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Some know the City of Lowell as home to the Academy award-winning film, “The Fighter,” and others know Lowell as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, with its related milestones in workers’ and women’s rights. Throughout its history, Lowell has been a gateway city for immigrant communities and social change movements.
Today, Lowell is the fifth largest city in Massachusetts, located about 35 miles northwest of Boston. Lowell remains a diverse immigrant community of 104,390 residents (U.S. Census 2009). According to research by the University of Massachusetts Lowell, approximately 50% of all Lowell’s residents are immigrants/refugees. Lowell has a significant Latino population at 15%, and the second largest Cambodian population in the United States, estimated at more than 35,000.
Young people in Lowell face a number of challenges, including:
- Poverty: 16.8% of Lowell’s population lives below the poverty line, almost double the state average, with youth of color disproportionately represented.
- Cultural barriers: In many of Lowell’s immigrant households, and particularly among Cambodian refugees’ families, barriers such as language gaps and generation differences can increase conflict between children and their parents.
- Dropout rates: Lowell High School is the second-largest in the state (over 3,700 students), with a 4-year graduation rate in the bottom 10% of Massachusetts districts.
- Unemployment: In recent years, Lowell’s unemployment rate has been consistently 2-3% higher than the Massachusetts averages.
- Gang involvement: Lowell Police estimate that 1,500-2,000 youth are involved in 25-30 active gang sets, well above average for cities of comparable size. Lowell youth join national gangs and more localized sets.
UTEC's mission and promise is to ignite and nurture the ambition of Lowell's most disengaged young people to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success.