These jobs have attorney general’s seal of approval

  • Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse talk to children at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holyoke on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/VIVIAN MYRON

Staff Writer
Published: 8/2/2018 1:52:15 PM

Getting young people involved in jobs that emphasize physical fitness, nutrition or public health is the aim of the Healthy Summer Youth Jobs Grant, and Attorney General Maura Healey came to Holyoke on Wednesday to see the program in action.

The grant reimburses organizations for hiring youth for jobs such as camp counselors or public health advocates. Not all nonprofits can afford to pay staffers, so state aid can help in their mission to provide critical social services and opportunities for youth.

“I think that’s really important for our young people, to have those constructive opportunities,” Healey said on a visit to the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holyoke. “I never want the lack of funding to be a barrier to kids working.”

The club was among several community organizations in Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties to receive the youth jobs grants.

At the boys and girls club, staff members take children on daily walks, facilitate sports activities, prepare healthy meals, and even teach kids how to swim.

“We start them small, then they can do more as they get bigger,” said 19-year-old Draine Colon Rivera, who has been working for the boys and girls club for four years. “It’s like a family.”

Staff members also prepare food in the room so the children can see and understand how to make nutritious snacks. Wednesday’s menu included blueberry-banana smoothies, served in plastic cups with spoons. Children sat around a table while Healey asked them about their favorite sports, and what they wanted to be when they grew up. Mayor Alex Morse joined the attorney general for a tour of the club facilities at 70 Nick Cosmos Way.

“My job is to help keep you safe, and keep your families safe,” Healey told a child who had asked about her line of work.

Rivera moved to Holyoke from Puerto Rico when she was 11 years old. Working with the children helped Rivera improve her English, and because of the flexible nature of the job, she is able to work while she earns her degree in criminal justice.

She started working for the club when she was 15 years old through a program called Career Point that helped her secure the necessary work permits.

More than 90 municipalities, government offices, and nonprofit organizations received a total of $326,827 from the grant, funded by a $2.1 million settlement with GlaxoSmithKline LLC over the misrepresentation of their diabetes drug, Avandia. Massachusetts received $2.1 million of a $90 million national settlement involving 37 other states regarding the drug in 2012. Last year, the attorney general’s office generated $800 million in revenue from legal settlements, according to spokeswoman Emalie Gainey.

“We can come in and help supplement, and work with the mayor and work with others to help make funding available so we are able to put more young people to work,” Healey said.

Community Action Pioneer Valley, a nonprofit social services and food security network, received $4,004 to pay for three summer positions in the Greenfield office. The organization helps connect low-wage earners with fuel assistance, early education opportunities, health care, food banks and youth services around the Pioneer Valley.

“Having young people having access to work opportunities, learning what it’s like to be a worker, having those expectations and earning money is a real important part of growing up,” Executive Director Clare Higgins said. “We think it is very, very important that young people learn the skills that are necessary for what a particular job is, but they also learn how to be a good worker.”

The Easthampton Parks and Recreation Department also received $3,100 to pay for the positions of three part-time counselors at Camp Nonotuck.

“The camp does a real nice job of keeping kids active,” said John Mason, director of Easthampton’s Parks and Recreation Department, adding that the camp promotes healthy eating, outdoor activities and swimming.

The attorney general’s office provided organizations that received grants with training on how to foster a healthy workplace, too. At Community Action, employees discussed topics like drug use, texting at work, cigarettes and vaping with an attorney general’s office representative, Higgins said, regardless of whether they were direct recipients of the grant.

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