Forty local professionals get ready to lead Boston


On November 18, 2020, the LeadBoston Class of 2020 gathered over Zoom to celebrate their successful completion of the LeadBoston program. Their graduation marks the addition of 40 leaders to the LeadBoston Alumni Network, a thriving community of over 1,000 professionals committed to furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion in their workplaces and beyond. The Class of 2020 spent the past eleven months building the knowledge, skills, and network that will allow them to be more effective leaders and to have a deeper understanding of socioeconomic, social, and political systems in Greater Boston. Although the class had started their program year in person, due to COVID-19 safety measures, the program transitioned to a virtual format. The online sessions allowed participants to engage with fellow leaders and expert panelists from their homes, workplaces, and other remote locations.

Each month, participants gathered virtually to discuss pressing issues and trends and to hear first-hand from civic leaders, community organizers, business people, and academics. Through curated content and responsive programming, the class gained direct insight into key institutions and levers for change, strengthening their skills as leaders committed to advancing equity within their organizations and the broader community. Over the course of their program year, the Class of 2020 explored topics such as class and poverty, education, immigration, healthcare, housing and transportation, criminal justice, and more. Participants had the opportunity to connect with classmates from all sectors and industries, and, going forward, will have access to networking, educational, and social opportunities through LeadBoston’s extensive alumni network. Throughout the program, members of the class, especially those directly involved in their organization’s responses to the pandemic, reiterated the timeliness of their participation in LeadBoston

Communication is a key part of achieving equity

During her speech, graduation class speaker Jynelle Herbert, Associate Director of Development Communications at Boston Children’s Hospital, posed a question to the Class of 2020: “What is the most important thing in democracy?” The Class of 2020’s responses underscored the importance of listening, being heard, respect, access, inclusion, and equal agency. Jynelle answered her own question with a quote from Danish politician Özlem Cekic. “Conversation is the most difficult thing in a democracy and also the most important.” Jynelle went on to speak about how crucial it is for each of us to engage in conversation. “Although we may feel like there’s been enough talk, people put policies and systems into place. So, changing hearts and minds is a part of our work, and part of the actions we need to take. […] Empathy and understanding aren’t signs of weakness, they are tools that break down barriers and bolster our fight. […] The best is yet to come and it will come from all of you.” Jynelle concluded her speech with a call to action: “Let’s do what we came to do. Let’s lead Boston.”

Below are some takeaways from the LeadBoston Class of 2020 graduation, in their own words.

“Together navigating COVID and then George Floyd, I just think about our Arrest & Prosecution [program] day right after that with [District Attorney] Rachael Rollins […] It was by far the most frustrating session that we had this year and probably our most important. […] To me that was the moment when we really turned the corner as a class.”

Omari Aarons 
Founder and Managing Partner, Aarons Group LLC, and Former Director, Employee Enablement Strategy, Liberty Mutual Insurance

“I’m a life-long learner, and I have thoroughly enjoyed LeadBoston for so many reasons. I enjoyed the modules, I enjoyed the conversations, the speakers.”

Joyya Smith
Vice President, Diversity, Access, and Inclusion, Suffolk University

“Tonight was bittersweet. It was our graduation for [the] YW Boston LeadBoston 2020 cohort. I was blessed to be with such remarkable individuals, with their ideas, their perspectives, and their whole selves. […] I will miss these group meetings, but look forward to the growth and leadership all these remarkable souls will do and bring.”

Omama Y. Marzuq
CEO, Tomorrow’s Prosperity Group, Inc.

“I appreciated everybody’s willingness to lean into the discomfort—and not just lean in once, but continuously lean in again.”

Jonathan Tetrault
Vice President, Distribution Services, Greater Boston Food Bank
LeadBoston Class of 2020 Graduation photo
Congratulations to the LeadBoston Class of 2020! We look forward to following your journeys and Leadership Commitments in support of a more equitable Boston.


About LeadBoston 

Become a part of YW Boston’s LeadBoston program and join a network of over 1,000 inclusive leaders in Boston. During this 11-month program, participants explore and learn how to address barriers to inclusion through facilitated dialogue, expert speakers, and peer learning. Through experiential activities, participants delve into the social, political, and socioeconomic realities of Boston and explore innovative solutions to inequity. Interested in learning more? Reach out to Rachael McCoy, LeadBoston Manager, at with any questions about the program.