The following is a press release from Rep, Jack Patrick Lewis’ office submitted to SOURCE media.
FRAMINGHAM – Earlier today, January 25, Representative Jack Patrick Lewis filed HD.493, An Act Regarding At-Promise Youth.
Modeled after research on child development, the legislation would replace all mentions of “at-risk youth” with “at-promise youth” in Massachusetts law.
This idea for this legislation was first brought to Rep. Lewis by Margie Ann Rosario, co-founder of Framingham’s Discovering Hidden Gems and recipient of the 2019 Latinx Excellence on the Hill award.
“We know that using asset-based words that focus on strengths instead of negative labels can shift a community conversation,” said Rosario. “By changing our language, we can move from talking about ‘expectations of failure’ to ‘expectations of success.’ Changing our words and addressing our
own biases are steps we can all take towards making a difference in the lives of our youth. Most importantly the term ‘At-Promise Youth’ fights against the unconscious bias and all of the things we see play out when youth are inappropriately or negatively labeled.”
Studies show that the language used to describe youth is vitally important to their own self-esteem and how other people see them. While the phrase “at-risk youth” is commonly used throughout state law, this terminology carries negative connotations. This bill will refocus on the potential of
each youth, rather than the stereotypes embedded in terminology like “at-risk.”
“Our Commonwealth’s children deserve large, systemic shifts in our approach to childhood development and youth empowerment,” said Rep. Lewis. “While this change would be merely a first step in that fight, the research is clear. The way we talk about children has a powerful effect on their own self-esteem and understanding of future possibilities.”
This bill will mirror legislation filed by Reggie Jones-Sawyer and adopted in California in 2019.
“Shifting the language and perspective will help truly see the abilities each child/youth possesses within themselves when treated with promise. Leading them to inevitable success,” Rosario further noted.
Rep. Lewis began his third term in the Massachusetts House on January 6, 2021 and represents the 7th Middlesex District, encompassing the town of Ashland and six precincts in Framingham.