday, October 19th, for a road trip to New York and Boston. For two years I have wanted to visit a couple different programs that have been doing some remarkable work with “disconnected” young adults, defined as 18-24 year-olds neither working nor in school.  I am grateful that my wife Isabel was willing to call this a “vacation” as we also had some fun hanging out in NY and Boston.

In New York we visited the Queens Community House (QHC).  I learned about this organization in following the work of JobsFirst NYC, and intermediary organization focused on employing New York’s nearly 70,000 “disconnected” young adults.  Their goal is to employ 10% of this population over the next few years; their strategy is to work with established community-based organizations who serve as an on-boarding and training space in specific industry sectors, i.e. IT, healthcare, transportation & logistics, and food service/restaurant.

At the QHC I met with Sean Reyes and Candice Haynes, who are overseeing a culinary training.  It is both encouraging and somewhat sobering to learn that their realities and challenges are not much different than those Steepletown experiences in our own Culinary Leadership Academy, which we offer in partnership with Kitchen Sage.  One of their biggest barriers to successful completion is transportation, as a “double transfer” using the public transit system in NY (and that’s with an amazing subway system!) can mean nearly two hours of travel one-way.  My take away from the QCH is the need to get an advisory committee of restaurant owners/managers together to help in developing our curriculum for the CLA.  Especially for the smaller restaurant owners, Steepletown can serve as a quasi-employment agency by screening, training, and providing on-going support services for those newly hired.

In Boston I visited Roca, and organization that works with the most difficult to reach young adults, most of whom have been involved in the Corrections System.  I arrived to their site in Chelsea right at 7:00 am and was impressed to see several young men standing outside its doors.  After some quick introductions, I was invited to participate in their opening circle, which was part “checking in”, part instructional, part spiritual, and simply a way to reinforce the purpose for being there that day.  From there I went out on one of the crews, first picking up the day’s work assignments from the Chelsea Public Works Department.  After a brief conversation with a few of the participants on the crew I spent the rest of the morning with some of Roca’s key staff.  What was amazingly profound yet simple is that this organization is rock solid (roca in Spanish mean “rock”, which is the basis of its name) unwavering in its purpose, its messaging, and its expectation of these young men.  Everyone at Roca is trained in their TR (Transformational Relationships) model, which encompasses mostly CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) with some additional strategies. There was so much more to learn from them, but my honey was waiting to get on with the rest of the “vacation.”