Youth priorities demand attention of decision makers in Massachusetts
On May 16th, Massachusetts State Rep Kay Khan (11th Middlesex/Newton), as well as Governor Deval Patrick, are invited to stand with 300 urban and suburban youth from the Greater Boston area at the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul. Teens from the YMORE Coalition (Youth of Massachusetts Organizing for a Reformed Economy) will ask their legislators to commit publicly to restore funding for summer jobs for teens and to support municipal and state-level policies that reduce diesel emissions.
YMORE youth believe progress can be achieved with support and public commitments from key decision-makers in both the public and private sectors. The YMORE Coalition is remarkable for drawing young people from diverse backgrounds to work together to address these issues, which usually divide teens based on race, class and geography.
Young people in Massachusetts face many difficulties today. In the Boston area, countless teenagers lack economic opportunity and subsequently face an unacceptable level of youth violence in their communities. Youth unemployment is at its highest rate since the Great Depression, and this lack of jobs means that fewer teens are able to earn money to support their families and learn life skills that would allow them to transition into an independent adulthood. With regard to air quality, young people who live near large construction sites are exposed daily to harmful pollution by unfiltered diesel emissions, which contribute to disproportionately high rates of asthma in urban areas, and climate change.
While these challenges are daunting, YMORE has been active in the fight for youth jobs since its formation in 2010. Each year, we have worked with the Youth Jobs Coalition to gain support from both urban and suburban legislators to win funding for youth jobs. Last year we moved 15 Senators from opposed (2010) to supporting (2011.) This year, the proposed budget included $6.9 million for the YouthWorks line item, and YMORE has successfully worked with Representatives to increase the proposed funding to $8.6 million. We are continuing to meet with our Senators to encourage them to support this funding, and even increase its level to $12 million.
This year, YMORE has also been involved in a campaign to reduce harmful diesel emissions. Certain components of diesel fumes, such as black carbon and Fine Particulate Matter (FPM), contribute to environmental injustice; research shows that the asthma rate in Roxbury is eight times higher than the national average. These pollutants are not only causes for public health concern but also large contributors to climate change, as black carbon is a climate-forcing agent 2,000 more powerful than carbon dioxide. Our allies at ACE (Alternatives for Community and Environment) have also been spearheading an effort to pass legislation in Boston.
Last year, in response to YMORE’s work for youth jobs, Senator Susan Fargo stated on the Senate floor that “[YMORE youth] were more impressive than any lobbyist I’ve had in my office all year.”