Earlier this month, Groundwork Somerville was one of 100 Boston-area nonprofits to receive a “$100K for 100” Grant from the Cummings Foundation—and Groundwork executive director Chris Mancini couldn’t be happier.
“We’ve actually been applying for three years, and this is the year that we finally got it honed enough to make it worth them funding,” Mancini says with a chuckle.
The green nonprofit was selected from a pool of 479 applicants that serve Middlesex, Essex and Suffolk counties.
Groundwork’s grant proposal centered around its annual Green Team program, a jobs training initiative that provides work experience for area high school students, with a particular focus on reaching children of immigrants and youth of color. Mancini explains that the summer and after-school program is a great way to connect Somerville teens with their community while teaching them valuable, applicable work skills. “Especially in a climate where there’s lots of low-level retail stuff you could do, this is a job where they’ll be learning about permaculture and environmental stewardship and trail-building … and they’re actually working on their city, in their city,” he explains.
Mancini adds that the high school students who participate in the program actually enjoy the hands-on work so much that they would prefer to work more hours with Groundwork Somerville as opposed to getting a second part-time position.
The Cummings Foundation grant will help Groundwork to bolster the Green Team’s jobs network. Mancini explains that he’d eventually like the initiative to be less a summer jobs program and more a training system that teaches students skills that make them valuable employees beyond Groundwork and then connects them with green jobs. He envisions working with the National Park Service, with Recover Green Roofs or with the city.
There’s an increased focus on green issues here in Somerville and beyond—a renewed interest in consuming locally grown food and in living an environmentally ethical and sustainable life. “How do we match that up so that five and ten years from now we can look back and say, ‘Look at this, when you go into the Groundwork program, you’ll always be able to get whatever to job you want and do exactly what you want while doing great work in the world?'” Mancini asks. He knows that there are there are many professional routes youth could take after participating in the Green Team, and he wants to connect and capitalize on the program’s alumni network of nearly 300 students.
The short version?
“More jobs, better jobs for Somerville youth.”
If you want to see the Green Team in action, you can attend one of the organization’s monthly Cleaning and Greening events, where Groundwork staffers and volunteers get out into the community to plant, paint and otherwise clean up public spaces that need a little love.