Worcester Girls Youth Re-Entry Program
Straight Ahead Ministries – Worcester, Mass.
- Emerging Leader: Olivia Ojeda
- Grant Program: Emerging Leader
- Amount of Grant: $15,000
- Dates of Grant Term: February 2020 – February 2022
Olivia Ojeda is a Youth Re-Entry Worker for Straight Ahead Ministries, Worcester, Mass. Working with girls in lockup, sometimes in the same juvenile detention centers where she was once locked up as a teen, Ojeda brings the redeeming message of the Gospel to offer juvenile offenders an opportunity for a new direction and a new life. After they are released and return to their communities, she continues to work one-on-one with the girls, not only to grow in their faith, but also to build their new lives through assistance with housing, education, employment, and restoring broken relationships. Ojeda established Breaking Bread, a community service program that gives formerly incarcerated girls the opportunity to support homeless and impoverished neighbors in their community by preparing and serving healthy meals and distributing seasonal clothing, hygiene products, and other essentials. Prior to joining the staff of Straight Ahead Ministries in November 2016, Ojeda completed a two-year youth work internship program. She is currently attending Quinsigamond Community College, Worcester, with a focus in criminal justice. Ojeda is the 2018 recipient of We Raise Foundation’s Richard E. Herman Leadership Award.
A program of Straight Ahead Ministries, the Worcester Girls Youth Re-Entry Program (WGYRP) offers hope and support to girls between the ages of 14-24 locked up in juvenile detention centers who are six months to one year from release and girls post-release. While in lock-up, Ojeda meets one-on-one with each girl, building trust and a relationship with her, assessing needs, and preparing her for re-entry through Straight Ahead’s Ready4Life curriculum. Upon release, Ojeda continues the relationship by providing resources for education goals, employment, court advocacy, and healing broken family relationships. Another key component of the WGYRP is plugging the girls into Breaking Bread, a community service program offering formerly incarcerated youth opportunities to prepare healthy meals and serve the homeless in Worcester. The girls also help organize and implement seasonal events, including holiday gatherings and back-to-school book bag drives.