About Us

Our Mission:

To empower youth and adults as agents of individual, institutional, and social change.

Our Vision:

We envision a world in which youth with adults, in mutually respectful and supportive relationships, use their voices creatively to inspire, lead, and empower their communities to achieve justice and peace.

Theory of Change

With the right skills and resources, all youth, including high-risk young people, can think deeply about the difficult social problems and work successfully with others to create significant change. While youth are often seen as part of the problems facing urban communities, they are rarely engaged as part of the solution. Teen Empowerment helps youth find their voices and talents and use them to involve large numbers of their peers and adults in building peace, tolerance and community.


In 1992, Stanley Pollack began the Center for Teen Empowerment (TE) to involve low-income, urban youth in helping to solve the most pressing issues in their communities using the unique, interactive Teen Empowerment Model. Since then, Teen Empowerment youth, staff, and board members have worked diligently to meet this mission, with remarkable results for thousands of youth, adults, police officers, public officials, and social service workers. TE brought its successful Model to Rochester, NY in 2003 and Somerville, MA in 2004. Each year, Teen Empowerment employs more than 120 youth who conduct over 250 initiatives that involve more than 5,000 youth, residents, public officials, and police in efforts to build peace, tolerance, and community. TE also provides consulting, training and publications to help other service providers adapt our methods for use in their own programs. TE’s work is recognized nationally and has received numerous honors, including Collaborate Boston Award (2016), MetLife Foundation’s Community-Police Partnership Award (2012), Harvard University Ash Center Bright Idea (2010 and 2012), RIT Center for Public Safety Initiatives Award (2009), U.S. Mayor’s Conference Best Practice in Youth Development (2007), and Drucker Foundation Nonprofit Innovation of the Week (2004).

Board of Directors

Lauren Lapat


Former Teen Empowerment program coordinator and program development officer.

Frenia Hunter

Vice President

Human Resources Generalist II, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Former Teen Empowerment Youth Organizer.

Jessica Rondon


Senior Auditor, KPMG LLP.

Jeffrey Strassman

Manager, Grant Thornton LLP.

Peter C. Bekarian

Managing Director, Jones Lang Lasalle.

George Bevis

Engineer, former board member and treasurer of the School for Field Studies.

John Brown

Sergeant Detective, Boston Police Department.

John M. (Jack) Connolly

Alderman At Large, Somerville, MA. President and Owner of Wedgwood-Crane & Connolly Insurance Agency.

Marikay Hines-Corcoran

Managing Director, U.S. Forensic Advisory Services Boston practice, KPGM, LLP.

Michelle Escarfullery

Business Manager, Clinical Review and Safety, Harvard Clinical Research Institute. Former Teen Empowerment Youth Organizer.

George Gilmer

Senior Vice President, State Street

David Fallon

Chief of Police, Somerville, MA.

Joe Jackson

Retired Boston Public Schools special education math teacher.

Molly Richter

Senior Development Officer at Partners Health Care.

Colleen White

Colleen White: Product Manager, Global Localization at Fuze

Jason Willis

Associate Researcher, The Center for Public Safety Initiatives, Rochester Institute of Technology.

Peter Meyer

Boston Public Schools, Retired

Paul Russo

Tax Manager, Tonneson & Co.

Rochester Advisory Board

Hanif Abdul-Wahid

Community Liaison, Monroe County Department of Planning and Development

Scott Burdett

Vice President, Flaum Management Company

Jeffrey Clark

Sr. Vice President, Global Commercial Banking Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Rick Dejesus-Reuff

Vice President, Student Affairs & Diversity Initiatives, St. John Fisher College

Caroline Edwards-Morrison

City Court Judge, Rochester City Court

Jonathan Hand

Reporter, Democrat & Chronicle

Donna Harris

Research Analyst, Rochester City School District

Wayne Harris

Deputy Chief, Rochester Police Department

Judith Kaplan

President, Community Planning Associates

Edward J. Nowak

Retired Public Defender, Monroe County

Danielle Ponder

Assistant Public Defender, Monroe County

Bob Tobin

Professor, Simon School of Business, University of Rochester

Eric Van Dusen

Director of Community Initiatives, NeighborWorks Rochester

Jason Willis

Associate Researcher, Department of Criminal Justice, Rochester Institute of Technology

