BOSTON (WWLP) — It’s been a long road to making speeches at the Massachusetts State House for Nervie Delbridge. She was raised by a single mother and grew up in a rough neighborhood in Springfield.
“A lot of my friends I grew up with have completely different lives than me right now, some of them are mothers …some of them are in jail or, unfortunately, some of them are dead,” said Nervie.
But when she moved to Chicopee, Nervie joined a teen program at the local Boys and Girls Club. At first she thought it was just a place to socialize after school, but she quickly realized it was something more.
“It was a family thing, they were very family-orientated,” said Nervie. “This after-school program definitely helped mould the person that I am today, helped me learn that community should be first.”
Which brings Nervie to why she spoke before lawmakers and tried her hand at advocacy on Thursday; The Boys and Girls Club of Chicopee partially relies on Shannon Grants, a state grant program that combats gang violence by involving kids in after-school activities. Since 2009, Shannon Grants have been cut in half to $6.25 million dollars. Nervie and her friends are requesting $8 million dollars. Nervie’s mentor, Ruthie May Therrien, says kids need the funding to keep program hours going.
“You see kids, they’ll get out of school, there’s nothing for them to do. So where do they end up? Driving around without licenses or getting involved in doing things, drugs, drinking,” said Therrien, a teen councilor at the Boys and Girls Club of Chicopee. “The biggest obstacle they have is them being confident in themselves knowing they can graduate or they can go onto college.”
Nervie has recently earned her GED and aspires to become an attorney one day.
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