At LeadBoston’s 2021 graduation, forty-four professionals celebrate their work to become more inclusive leaders


On November 17, 2021, the LeadBoston Class of 2021 gathered over Zoom to celebrate their successful completion of the LeadBoston program. Their graduation marks the addition of 44 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. LeadBoston has been working with Boston’s leaders since 1991, making the Class of 2021 LeadBoston’s 30th anniversary class.

Throughout this year, the Class of 2021 has built 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. 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.

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.

Finding new ways to lead, together

Each year, the LeadBoston class votes on who from their cohort they would like to speak at graduation. This year, they chose Charlene Luma, Chief of the Victim Witness Assistance Program at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. She started off her remarks stating, “We are all different and may be here for different reasons. But the one thing everyone here has done is commit to the true essence of what racial justice, social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion is.”

Charlene Luma

As Charlene noted, the Class of 2021 wasn’t just any LeadBoston class – they are the 30th LeadBoston anniversary class and they spent their entire program year online through the pandemic. Charlene found that this strengthened the class, stating “This LeadBoston class is and will be transformative, because we’ve had to incorporate new ways to lead because the world has changed. We are a special class, a class of the new normal… As leaders, we are responsible for seeing and hearing everyone. We see those that are underserved, lack resources, struggle financially, and those that are just different. We see their strength and resiliency in those that we lead, but also in each other. This class is special, because we choose to see and hear everyone despite their backgrounds, where they’re coming from, what they have. This is what it truly means to lead Boston. Not only do we see in here, everyone, we choose to empower them and improve their circumstances through the work that we all do every single day, even when it is scary to do so.” She concluded by saying, “I look forward to leading Boston right alongside you.”

Finding new ways to lead, together

Throughout the LeadBoston year, program facilitators guide participants through the process of choosing a leadership commitment. With their leadership commitment, each class member selects an area in their work where they can have an impact. They work with LeadBoston staff and their fellow classmates to create a plan to see their work through. For a full year after graduation, LeadBoston staff will periodically check in with the Class of 2021 to learn about their progress and where they may need support.

Like the class itself, their commitments are a diverse array of interventions that span Boston’s sectors. For instance, one class member will be working with their company to ensure salary ranges are added to all job descriptions. Another member will ensure their customer feedback processes are accessible to people whose primary language is not English. Many class members will be taking a more active role in their organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion taskforces.

A warm welcome to the LeadBoston alum community

During graduation, Beth Chandler, Class of 2014 and YW Boston’s President and CEO, welcomed the Class of 2021 into the LeadBoston alum community. She encouraged them to remain active with YW Boston as alums. As she stated, “You have access to over 1,200 other alums who are all willing to support you, help you however you need it. I certainly have benefited from many of the alums, some whom are in my class, others who are not, but just because I’m a LeadBoston alum, they are willing to share their time, their talents, their resources, so do take advantage of that. Keep in touch with each other. There is so much in going through this journey, and to have done it with 44 other people and to be able to have a shared experience is something that is irreplaceable. So please leverage each other.”

Rachael McCoy, YW Boston’s LeadBoston Senior Manager, spoke about how she looks forward to seeing each person put what they’ve learned into action. As she stated, “Anytime I’m talking about LeadBoston, as I say, I want them to take it and apply it and have an impact…Bring it back to their organizations and bring it back to their various different spheres of influence and spaces. And that is what you all are doing…I want you to take today, as I’ve said as the beginning as a call to action to continue this work. And as an inspiration to know that you’re not alone. In this work, you’re not alone, because you have one another in this cohort. You have an entire alumni community that you can connect with. And you have our team here who is happy to help, to chat with you, to connect, and to get it done.”

Below are some takeaways from the LeadBoston Class of 2021 graduation, in their own words.

“I’ve definitely been in the place of feeling more empowered. To lean into my leadership. Being, you know, amongst this cohort, seeing the panelists and hearing their stories, how they’ve been able to navigate the leadership as well…I’m thankful for that.”

José Massó, Co-Executive Director, United South End Settlements

“I’ve really been inspired by all of you each and every one of you, and how you all have exemplified service leadership…And thank you LeadBoston for showing me how to get more connected into Boston.”

Joyce Kvalsvik, VP Technical Program Management, Sovos

“All of us are leaving this program with some kind of tangible goal, you know, all across the city. All of us, you know, making some incremental change leads to broader change, and all the classes before us doing the same and after us. It is a really powerful thing.”

Geri Haight, Member, Mintz
Congratulations to the LeadBoston Class of 2021! 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 Senior Manager, at with any questions about the program.