Jonathan Lunde: Walking the Walk for UTEC

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Jonathan Lunde is a Streetworker and the Director of Street Work at UTEC.

What is UTEC? Founded in 1999 and based in Lowell, "UTEC's mission and promise is to ignite and nurture the ambition of proven-risk youth to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success." UTEC was also highlighted in the National Institute of Justice's 2016 environmental scan of agencies working with justice-involved young adults. 

What is a Streetworker? What does Jonathan do at UTEC? 

Street Outreach and Gang Peacemaking* ensure that Streetworkers meet young people "where they're at" and serve as the starting point of UTEC's program model.  Streetworkers target those young people who are most disengaged and deeply involved in local youth gang networks. This recruitment and relationship-building work sets the stage for Streetworkers to conduct UTEC's gang peacemaking work and to bring disconnected youth through the doors. 

Why does Jonathan uniquely qualify for this position, and how has he contributed and led the program for over 8 years? He shares his humble beginning, his first assignment at UTEC and how he makes an impact in young people's lives. 

Beside streetworkers and the street outreach program, UTEC offers transitional coaches, Workforce Development, Education programs help youth obtain their HiSET (formerly GED). They also have Youth Empowerment Corps members (primarily AmeriCorps) and provide 'hands-on' service throughout the service year in twelve different specialized positions, including Culinary, Social Justice, Woodworking, Education, and Social Enterprise. 

When I first found out about UTEC not long ago at a house party, I experienced the outstanding food prepared by the UTEC Culinary Team. 

Special thanks to Feisworld Associate Producer Adam Leffert for introducing me to UTEC through his friends Rebecca Steinitz, and her husband Sam Putnam (the Culinary Innovator at UTEC). 

 

Show Notes

  • [06:00] How do you usually introduce yourself?
  • [07:00] How did you get involved with UTEC?
  • [08:40] You are currently a street worker. What is it what a street worker does exactly, and what does the UTEC program involve?
  • [14:00] How do you approach someone while working at UTEC? (Your daily routine)
  • [18:00] You are currently writing a ‘manual’ for the street worker, tell us about that.
  • [22:00] Could you share the story about that young man that went out of jail during summer and you brought him some clothes?
  • [25:00] Typically when coming out of jail people have to embrace their lives with no or limited resources. What can they do about that and how does UTEC help?
  • [27:00] What does the staff learn while working at UTEC and what do you have to know beforehand if you want to work there.
  • [30:00] The selection process to work at UTEC is picky. What do you usually look for?
  • [32:00] How do you deal with gangs? Is it tough and dangerous to talk to them?
  • [37:00] Different social classes typically help or contribute in very different ways (from donations and charity to street workers). How do you feel about that?
  • [39:00] Can you comment about what kind of skills young people learn at UTEC program?
  • [42:00] How many full-time staff and young people  are  in UTEC now?
  • [43:00] How can people get involved with UTEC and upcoming events?

Favorite Quotes

[07:00] I kind of rode the escalator of drug abuse. I started drinking when I was 13 and by the time I was 23/24 I was shooting heroin in my arm. I was just really messed up and in a really bad place

[17:00] People have issues, and at the end of the day, people are going to change when they want to change. Our job as street workers is to continuously be there, and to help facilitate for that young person when they are ready to change.

[20:00] All of the street credibility in the world is only going to get you so far as a street worker. A lot of people think that they can be street workers because they’ve been through this or that, but you need to be able to do the work and have a passion.

[21:00] A lot of the people that we work with feel that they’ve been given up on by a lot of other folks. They have been cycling through this hell. One of the most important things for is to make sure that no young person that we ever work with, feels that they’ve been given up on.

[23:00] We show up every single week, sometimes twice a week, sometimes more than that. To sit there with them and talk, and try to bring them some hope. That’s a big deal for people, when they are not given love from anywhere else.

[28:00] This is the only work I’ve ever had where I’m genuinely excited every single morning I walk into work. The energy here is absolutely incredible. Sometimes you have really high highs and really low lows because of what we do, but the environment is very supportive.

Music Acknowledgement - Witt Lowry - Lay Here https://youtu.be/VXL-iRr3bT0