Engaging Opportunity Youth with Cultural Intelligence

Friday, June 4, 2021, 9:00 AM-4:00 PM                                                                           
Engaging Opportunity Youth with Cultural Intelligence
Ronald Bernard Waddell, Jr.

Research shows that youth join gangs for protection, excitement, respect, money, or because
a friend is in a gang. Youth are at higher risk of joining a gang if they engage in delinquent behaviors are aggressive or violent, have multiple transitions in caretakers, have problems at school, associate with other gang-involved youth, or live in communities where they feel threatened and where a high percentage of youth engage in problem behavior.  There has been a movement to change the narrative about this group of young people from “at-risk” to “opportunity youth.”  These youth are in most need of our behavioral and mental health services but remain some of the most underserved.  

This training will address various contemporary issues that create a disconnect between these opportunity youth and behavioral health professionals.  These include:

  • The connection between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adverse Community Experiences.

  • The connection between trauma and substance use disorder with-in the context of

  • Why opportunity youth are less likely to engage voluntarily with mental and behavioral health services.


This workshop will use research and real-life experiences to enhance your practice by providing key concepts in understanding opportunity youth involved in gang culture.  While many of the strategies we've learned are useful, utilizing these techniques without adaptation can create unintended dissonance between the professional and the client.  Understanding the intersectionality of social determinants of health, gender, race, and age are critical components in building a successful therapeutic relationship with these particular clients.    
Following this training, the participants will be able to:

  • Define opportunity youth

  • Identify key components of gang culture                                        

  • Identify how the effects of Adverse Community Experiences impact Adverse Childhood Experiences

  • Identify areas where the “traditional therapeutic model” creates barriers when treating this population           

  • Describe the need for adapting evidenced-based models to treat opportunity youth. 

Ronald Bernard Waddell, Jr. is a homeless orphan turned social activist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.  He is the founder of Legendary Legacies Inc. a non-profit organization with a mission to equip young men, ages 17-24, with the tools to maximize their potential. LL has a focus on working with individuals that local police have identified as “proven risk” or “impact players.” These individuals are substantially gang-involved. He is a certified transformational life coach through the Association for Christian Character Development, a certified Gang Specialist through The National Gang Crime and Research Center and a Certified Youth Mental Health Specialist. He is a Certified Recovery Coach and holds a certificate in Non-Profit Management and Leadership from Boston University. He has completed and co-facilitated multiple re-entry groups inside MA Houses of Corrections. He recently completed the Black Addiction Counselor Education program through BSAS and is a candidate for his LADC I.  He presents at local, state, and national state events and speaks passionately and eloquently about issues affecting marginalized communities, specifically young men of color.  In his downtime, he enjoys reading, hiking, cooking, and poetry. He lives in Worcester, MA, with his two sons, Joshua, age 8, and Isaiah, age 6. 

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