Upham's Corner Online

GOTCHA - Youth Leadership & Development Program

Posted: March 7, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

Another well-meaning adult shouting at the youth: "Get off the corner hanging around!" 
You don't want to hear it. 
You weren't doing anything wrong.

You will never hear that scolding again once you are involved with Gotcha. 

Gotcha is an acronym for "Get off the corner hanging around."  It's a collaboration of about 20 to 25 nonprofits that have been working for a number of years on youth jobs and the development of youth leadership.  It reaches from Dudley through Upham's Corner to Bowdoin Geneva.

The planning arm of Gotcha is made up of five organizations:  DSNI, Bird Street Youth Center, City School, Dorchester Bay and the Bowdoin Street Heath Center.  They meet twice a month to work with the youth around planning the youth jobs rally, the youth job fair, retreats and the Youth Summit. 

The number of youth active with Gotcha differs markedly in the summer vs. the school-year.  When school is in session, about 50 teens are employed through the collaborative.  During the summer job period, it jumps to 300-350 youth who get the chance to work 20-25 hours per week for about six weeks.

Gotcha started as just a summer program but some members were advocating for more.  Now their vision is to provide a year round employment program for teens although the number of job openings during the school year is limited.


Last year two retreats focused on the young people who were actively involved in Gotcha.  They had a chance to discuss education, advocating, community involvement and leadership.

Youth Summit

This year the Youth Summit is April 16, 2011 at the Strand Theatre with Bird Street Community Center doing the organizing.  All neighborhood youth are invited.  The youth are already planning a talent show and there will be many workshops.  Some of the workshops are led by young people.  Some of them are led by adults or organizations that work with young people.  The organizers see it as an opportunity for leadership development and a way to connect with resources.  

Youth Job Fair

Summer job funding comes from the Boston Youth Fund.  Because there are so many jobs available through the Gotcha collaborative, Gotcha is allowed to hold a job fair to hire their youth.  So the job fair is a really big deal for both the youth that plan it and the youth that come to apply for summer work.
According to Ros Everdell who is the DSNI representative to Gotcha, they look at every event as a way to reach out to the youth whose lives are always changing.  "If we can get them involved today, that's great because six months from now, who knows, and vice versa.  The youth who says 'no' today may want to get involved later on."

Q:  One of your goals is to foster youth leadership.  Not everybody wants to be a leader.  Do you accept that or do you believe that all youth have leadership capabilities?  

A:  All young people have an opportunity to be a leader in their school, in their community, on their block, in sports - whatever they're interested in.  So we want to support young people in developing those leadership skills.

Q: How do you prepare someone who seems a little bit shy and reserved to take on a leadership capacity role?
A:  Each Gotcha organization has different programs that they offer. 
  • City School is youth leadership all year round with young people. 

  • Dorchester Bay works on job advocacy and does a lot of leadership in the context of job advocacy. 

  • Bird Street does a lot of education work and has youth councils for middle school and  high school

  • Bowden Street Health Center does a lot of work around health.  They have young people doing surveys and helping around in the farmers market, going to conferences on food and health issues. 

  • At DSNI we have a Youth Council that's active and they do radio shows and have been making short films.  
So each of the five partners go at youth leadership development in different ways but all those opportunities are ways for young people to get involved in with other young people and also learn work skills as well as how to work as a team and how to work in a community context.
Q:  What is your next major event?
A:  We are holding a Youth Job Fair on Thursday, March 17, 2011 GOTCHA.  It is a way for youth to connect with a variety of summer employment opportunities.  The computer lab with be open and staffed for young people to develop their resumes.

Q: In your opinion, is Gotcha an effective program?
A: Gotcha is a terrific program!  Our vision for a year round employment program strengthens the economic power of the community and families. 
  • It fosters youth leadership and builds a vibrant caring community. 
  • It connects youth to other critical resources that include personal, emotional and intellectual supports. 
You couldn't ask for a better program.  
Photos from last year's GOTCHA Youth Job Fair
held at the Bird Street Community Center
Hundreds of youth gathered at the State House organizing for a rally in favor of jobs,
a rally to encourage the legislature to allocate funding for the summer jobs program.

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