Lowell Youth Council - The ART of Community Coalition Building

Lowell, MA

Contact Name
Linda Sopheap Sou
Project Dates
Year round
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2013
The Lowell Youth Council is a coalition which works to promote peace by reducing violence in the community. The Council believes that there is a power in youth voices, and enables young people to raise theirs. The membership is open to Lowell residents between the ages of 13–20 and members do not have to be enrolled in school. The programs serves as a positive outlet for young people to become civically engaged, gain leadership and life skills.

The Council offers an expressive arts component which provides opportunities for youth to utlize arts, dance and spoken work to convey messages of peace and change.

The project will walk through the art of community coalition building and provide the "Community Healing through Art" exhibit as an example of leveraging local resources and partners.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
Project goals include:
 Engaging 9 youth in Lowell Youth Council leadership positions
 Completing at least 85% of proposed Council activities
 Changing youth attitudes/behaviors as indicated by a comparison of pre-test to post-test results (75% of all youth express increased capacity to create positive change in community with respect to violence prevention)
 Completing a timely and detailed project evaluation report
Have they changed over time?
No they have not.
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
The partners consists of five youth-serving agencies including Lowell Community Health Center (lead/fiscal sponsor), Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Lowell, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lowell, the United Teen Equality Center, and the YWCA of Lowell. Other stakeholders are the Lowell Police Department and the Lowell Public Schools.
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
The Council provides youth-driven, interactive, and engaging activities that promote youth violence prevention and positive youth development. Ongoing training at key sites in Lowell with the goals of 1) serving 75 youth through afterschool programs; 2) reaching 600 youth through Council events; 30 organizing a youth-driven community-wide activity; and 4) engaging 15 adult volunteers to support and mentor youth.
Have they been refined over time?
Yes an assessment is completed once a year to ensure that the project is meeting the needs of the community.
What were your major obstacles?
- Engaging diverse population inclusive of race, culture, socioeconomic backgrounds etc.
- Parent engagement i.e. parent involvement, communication with parents
- Building new community collaborations
- Sustainable sources of funds
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
By engaging different stakeholders and partners in planning and outreach we were able to overcome some of these obstacles.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Conduct focus groups to be informed and couple with data.
Build strong community partnerships with agencies that offer different services for same population.
Build a diverse funding portfolio.
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
These activities will achieve the following outcomes: 1) nine youth will enjoy a leadership position on the Lowell Youth Council; 2) 50 additional youth will be engaged in violence prevention programming offered by Council partners; 3) increased community awareness of positive youth development as a powerful strategy for youth violence prevention through the “We Got the Power” event; 4) 15 youth stakeholders and their adult allies will engage in numerous youth and police dialogues and work to revitalize community participation in a violence prevention coalition.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
Young people are more civically engaged.
Were there unexpected impacts?
Additional adults came to the table to support the teens.
CCX Workshop Handout

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