Fitchburg’s Adrian L. Ford Youth Innovation Center Receives $100,000 in ARPA Funding

FITCHBURG — $100,000 in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act was presented to Making Opportunity Count for the Adrian L. Ford Youth Innovation Center on Tuesday afternoon, bringing the community project one step closer to the finish line.

American Rescue Plan Act funding in the amount of $100,000 was presented at Making Opportunity Count (MOC) Tuesday afternoon for the Fitchburg community project, the Adrian L. Ford Youth Innovation Center. Top row, left. to dr. : Leona Whetzel, MOC Vice President Responsible for Community Impact, Jake Mastrandrea, Congressman, Lori Trahan, MOC Peer Liaison Officer, Joseph Sears, Diosmar Santana, Jr., and Sebastian Rodriguez, Representative Michael Kushmerek, State Senator John Cronin and Mayor Natalia Oliver, Chief of Staff to Stephen DiNatale. First row, left. to dr. : MOC peer educators Joselin Escobar and sisters Angelica and Amielia Santiago. (DANIELLE RAY/SENTINEL & COMPANY)

“My past, present and future self thanks you all,” Ashby resident Sebastian Rodriguez, 21, told the crowd gathered at the project site 18 Fairmount St., one of several MOC peer educators in attendance. who helped shape the center’s trajectory and plan.

State Senator John Cronin and State Representative Michael Kushmerek were joined by MOC Vice President of Community Impact Leona Whetzel and others to congratulate those involved in the project and get funds for it.

Kushmerek spoke first, speaking about the inspiration behind the center and its namesake, civil rights leader Adrian Ford who he says “inspired generations of civil rights leaders in this community.”

Ford was a longtime city resident and civil rights and community activist known for forming a network dedicated to racial equity and founding the Fitchburg chapter of Three Pyramids Inc., a community development corporation, in 1971 , just a few years after moving to the city. .

He became the CEO of Three Pyramids in 1972, a position he held until his death on January 16, 2021, and also co-founded the North Central Massachusetts Minority Coalition in 1992, a multicultural, multi-industry coalition dedicated to achieving the race, gender and economics. equity in North Central Massachusetts.

Kushmerek spoke to MOC peer educators, including Sizer School graduate Rodriguez, and townspeople Joselin Escobar, Diosmar Santana Jr., sisters Angelica and Amielia Santiago, and Joseph Sears, saying he hopes that the center will “inspire entrepreneurship” in young people in the region.

“These are just a few of our young leaders,” Kushmerek said. “That’s exactly what we need…to see young faces participate.”

He credited Cronin and U.S. Representative Lori Trahan for their role in securing ARPA funding for the project.

Making Opportunities Matter Community Impact Vice President Leona Whetzel congratulated those involved in securing $100,000 in APRA funding for the Adrian L. Ford Youth Innovation Center project during the check presentation Tuesday afternoon in Fitchburg. “Thank you so much for this generous assignment, it’s a home run for us.” (DANIELLE RAY/SENTINEL & COMPANY)

“Nobody does better than Team Trahan to bring resources back to this district,” Kushmerek said.

Cronin returned the compliment saying “we are a team, but I want to single out Rep Kushmerek, he really carried the water. I want to thank him for the work he has done to make this a reality.

“We’re so excited for this project and what it’s going to mean,” Cronin said. “It’s going to do a lot of good and specifically in this neighborhood.”

He spoke of the various city projects that have received funding from ARPA, including the youth center and the Theater Block project, noting that “we continue to see the benefits of this legislation.”

Mayor Stephen DiNatale’s chief of staff, Natalia Oliver, was there to represent the mayor, who was unable to attend.

“The mayor wants to make sure everyone knows that without you this wouldn’t be possible,” she said of the efforts on behalf of the youth center. “We support this project as much as possible and will continue to support it.”

She said the target age group for the youth center will be 16 to 21 and they are “thrilled with this project”. When Oliver asked if there was a date set for the grand opening of the youth center, which was last scheduled to open this summer, someone in the crowd said: “We’re working on it.”

State Senator John Cronin (l.) and Rep. Michael Kushmerek (r.) presented $100,000 funding under the American Rescue Plan Act to Making Opportunity Count for the Adrian L. Ford Youth Innovation Center Tuesday afternoon at the 18 Fairmount Street project site. (DANIELLE RAY/SENTINEL & COMPANY)

Trahan Outreach Liaison Jake Mastrandrea also thanked everyone involved in the project and securing funding for it.

“It is only through the collective efforts of these offices that we can tackle these important issues,” he said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic is “hit communities of color the hardest.”

“This is exactly the kind of project MP Trahan had in mind when passing the ARPA legislation,” Mastrandrea said. “I’m sure if Mr. Ford were here today, he would be so proud of how far this project has come.”

Whetzel then spoke, noting that being part of the youth center project is “an honor on so many levels.”

She said ARPA funding for the project, which is made possible through the work and partnership of MOC, Three Pyramids, and more including Cronin, Kushmerek, Trahan and many other efforts, is not that boost they need to move it forward.

“Thank you so much for this generous assignment, it’s a home run for us,” Whetzel said. “What will happen under this roof will be amazing,” a place where young people “can have their voices heard” and “encourage them to explore and pursue their passions as they enter adulthood.”

American Rescue Plan Act funding in the amount of $100,000 was presented at Making Opportunity Count (MOC) on Tuesday afternoon for the Adrian L. Ford Youth Innovation Center, pushing the Fitchburg community project named to after the hometown civil rights leader closer to the finish line. (DANIELLE RAY/SENTINEL & COMPANY)

She added that the centre, which is planned and created “by young people for young people”, will also house the Three Pyramids.

“Adrian is smiling,” Whetzel said. “These resources will bring more opportunities to the Cleghorn neighborhood beyond young people. It’s come full circle and it’s exciting. Thank you for believing in us, still to this day I cannot put it into words.”

Rodriguez spoke last and explained that he was excited for the center to open and that “a youth-led project” like this “is an underrated topic.” He gave an impassioned speech about growing up one of nine children born to a single mother who struggled to support them, a story Kushmerek called “inspiring”.

“As an angry kid, nothing feels authentic to you,” Rodriguez said. “These gates will welcome you.”

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