Strategic Grant Partners invest $1 million in UTEC!

Lowell, MA – The Boston-based foundation and pro-bono consulting firm Strategic Grant Partners has committed more than $1 million to Lowell’s United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) over the next three years. The mission of Strategic Grant Partners (SGP) is to “partner with outstanding leaders with game-changing ideas that improve the lives of struggling individuals and families.”

“We believe in Gregg Croteau and the leadership team at UTEC.  It is our pleasure to be their partner and to support their work,” said Sally Sharp Lehman, Portfolio Manager at SGP.

A portion of the three-year, $1.05 million commitment from SGP also contains a challenge grant, providing an incentive opportunity for UTEC to raise additional matching funds from individual supporters and other foundations. Both SGP and UTEC recognize the challenge that even strong nonprofits face in raising money outside of the 128 loop that defines greater Boston for so many funding sources.

“This opportunity is the definition of a win-win for our youth and Lowell,” said Jay Blitzman, First Justice of Middlesex Juvenile Court. “In acknowledging UTEC’s continuum of care and support, the grant demonstrates an investment and belief in the City of Lowell and the futures of our youth.”

“SGP does a careful examination of all aspects of an organization before committing to make an investment. We are humbled to receive such a noteworthy endorsement of UTEC’s approach and the talented staff that help drive our youth toward positive outcomes on a daily basis,” said Gregg Croteau, UTEC’s executive director. “We have worked with SGP over the past 6 months to review our program data, performance measures, evaluation processes, and financial plans. It’s an honor for UTEC to be selected for the SGP portfolio. We couldn’t be more thrilled in their investment to help us best serve those young people in our community that too often encounter the most significant obstacles such as serious criminal and gang involvement.”

“UTEC is a valuable partner in our efforts to prepare incarcerated youth in our custody for their return to their neighborhoods,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. “We share with UTEC a desire to see these individuals become productive members of the community and believe this grant will make a significant difference in the lives of many youth.”

SGP cites UTEC’s comprehensive approach to highly-disconnected youth as a critical distinction. UTEC begins with outreach on the streets and “in-reach” to correctional facilities to build relationships with young people who might otherwise never seek help to complete secondary schooling or gain work experience. Intensive case management and positive relationships with multiple adults – not just a single caseworker – are critical to keeping these youth engaged over a 2-3 year enrollment period.

It’s not just what happens in the UTEC program, SGP found in its assessment, but how it happens. “Very few programs serve these youth and even fewer do so successfully,” noted Sharp Lehman.  “UTEC has a strong set of values that are critical to their model and that guide the staff in their work and empower youth with a sense of hope and purpose.”

“UTEC and the City have developed a strong partnership in creating both economic and social opportunities for the City's youth,” said Mayor of Lowell Rodney M. Elliott. “This funding will continue to allow UTEC to establish programs and offer opportunities to youth from across the spectrum in Lowell.”

“UTEC is an incredible organization working with very high-risk young people. Under Gregg Croteau's passionate leadership, he and his staff are always using innovative ideas to further their mission,” said Nancy Donahue, a community leader and philanthropist, along with her husband Richard Donahue. “We are delighted that we are able to support such an outstanding organization.”

Despite the proven risk factors of its population (primarily gang involvement and/or court involvement), UTEC exceeds benchmarks for many agencies serving similar populations. About one-third of UTEC youth earn their GED (now HiSet) within 2 years of enrollment, compared with only 2% of high-school dropouts nationally who ever earn a GED. Only 15% of youth with a court record are re-arrested while enrolled at UTEC (and less than 10% are actually re-convicted), compared with a statewide average of over 60% recidivism among ex-offenders.

“SGP’s investment is a highly-prized seal of approval in addition to the tremendous financial commitment,” said Rich Cavanaugh, President of UTEC’s Board of Directors and founding partner of Lowell-based law firm Gallagher and Cavanaugh, LLP. “Their partnership will help UTEC expand our social enterprises in order to provide more work opportunities and increase enrollment capacity for UTEC. Moreso, SGP’s partnership is an endorsement of the value of UTEC’s approach to a safer community and to the lives of the youth served. UTEC wants to reach all of the young people who are returning from correctional facilities and youth gang leaders who are most likely to impact public safety and to incur tremendous public costs through law enforcement and incarceration.”

About UTEC: UTEC’s nationally recognized model begins with intensive street outreach and gang peacemaking, reaching out to the area’s most disconnected youth by meeting them “where they’re at.” Each young person in UTEC’s target population (ages 16-24, dropped out of school, and gang or criminally involved, or parenting/expecting) receives up to three years of intensive case management. UTEC provides workforce training through our social enterprises within a transitional employment framework. UTEC provides alternative education through GED preparation or an alternative diploma program. Social justice and civic engagement are embedded in all programming, with special emphasis in its organizing and policymaking work, locally and statewide. UTEC’s four primary outcomes are: reduced criminal involvement, increased employability, increased educational attainment, and increased civic engagement. Driven by evidence-based data, the recidivism rate of UTEC-enrolled youth is less than 15%, compared with the statewide average which lies above 60%. 

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Related: The Sun, "UTEC receives $1 million grant for youth programs," June 23, 2014