The Fourth Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards

IMG_9458A warm thank you to all of the Gateway City leaders who travelled to Springfield last week for the fourth annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards and Summit. As always, your spirit and optimism were infectious. We especially want to recognize this year’s award winners.

For those who were unable to join us, please take a moment to watch the videos below and hear about the powerful work being done directly from the leaders themselves. Also check out Workforce Development Transformation Case Studies: Three Examples of Systems Change through Collaborative Gateway City Leadership, new research released at the event profiling innovative solutions to shared challenges. 



We’re especially grateful to the City of Springfield for hosting us this year. Despite the rain and clouds, Springfield provided a beautiful backdrop that optimized the hope, opportunity, and collaborative energy unique to our Gateway Cities. Those who stayed for the Transformative Development Initiative walking tour got an up-close look at how Springfield’s leaders are thinking anew to overcome obstacles and unlock the city’s exceptional promise.

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Finally, one last big thank you to MassMutual and all of the sponsors who made this gathering possible. 

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Click here to read the report we unveiled at the event. These case studies show that Gateway City leaders are undaunted. They rise each day and doggedly search for creative solutions to help workers hone new skills and grow regional economies.

We are grateful to the change-agents who allowed us to capture their efforts.  They warmly welcomed us into their world, candidly explained the considerable obstacles they face, and openly offered advice to others on how they might get a start on responding to common challenges.

 Thank you again to all of our sponsors and all of those who joined us in Worcester for the celebration. We value your partnership and look forward to continuing to work with you in 2016.

The Third Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards

IMG_0152“Those who tell the stories rule, the world” goes the proverb. Gateway City leaders know firsthand that there’s still a lot of truth in this old wisdom. Too often, the performance and potential of Gateway Cities are defined by those on the outside who have little understanding of the struggle. When we make policy based on these impressions alone, there’s no question that we underinvest in the promise of our Gateway Cities.


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For years, we have worked together to shift the narrative, and yet at times it seems like we are still havea great distance to go. Just this week, the Boston Globe reported on efforts to promote reinvestment in Gateway Cities without a single line acknowledging that there is a real rationale for stimulating the urban centers that drive our regional economies. This kind of coverage reminds us of why it’s so important for Gateway Cities to band together to tell their story.




And that’s exactly what we did this week in Worcester at the Third Annual Gateway City Innovation Awards. The event placed a bright light on the bold and dedicated leaders commanding the fight on the ground in our Gateway Cities. For each of the honorees, we screened a short video that captured the voices of dozens of Gateway City leaders behind the work. After the awards were presented, the change agents leading these initiatives joined us onstage to talk about universal lessons on what it takes to generate and sustain success. The exchange was moderated by Tim McGourthy, the Executive Director of the Worcester Regional Research Bureau and a longtime proponent for Gateway Cities coming together to change the narrative.


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We were fortunate that Governor Baker was able to be with us to hear these stories firsthand, and share his thoughts on how the state can support more of this good work. The Governor is no stranger to Gateway Cities. In his travels, he has visited them again and again. He knows their leaders and clearly has a deep appreciation for their valiant work. Nick Donohue, President & CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation and a steady partner in our Gateway Cities Innovation Institute, offered a closing call to action, encouraging all of the Gateway City leaders to keep pushing forward together, harder.



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Click here to read the report we unveiled at the event. It summarizes lessons learned from four case studies of successful Gateway City initiatives. Thank you again to all of our sponsors and all of those who joined us in Worcester for the celebration. We value your partnership and look forward to continuing to work with you in 2016.

The Second Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards

For a complete recap and video of the 2014 Awards & Summit, click here

The 2014 award winners are advancing educational excellence in their communities by working collaboratively to build new learning models that take advantage of unique Gateway City educational opportunities:

Holyoke Early Literacy Initiative – The Holyoke Early Literacy Initiative is a strategic, community-wide effort to ensure that all children are proficient readers by the end of grade three. With leadership from Mayor Alex Morse and Superintendent Sergio Paez, civic leaders have built a citywide early literacy taskforce and developed a far-reaching early literacy blueprint. The initiative is working now to implement this strategy with program development, marketing, and evaluation.

Mount Wachusett Community College/Fitchburg High School GEAR UP – Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a federally funded initiative provided by Mount Wachusett Community College to Fitchburg Public Schools. GEAR UP offers academic support and early college awareness activities to help Fitchburg students successfully pursue post-secondary degrees. This ambitious partnership is unique in that it is designed to reach every student in Fitchburg in the classes of 2016 and 2017. The program has been able to achieve this scale through the dedication of an exceptionally committed GEAR UP team.

