|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
||For More Information, Contact:
|April 23, 2007
||Coria Holland, Director of Communications
||617-727-5300, ext. 258
RALLY PROGRAM AT BMC-WEST ROXBURY
EQUIPS AT-RISK YOUNG MEN WITH IMPORTANT LIFE SKILLS
left to right, Steve Peevy of the Ella J. Baker House
and True See Allah of the Suffolk County Sheriff's Office
A group of six young men, in their late teens and
early 20s and all with gang affiliations, sat around a conference
table recently looking bored and withdrawn. One of the young
men stared deep into the table while another leaned back in an
office chair, forcing it to balance on the back two wheels. He
sported a baseball cap pulled down low over his brow, nearly
shielding his eyes.
Then enters Steve Peevy, stylishly dressed in corporate
attire: brown suit, brown shirt, matching tie and his dreadlocks
drawn into a ponytail. As the 45-year-old ex-convict, ex-gang
member and now a faith-based caseworker at the Ella J. Baker
House, sat down and began telling his personal story of crime
and subsequent redemption, the young men – who seemed detached
before – appeared to hang onto his every word. The young
man who was doing the balancing act with his chair minutes before,
firmly planted his elbows on the table and leaned in as to not
miss one word. His brown eyes, now visible, were locked on Peevy.
A former thief and drug dealer, Peevy was there
to share his personal story as part of the RALLY (Responsible
Accountable Life-Skill Lessons for Youth) Program, run by Chief
Probation Officer Mark Prisco of the Boston Municipal Court-West
Roxbury Division. Peevy's colleague, True See Allah, joined
him at the table by sharing his personal story of his "gangbanging
days" in the city. Allah, a former Castlegate Street Gang
member and now a Boston Re-Entry Initiative coordinator for the
Suffolk County Sheriff's Department, is a well-respected
advocate for at-risk men who uses the many contacts and resources
he has developed over the years to help young men get jobs and
Allah told the young men at the West Roxbury Court, "Probation
is like when you are in a fight and Chief Prisco is your trainer.
He gives you smelling salt to help wake you back up and get you
on the right path."
Prisco's Rally Program evolved out of the
Re-Inventing Justice Program, established by BMC-West Roxbury
Judge Kathleen Coffey to address the needs of offenders in the
community. Through the 10-week program, young men are introduced
to members of the community who share their stories, give them
advice, and help them find jobs -- all in an attempt to help
the young men to become law abiding citizens.
"The mentors stay in touch with the kids.
It is nice to connect the young people with adults who care.
The kids seem to really look up to them," Prisco said.
Twenty-eight young men have attended and completed
the RALLY Program since it was first introduced in the summer
of 2005. The young men who are part of the program are 17-21
years old and live in the City of Boston. They have been identified
by police and the court-system as gang-involved or at risk of
becoming gang-involved. The participants this session have offenses
on their records that include assault and battery, carrying a
weapon, armed robbery and assault and battery with a dangerous
Rally speakers include inmates from the Boston
Pre-Release Center, Boston College athletes, Boston Public School
Police, a reverend who lost a son to gang violence, Boston street
workers, job training specialists from Youth Opportunity for
Boston, substance abuse specialists as well as Peevy, Allah,
and Felicia Robinson, an EMT who often responds to shooting scenes.
Robinson, who also holds the rank of Deputy Superintendent-Director
of Community Initiatives for Boston EMS (Emergency Medical Service),
has been a presenter for the Rally Program for the past two years.
Robinson talks to the Rally participants about what it is like
to respond to a scene of violence such as a shooting- from arriving
at the shooting site, to the emotions of the family and friends
surrounding the victim to the rush against time to transport
the victim to the hospital.
"We want to show them how important our piece
is and how important it is to get the injured person to the hospital
and our ability to communicate to the hospital while we are in
route," said Robinson.
She explains to the young men the "excruciating
pain and burning sensation" shooting victims describe.
Robinson shows pictures of the injuries to the RALLY participants.
"Many young people who appear tough on the
streets are crying and begging for us to help them, save them.
There are a lot of last requests. A young man may ask me to "tell
my son I love him" or to give a message to their mother.
She also speaks to the young men about the overwhelming
emotions she feels as an individual and mother of four boys,
many of whom are the same age as her sons.
"When you see violence over and over again
and seeing kids die young, it does wear on you. Since I began
presenting two years ago at RALLY, my message has changed. I
tell the young men I want you guys to live," Robinson said.