Opinion

Relentless Roca

Roca marks its 30th anniversary helping steer young people away from dead-end lives and into productive ones with a Boston celebration. But that May 21 event would not be complete if the organization’s transformative work in Lynn went unacknowledged.

According to its website, Roca (Spanish for rock) serves 114 young men in Lynn with an Andrew Street storefront serving as a satellite office affiliated with the Roca Chelsea office.

Roca measures its work and progress with young men in years, not months, much less weeks. Its outreach workers knock on doors and then knock on them again and again until the youth they want to talk to spend time with them. That’s when the hard work of building relationships based on trust begins.

Roca’s biggest assets in Lynn are local police officers and Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development workers who have spent years building relationships with young men and helping give people direction and new opportunities to live productive lives.

Their efforts are bolstered by similar work done by the talented and committed probation officers working out of Lynn District Court and veteran social workers in a dozen agencies across the city.

The common credo shared by cops, social workers and outreach coordinators is “don’t give up.” Helping young men find confidence and trust in people who reach out a helping hand is much harder than it sounds.

Roca workers are willing to have doors slammed in their faces and they don’t have problems scouring Lynn streets on the lookout for young men who have decided to skip appointments they half-heartedly agreed to keep.

Conversation and promises don’t carry weight with the people Roca coordinators engage. The “proof in the pudding,” so to speak, is when realization dawns on a young man who surprises himself by understanding that someone trusts him and wants that trust returned.

The trust is built on the simple concept of reciprocal respect. Outreach workers established relationships with their 114 Lynn clients based on a simple promise: “You can trust me. I won’t let you down.”

The relationship breakthrough occurs when a young man stuck in an unproductive, often crime-involved life, embraces the trust extended to him and realizes he has an obligation to not let down the outreach worker who cares enough about his life to repeatedly take the time to call and visit him.

Completing that bond lays the groundwork for Roca to build confidence in young men. Confidence gives people whose lives are cloaked in cynicism and fear the knowledge that all is possible in life.

Roca workers know what police and probation officers and social workers around Lynn and in other communities know: Giving a young person confidence and steering them into a productive life where they can use and strengthen talents is a way to build talented and committed people who are willing to pull others up by their bootstraps.

It is no surprise Roca counts Lynn as one of its work sites for transforming lives. After all, the city has a rock-solid history of committed men and women showing others the pathway to opportunity.

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