$210,021 grant to boost efforts for at-risk kids; Foundation aids Boys and Girls Club goal.


Byline: John Dignam

WEBSTER - The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts yesterday announced a $210,021 grant to the Webster-Dudley Boys and Girls Club to begin its pilot program to help at-risk teens.

The grant follows a year of planning how to help teens, funded by a $100,000 grant from the foundation.

"The number one reason youths get involved with gangs and gang activity is lack of parent supervision," said Anthony J. Poti, executive director of the club.

What makes the biggest difference in youths' lives is how many adults care for them, Mr. Poti said yesterday morning in an announcement of the grant, at the Colonial Club on Thompson Road.

"It comes down to relationships, not just at the club but throughout the community. It's not basketball, but help, support and guidance" that helps at-risk youths, he said.

The Choices Program was developed to provide that help, support and guidance, he said.

Under the program, 30 at-risk youths, 12 to 18 years old, will be recruited next month for programs, which will also focus on positive relationships with staff members and community service agencies.

Staff members will be trained for the program and will work one-on-one with youths. The program will provide case management and individual plans for youths, and the communities will provide services for the youths.

Also involved are school departments and police departments in both towns, United Way of Webster and Dudley and Dudley District Court.

Goals include increasing the number of youths involved in positive activities after school, increasing the involvement of parents in their children's activities and reducing youth violence and substance abuse.

Other goals include helping the participants develop life-changing skills, such as getting along with others, teamwork and leadership, and setting and achieving individual goals.

Community leaders began developing the program in 2006, because of a high percentage of single-parent families, child abuse, unemployment and school dropouts, and below-average income in both towns.

Foundation President Janice B. Yost has praised the communities' efforts. Yesterday, she said she...

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