Jeremy Wolk

Partner, Nixon Peabody, LLP


Stanley Pollack

Executive Director

Stephanie Berkowitz

Director of External Relations

Doug Ackley

Rochester Director

Sheri Bridgeman

Boston Director

Danny McLaughlin

Somerville Director

Heang Ly

Director of Consulting and Training

Jennifer Bannister

Development and Collaborations Manager

Marquis Wilson

Office Coordinator

Raquel Walker

Office Coordinater (Rochester)

Samantha Hale

Assistant Director (Boston)

Shawn Brown

Lead Program Coordinator (Rochester)

Shawanda McGee

Program Coordinator (Rochester)

Jaquell Sneed

Program Coordinator (Boston)

Patrik Farris

Program Coordinator (Somerville)

Stephanie Santiago

Program Coordinator (Somerville)

Taylor Copeland

Community Facilitator and Development Associate

Alex Costa

Community Facilitator

Michael Downie

Community Facilitator

John Norena

Community Facilitator

Sean Post

Community Facilitator

Joshua McKenzie

Community Facilitator

Milla Maia

Community Facilitator


Last year:

  • 100% of youth surveyed were proud of what they accomplished and felt more responsible for heir community
  • 100% learned skills that helped prepare them for the future
  • 100% built positive relationships with youth and adults they would not otherwise have known
  • 94% of youth surveyed thoughts they’d improved in more than one skill area.
  • 88% reported gaining leadership skills
  • 71% displayed increased level of empowerment
  • 93% displayed increased civic engagement

In 2013, TE worked with Dr. Russell Schutt at UMASS Boston to conduct an independent, multi-faceted evaluation (link to pdf) of TE’s work in Somerville, MA,. Results included:

  •  Statistically significant evidence suggests that the program’s efforts were responsible for a 50% decrease in the level of juvenile crime in Somerville’s highest crime neighborhoods.
  • Compared to peers, youth who work at Teen Empowerment leave the program with higher levels of employability and greatly improved self-esteem and are more civically engaged, and these impacts are sustained over time.
  • Dr. Schutt’s conclusion that, “Teen Empowerment has succeeded in developing and maintaining an approach to engaging at risk youth and reducing youth violence that can serve as a model for other communities. Its systematic approach to selection, engagement, and transformation provide a foundation for individual and community change.”

What We do

Working in Boston and Somerville, MA and in Rochester, NY, Teen Empowerment employs low- income, urban teens to identify the most pressing issues in their communities and to develop a strategy to address those issues. At each of TE’s four youth organizing sites, 2-3 adult staff members and 12-15 youth organizers work as a group every day, all-year to plan and implement initiatives that involve a large number of their peers and community adults. Annually, TE employs 125 youth who involve more than 5,000 others in their community change initiatives. TE also provides consulting and training to help other service providers adapt our methods for their own use. We also market and sell our book on interactive facilitation, Moving Beyond Icebreakers.

Youth Jobs

Are you between the ages of 14-21? Do you care about your community? Do you love the arts and using your voice to create change? Teen Empowerment employs youth living in Dorchester, Roxbury and Somerville, MA and Southwest Rochester, NY to work year-round as community organizers and artists.

Contact us to apply for a position:

  • Roxbury or Dorchester: 617-536- 4266 x.311
  • Somerville: 617-536- 4266 x.2255
  • Rochester: 585-697- 3464

Youth-Police Work

Teen Empowerment works together with police and urban youth to build trust, facilitate youth and community voice in encounters with police, and increase community engagement without vilifying officers or glorifying criminal behaviors. Teen Empowerment helps police and youth craft policies, practices, strategies and training to specifically address the needs in their communities with the direct input and involvement of both officers and community members. TE has also conducted dozens of police-youth dialogue sessions in MA and NY, presented at gang and violence prevention conferences, and offered consulting and training to other law enforcement and prevention partners. A study by Rochester Institute of Technology found that TE’s youth-police dialogues “resulted in participants gaining empathy, understanding, and respect, with both youth and officers gaining new perspectives and new skills.” On year end evaluation surveys last year, 80% of TE youth thought their work made interactions between youth and police more respectful.

Youth Peace Conferences

Since 1993 TE has organized this annual youth-led event in Boston each spring, bringing together hundreds of young people to wrestle with serious issues through theater, dance, music, poetry, video, public speaking, and group discussion sessions. TE also holds an annual conference in Somerville.

Arts for Social Change

Teen Empowerment youth use the arts—including music, dance, video, poetry and visual arts— to present their social change ideas in a way that will be understood and embraced by their peers. In Boston, TE Studios is TE’s youth-run artist collaborative, producing original, professional-quality socially-conscience music and performance arts.