UTEC, long praised locally and on Beacon Hill for its youth violence-prevention and other programs, recently garnered some national recognition for all the good work it does.
Leaders of the Lowell-based nonprofit were invited to the White House last Friday for President Biden’s announcement of a new office committed to stemming gun violence.
UTEC CEO Gregg Croteau and Jose “Poppa” Pizzini, a UTEC streetworker, were on hand for the Rose Garden ceremony, along with other advocates from across the country and parents of gun-violence victims, where Biden revealed the formation of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention.
According to a White House press release, the new office will implement Biden’s executive orders on gun violence, including the bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Biden said that legislation strengthens background checks, expands the use of red-flag laws, and improves access to mental-health services.
After his announcement, Biden greeted several event attendees, including Pizzini, who had a brief conversation with the president.
Croteau served as the cameraman for the interaction.
“(Biden) emphasized how gun violence isn’t just about mass shootings, but unfortunately, it is happening every day in communities that look like me,” said Pizzini, a Latino.
“Poppa represents the work so many young adults in our community have been doing for some time now,” said Croteau, “and I couldn’t have been more proud for him to have the opportunity to share his work in a conversation with President Biden after the event concluded.”
Croteau and Pizzini said the White House invitation was the result of the hard work carried out by UTEC and their partners through community-intervention programs.
For the event, Croteau said he wore a T-shirt under his suit jacket created by Lowell youth in 2006 in response to the staggering 14 homicides reported in the city that year.
Croteau, who had not worn the shirt in 17 years, said the front of the shirt states, “Stop killing,” and the back, “Start talking.”
Croteau pointed out that since 2006, the number of individuals killed by gun violence in Lowell has substantially decreased, “though any one shooting continues to reinforce our belief that such violence can never be normalized.”
Unfortunately, nationwide statistics underscore the challenges that remain, despite the best efforts of UTEC and other like violence-prevention organizations across the country.
According to published reports, firearms remain the leading killer of children in the U.S. So far this year, 220 children under the age of 11 have been fatally shot, while 1,049 youngsters from 12 to 17 also have died.
At least we know that in UTEC, we have a youth violence intervention-prevention advocate whose success has resonated as far as the Oval Office.
An emergency call everyone should answer
No, it’s not another spam message, but rather a test of a vital communication system that would activate in national emergencies.’
On Wednesday, Oct. 4, everyone’s phones will receive that text message, ordered by the federal government.
On that day, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Communications Commission will partner to test the Emergency Alert System and the Wireless Emergency Alerts across the country.
According to FEMA, this two-part test is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. EST. The EAS test portion of the test – accompanied by the words, “This is only a test. No action is required by the public” — will affect radios and televisions and last about a minute.
The test that impacts cellphone users will be the WEA test. Phones will receive a text message displayed in either English or in Spanish, depending on the language settings of the wireless handset.
Wireless cellphones should receive only one test text, with broadcast towers carrying out the exercise for around 30 minutes. The message will read “THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”
In its statement, FEMA said “the purpose of the Oct. 4 test is to ensure that the systems continue to be effective means of warning the public about emergencies, particularly those on the national level. In case the Oct. 4 test is postponed due to widespread severe weather or other significant events, the back-up testing date is Oct. 11.”
In order for the alerts to be accessible for everyone, including people with disabilities, alerts will include a unique tone and vibration, FEMA said.
Testing of this worst-case scenario warning system reminds us all that natural or manmade calamities can happen.
And for that we must be prepared.