Editor's note: The following was provided by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. It refers to an event that happend on March 29:
BOSTON – The Metro Mayors Coalition hosted a “Shannon Grant Day on the Hill” at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, March 29 to advocate for funding of the Shannon Grant Community Safety Initiative, which helps fund the prevention of youth crime and gang violence in Greater Boston.
More than 200 young adults, youth advocates, mayors, law enforcement officials and legislators gathered to speak about the impact the grant has had on them and their local communities; after the rally, they fanned out across Beacon Hill to speak directly with legislators and their staff about maintaining Shannon funding in the state budget this year.
Governor Deval Patrick proposed $8 million in funding for the Shannon Grant for next year. The grant is being funded at $5.5 million this year. The group asked the Legislature to support that proposal on Thursday, and was able to thank Secretary of Public Safety and Security Mary Elizabeth Heffernan, who was on hand, for the administration’s support of the grant.
“Shannon Grant funding is the first initiative to fight gang violence in the Commonwealth,” said Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, President of the Metro Mayors Coalition, speaking at the event. “It’s allowed for inter-city collaboration and increased dialogue with at-risk youth. Investment in prevention will pay off in the long term.”
The Shannon Grant was created in 2006 to honor Sen. Charles Shannon a former police officer, who passed away while in office. It supports nearly 100 organizations in 40 municipalities, including police departments, schools, public-health initiatives, after-school programs, anti-bullying efforts, job training centers and community awareness campaigns.
Sen. Eileen Donoghue, D-Lowell, spoke of the effect Shannon funding has had on her district.
“I know the grant has been successful in the community of Lowell because it has bridged the gap that exists when we ask our police to do more with fewer resources,” she said, pointing to after school programs, youth workers and community-building activities that have benefited from the grant. “Every dollar counts and is leveraged by our communities. The truth is, it’s an investment in our future.”
State Rep. Carlos Henriquez, D-Boston, also spoke at the Shannon Day on the Hill. He offered advice to the dozens of youth gathered in the room, most of whom had directly benefited from a Shannon-funded program or organization.
“You don’t have to be defined by who you were, but who you want to be. Everybody deserves a second chance and should have that second chance,” he said.
Representatives from the Worcester Youth Center and the Worcester Police/Clergy Youth Mentoring Program spoke about how Shannon funding contributed to an alliance between local clergy and law enforcement that has eliminated fear of police in Worcester and bolstered the community.
“There aren’t many second chances in life, but I’ve been blessed with one thanks to this funding,” said Jose Alvarez of the Worcester Youth Center. “I had given up on education, but now I feel like I can do this, I can go to college and be someone.”
Teron Peoples of Everett said that his local Boys and Girls club, a Shannon partner, helped him find purpose and direction in life at a time when many of his peers dropped out of high school. And Kevin Thomas, of Project R.I.G.H.T in Boston, said he went from being a recipient of programs funded by the grant to becoming a mentor to other youth through similar programs.
“I could take the help that was given to me and turn it around into giving back,” said Thomas. “The Shannon Grant is wonderful, and we need more programs like it.”
MAPC is the regional planning agency for the people who live and work in the 101 cities and towns of Metropolitan Boston. A public agency, MAPC’s mission is to promote smart growth and regional collaboration. The Metropolitan Mayors Coalition is a collaborative initiative made up of 13 communities in Greater Boston: Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Melrose, Medford, Quincy, Revere, Somerville and Winthrop. MAPC helped establish Metro Mayors in 2001, and provides staff support and financial administration. The coalition was intstrumental in the establishment of the Shannon Grant and continues to advocate for its ongoing success.
“We are proud to carry out this work year after year, and to work with the Coalition,” said Joel Barrera, MAPC Deputy Director, who introduced the community partners at Thursday’s event. “We know these programs work.”
Visit www.mapc.org/regional-collaboration/metro-mayors-coalition for more information about the Metro Mayors Coalition, and mapc.org/regional-collaboration/shannon-grant for more information on the Shannon Community Safety Initiative.