Listen: The Legacy Of A Street Worker05:50

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In Mattapan on Friday, a young man who turned his life around and was trying to help others do the same will be laid to rest.

In his early teens, 17-year-old Ivol Brown spent his days and nights on the streets. Dealing drugs led to time in lock-up, but when he got out, Brown decided to change.

He started working at a community group and picked up two jobs. One was at the City School, a youth leadership organization in Dorchester.

City School's co-director, Seth Kirshenbaum, says Brown led by example.

"He was a charismatic leader, so when he was doing negative things, other people around him were doing them as well. And when he was doing positive things, people were following him and drawn to him," Kirshenbaum said.

Kirshenbaum said that, at City School, Brown helped kids get jobs — but he was also aiming even higher than that.

"When people came to their jobs he would say to them, 'you should work here not just to get a check but it's going to change your life,' " Kirshenbaum said.

Ivol Brown became a youth activist. He led rallies to lobby for summer jobs funding, especially for a federal proposal before the U.S. Senate right now. Sen. John Kerry described Brown as "living proof of what can happen when you give a teenager a shot."

Tragically, Ivol Brown was killed on the streets.


On Memorial Day, he was fatally stabbed near his home while waiting for his mother to take him to a meeting of youth workers.

Kirshenbaum hopes the teens Brown mentored will carry on his work.

"Young people are the solution. There's really no one who can affect violence better than someone who's been through it," Kirshenbaum said. "There's no one who can impact transforming a community or a particular street better than someone who lives on it or is growing up on it."

Arthur Kitty knows something about that. Like Ivol Brown, he was once on the streets and in trouble.

But now he's working with teens, as Brown did. Kitty is a street worker with the StreetSafe Boston program.

Kitty spoke to WBUR's Bob Oakes in Boston's Grove Hill neighborhood about his personal transformation from an isolated prisoner to a street worker.

This program aired on June 11, 2010.

Bob Oakes Twitter Host, Morning Edition
Bob Oakes has been WBUR's Morning Edition anchor since 1992.