LeadBoston alumna becomes change agent for equity and inclusion in Boxborough community

How one LeadBoston alumna helped a Boxborough school commit to racial equity.

LeadBoston strives to cultivate change agents in the City of Boston and that’s exactly what Evelyn Abayaah ‘18 brought back to her Boxborough community—organizational change. Just a couple of months into YW Boston’s executive leadership program, Evelyn found herself putting her newly acquired skills into practice after her daughter was the subject of a hate crime at school. Evelyn is Program Director of International Programs and Advisory Services at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. Massachusetts General Hospital is an annual LeadBoston partner, sending 1-2 of their leaders to participate in the program each year.


As part of our cohort-based LeadBoston program, participants develop a deep understanding of overarching systems in the city, such as education, healthcare, housing, transportation, criminal justice, and more. Utilizing socio-political and historical contexts, participants become better equipped at advancing equity and inclusion within their organizations and communities. Evelyn cites this as one of the many reasons she decided to apply for the LeadBoston program. She explains that “Colleagues and fellow LeadBoston alum kept telling me how much the program changed their leadership styles. As managers, some of us don’t sit back often enough to think about the impact of socio-economic obstacles on our employee’s work and professional development. After participating in LeadBoston, I’ve become more thoughtful about hiring, coaching, supporting pipelines, and my decision-making has become less isolated.”

As managers, some of us don’t sit back often enough to think about the impact of socio-economic obstacles on our employee’s work. After @LeadBoston, I’ve become more thoughtful and my decision-making has become less isolated. Click To Tweet


Yet LeadBoston not only helped Evelyn become a more thoughtful leader, but it also equipped her with competencies to transform her own community. Last year after Evelyn’s daughter had her locker and school books vandalized with racial slurs, Evelyn and her family thought long and hard about how to respond to the situation. “Because I was participating in the LeadBoston program, I was able to think more strategically about how to respond to the situation in a way that would go beyond my family’s individual experience and possibly transform the community as a whole.” Evelyn explains, “While I didn’t think Boxborough necessarily lacked diversity, I thought there was room for improvement when it came to inclusivity.”


Evelyn collaborated with her daughter’s school leadership to make some really meaningful changes in the district. Consequently, the school came up with a plan to make significant changes. The plan required that the school make a serious commitment towards equity, inclusion, and cultural proficiency. As part of this commitment, the school would aim to hire at least 7% of minority staff over the next three years. Additionally, faculty members and school officials would participate in diversity and anti-bias training provided by the National SEED Project. The National SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) Project is a staff-development equity project for educators that seeks to establish teacher-led faculty workshops and seminars in public and private schools throughout the United States.

Thanks to my experience in @LeadBoston, I knew what to ask from the school and what resources were available to support changes at an organizational level. Click To Tweet


The school accepted Evelyn’s proposal, invited her to speak at the school, and agreed to implement additional measures aimed at improving diversity and inclusion. As a result, Evelyn has met with the school’s principal, superintendent, and with Massachusetts State Senator James B. Eldridge to discuss ways in which to expand the work beyond the school and into the greater community. “When the incident with my daughter happened, I realized that LeadBoston was equipping me with tools and skills to approach daily challenges in a strategic way. Thanks to my experience in LeadBoston, I knew what to ask from the school and what resources were available to support those changes at an organizational level.”


About LeadBoston

LeadBoston is YW Boston’s cross-sector leadership development program that equips mid-to-senior level professionals with knowledge, skills, and networks to drive socially responsible change in their communities and organizations. Click to learn more about LeadBoston.

About YW Boston

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our three programs—Dialogues, LeadBoston, and InIt—as well as our advocacy work, we help individuals and organizations create more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.

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