Mayor Patrick J. McManus

Mayor's Gold Card Gives Youth Free Access to After-School Activities

Teens in the City of Lynn (MA) have more to do these days thanks to the "Mayor's Gold Card," an initiative by Mayor Patrick J. McManus, which offers teens free memberships to four local youth agencies. The pass provides every teenager in the City free access to the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, Girls Incorporated and the Gregg Neighborhood House.

The "Mayor's Gold Card" was developed by Mayor McManus and the four agencies in response to teens requests for more after school activities. The Mayor has committed $100,000 annually from the City's budget to fund the program. The money is evenly distributed among the four agencies to provide new recreational activities and more educational resources.

"One of the major keys to kids' healthy development is providing safe and productive activities," said Mayor Pat McManus, "and that is what we are trying to do with the Gold Card program."

The Gold Card offers youth a wide-range of educational and social activities, including homework assistance, college preparation workshops, computer instructions, sports, peer education workshops and focus groups on drug prevention, AIDS awareness, Career Nights with guest speakers and other community service programs.

In addition to regular activities, special Gold Card events are scheduled each evening from 6-9 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. Also, on the first Saturday of each month, the agencies alternate hosting special Gold Card events, such as talent nights, movies, and dances.

The Gold Card program, now in its second year, has successfully taken thousands of Lynn youth, many who otherwise could not afford membership fees, off the streets by offering them safe and positive alternatives. All four agencies have seen dramatic increases in the number of teens participating in their activities. In January of this year, approximately 1,000 teens attended the four agencies through the Gold Card program, and the number continues to grow at an average of 100 new teens a month.

"The Gold Card program has given Girls Incorporated the resources to meet the needs of a large number of Lynn teens whom we would ordinarily not have reached," said Patricia Driscoll, the agency's Executive Director. "It is exciting to see young people come here to hang out or play basketball and end up learning, from their peers, how to do the Cambodian Coconut Dance, creating a resume in our Career Learning Center or volunteering for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition's annual Youth Conference."

Girls Incorporated utilizes its Career Learning Center, staffed by teens, to offer on-line computers with career explorations software, college catalogs and financial aid information. The center also is host to monthly career speakers, featuring women who talk about their work, education, expectations and obstacles in their field.

The "Mayor's Gold Card" program has also led to the development of new teen programs. At Girls Inc., Project ESTEEM, was established to identify and work with young girls who often act inappropriately around older teens due to insecurity. The new program is designed to allow their self-esteem to flourish as they learn about themselves and how to support one another.

The Program also offers classes led by teens in art, dance, computers and self-defense. Special Teen Nights are planned by the teen advisory board at Girls Incorporated and are adapted to the interests and needs of the participants.

"Teen Night is a unique program that keeps kids off the street. I like the environment," said Chad Montgomery, a 17-year-old Lynn high school student.

"Teen Night is spending time with friends, doing the things we like best," added Miranda Canty, age 16.

The Gregg Neighborhood House uses part of their money to fund extra programs, as well as open their agency an extra night during the week. "With the Gold Card program we are able to provide services the kids normally wouldn't be able to do such as Arts on Fridays, field trips to cultural events such as the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and Blue Man Group," according to Gregg House Director Kelly O'Connor.

The Gold Card is an outstanding example of what can be accomplished when public officials and community organizations forge partnerships to work toward a common goal. The alliance between the mayor and the four agencies combined valuable resources to create a highly successful youth program that is the first of its kind in the City.

"The collaboration between the Mayor's Office and the other youth serving agencies has been of tremendous benefit to not only the teens in the City, but also the Boys and Girls Club in terms of being able to point out to funding sources what we are doing," said Vincent Manganello, Executive Director of the Lynn Boys and Girls Club. "This concept is virtually unparalleled elsewhere and provides all teens the chance to make constructive use of their time."

Information regarding the "Mayor's Gold Card" program is available from Frank Meilinger, (617)598-4000.

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The United States Conference of Mayors

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