Luke Testa is a second year student at Saint Anselm College. He is the Co-founder and CEO of Project Play which helps to remove barriers to athletic participation for low income youth, and he is a student leader at the Saint Anselm College Meelia Center for Community Engagement where he coordinates a partnership with a secure facility for adjudicated youth. In that role Luke recruits and supports volunteers, service-learners and faculty engaged at the facility. His leadership has helped to strengthen a career coaching program and democracy-in-action initiative for the residents, and with faculty support he created a new poetry group in the girls unit. He is helping to addresses a significant and long-term need for adjudicated youth through a collaboration between the Meelia Center and staff at the Youth Services Center which will support a new mentoring program that begins on-site and then supports residents upon release to the community.
Since high school I have been passionate about addressing issues of inequality facing disadvantaged youth. Sophomore year, I co-founded the nonprofit Project PLAY in order to tackle my community's lack of equal access to athletic opportunities. This reinforced my commitment to and understanding of the empowerment perspective as an effective tool for addressing community issues.
Upon entering college, I became involved with the Sununu Youth Services Center (SYSC), a secure facility for adjudicated youth. It was here that I was exposed to and developed an understanding of the systemic issues impacting disadvantaged youth such as poverty, addiction, and unequal access to resources. This growing awareness enabled me to take on the leadership role of Student Site Coordinator to SYSC. In this position, I was able to facilitate youth empowerment programs as well as develop the infrastructure for larger, sustainable mentoring and educational initiatives. These programs aim to address the unique issues affecting SYSC including reintegration into community after residential placement. As I look to the future, I plan to continue working directly with the youth, SYSC, and community stakeholders to further develop applicable programs with youth empowerment models and to bring about sustainable, systemic changes to policy.