Greater Lawrence Advanced Manufacturing Academy – Together with Northern Essex Community College, Greater Lawrence Vocational Technical High School is building an advanced manufacturing academy. The academy has secured a $1.2 million state grant and more than $500,000 in donations from area companies to purchase advanced equipment. With leadership from Superintendent John Lavoie and NECC President Lane Glenn, the two institutions are creating a program that will allow GLTS students to dual enroll at the community college and earn credit toward an associate’s degree in advanced manufacturing. The academy will also provide training opportunities for adult learners.

Revere High Advisory Program – As part of an ambitious overhaul in 2011, Revere High School created an advisory program that assigns each student a faculty member to serve as an advisor for all four years. The student meets with their advisor three times per week at the start of the school day for twenty-five minutes. Advisors build strong relationships with students and families, allowing them to support both the academic and social-emotional growth of their students. The advisory program, developed with leadership from principal Dr. Lourenço Garcia and former Guidance Director Maureen Lenihan, was instrumental in Revere High receiving the exceptional distinction as the sole Gold Award national High School from the National Center for Urban School Transformation at San Diego State University this past spring.

Worcester Arts Magnet School – Founded in 1992, Worcester Arts Magnet School (WAMS) leverages the city’s cultural community and an arts-learning curriculum to help children reach their intellectual, social, and creative potential. WAMS’s founding principal, Margaret Vendetti, and current principal Susan O’Neil, have been critical to the school’s sustained success. Year after year, the Worcester Arts Magnet School draws families from across the community, providing a model for economically integrated urban education.

The First Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards

(For a full recap of the 2013 Awards Ceremony, click here.)

The 2013 awards celebrate achievements by individuals and organizations working to promote Transformative Development in Gateway Cities:

Curt Spalding: Mr. Spalding is the Regional Administrator for EPA’s Region 1, which spans the six New England states. He has been a valued partner in redevelopment projects in virtually every Gateway City in the Commonwealth. A notable example of his tenacity is the transformation of Chelsea’s highly contaminated former Lawrence Metals site, which will become a new 152-room Holiday Inn when complete. The complex project has involved coordination between the EPA, MassDEP, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the City of Chelsea, MassDevelopment, and the site’s private developer.

Marc Dohan: Marc Dohan is the Executive Director of the Twin Cities Community Development Corporation. Under Mr. Dohan’s leadership, the TCCDC has been a powerful agent for neighborhood stabilization. Most recently, working in Fitchburg’s Elm Street neighborhood, the organization has built and rehabbed over 60 units of housing. Acquiring properties that were either in foreclosure or receivership and working with residents to create neighborhood assets and increase home ownership, Mr. Dohan and TCCDC have played a pivotal role transforming a vulnerable neighborhood.

O’Connell Companies: Holyoke-based O’Connell Companies is renowned for their work on large and technically complex projects. As the first private developer to invest in WPI’s Gateway Park, they have joined a small class of firms with the vision and risk tolerance to execute on truly transformative projects. The O’Connell Companies addition of 92,000 square feet of commercial space complements public and institutional investments in the area. Together, these coordinated projects are changing a once-blighted area near Lincoln Square into a growing mixed-use district.

The Merrimack Valley Sandbox: The mission of the Sandbox is to boost the economic and social well-being of greater Lowell and Lawrence by advancing entrepreneurship and innovation. The Sandbox fosters entrepreneurship among diverse populations of residents and workers in the Merrimack Valley including high school and college students, adults, and non-English speakers. The Sandbox runs dozens of programs including workshops, pitch contests, entrepreneur meetups, themed mixers, and twice annual accelerator programs. Through these programs, the Sandbox leverages hundreds of volunteers from the business, non profit, government, and educational communities to serve as mentors, teachers, sponsors, and judges.

Mary Waldron: As the Executive Director of Brockton 21st Century Corporation, Ms. Waldron played a pivotal role facilitating two major downtown redevelopment projects: the transformation of the Knight building into the Station Lofts by Capstone Communities and the rebuilding of the Enterprise Block by Trinity Financial. Both projects are within walking distance of the Brockton commuter rail station. Capstone’s adaptive reuse of an old industrial building (where the catcher’s mitt was invented) was Brockton’s first use of the historic tax credit.

Armando Feliciano and Jay Minkarah: Armando Feliciano is a longtime Springfield community leader and Chairman of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority. After the 2011 tornado destroyed Mr. Feliciano’s home, he strove not only to rebuild his own property, but to also foster a collaborative partnership between the SRA and DevelopSpringfield, a newly formed public-private economic development organization. As the first CEO of DevelopSpringfield, Jay Minkarah has devoted enormous energy to this joint effort. The opportunity their collaboration has produced is embodied in the Rebuild Springfield Plan – an ambitious, forward-thinking blueprint for the city’s future that the SRA and DevelopSpringfield are now working together to implement.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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