Douglas Ackley ’90 returned to campus on Wednesday, March 26 to speak with students in PSY 222 “Developmental Psycopathology” taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology John Peltz. Ackley is currently director of Rochester Programs for the Center for Teen Empowerment, an organization that works with youth in the community to create meaningful change. The classroom visit and individual appointments are a collaboration between the psychology department and the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.
A Boston native, Ackley joined Teen Empowerment in Boston in 1993, the year the center was established there. He worked at the South End/Lower Roxbury site, the Madison Park and Dorchester High School sites and at a pilot location at the DYS Judge Connelly Treatment Facility. His extensive experience includes helping to supervise staff and provide consulting, training and technical assistance to organizations interested in implementing the Teen Empowerment model across the country. He moved to the Rochester, N.Y., area and opened the Teen Empowerment site there in 2002.
Ackley describes his motivation for pursuing a career working with youth: “Some of the things I struggled with and went through when I was young allowed me to be accessible to and have a connection with young people.”
Once he gained experience with Teen Empowerment, his original motivation was replaced by an urge to keep going.
“I saw the inequities in our society and how young people from urban communities were affected by them,” he explains. “I wanted to help young people navigate the various barriers society puts in their way and help them overcome some of these inequities.”
Teen Empowerment hires youth ages 14 to 20 in paid positions to serve as organizers. They are tasked with looking at the issues people their age face in the community and creating a strategy to address those issues.
“This could be an event, activity or program; they range from youth conferences and forums or dialogues with police or city council members, to talent shows and open mic events,” says Ackley. “The kids have to figure out how to take these events and use them for unity building.”
Currently, Teen Empowerment in Rochester works within the 19th Ward of the City. Ackley hopes to expand the program to parallel the three-to-five neighborhood model of Teen Empowerment in Boston so students can work in neighborhood-based sites as well as collaborating across communities.
Ackley earned a B.A. in English and French from Hobart College. As a student he was a member of the swimming and tennis teams and earned letter and emblem awards for each. Prior to joining Teen Empowerment, Ackley spent a year working with teens in central California through the Jesuit Volunteer Program and at a residential facility for youth in Boston.