LeadBoston Civic Engagement Collaboration Launches Leadership Program for Young Men of Color


LeadBoston has a remarkable history of bringing people together across race, gender, class and sectors, for over 25 years.  With a network of more than 1000 accomplished professionals across the city of Boston, LB continues to empower community leaders in their work of creating racial, gender and economic equity throughout the Greater Boston area and beyond.

The latest of its network successes come from a powerful partnership formed between individual community leaders in the health care industry and the criminal justice system.

Officer Jorge Dias of the Boston Police Department, met Lisa Hatfield, Director of Market and Community Development at Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan, during their 2017 LeadBoston class. The two hit it off well and found a unique and inspiring connection in one another.  Jorge shared an idea for launching a youth leadership program called We Belong, serving young men of color, in deepening leadership skills and exploring civic engagement opportunities within and beyond troubled neighborhoods.

As soon as Lisa heard Jorge’s idea for We Belong, she was moved by his compassion for the young people he wanted to help empower and she made a commitment to try to help Jorge move the program forward as best as possible.¬† Through her connections at Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan, she identified an opportunity to support Jorge in seeking funding for his youth leadership program.

Lisa worked (and continues to work) for Petrina Cherry, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at the Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan.  Petrina, also a graduate of LeadBoston (class of 2016), immediately recognized the power and potential of Jorge’s program, in improving the quality of life for young men of color throughout the Greater Boston area.  Petrina connected Jorge with the resources needed to pilot the first official iteration of the We Belong program with fellow officer and project partner, Jeff Lopes.

On their own time, the two officers, going above and beyond the work they do for the Boston Police Department, began mentoring and leading a group of teen boys, in honing leadership skills.  In addition to teaching them how to advocate for themselves and each other, they brought the boys on an incredible four day, civic engagement trip to Washington, D.C.

On April 10th, 2018, nine boys and five chaperones, including Jorge and Jeff, headed down to D.C. for a first-hand experience of civic life in our nation’s capital.¬† The boys were blown away by chance encounters with several notable civic leaders such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, Congressman Mike Capuano, and former FBI Director, James Comey.¬† They also had a chance to tour Howard University, the famous historically black college (HBCU) in Washington, and, they made several visits to the Museum of¬†African America History.

The trip was a complete success.  The boys returned home energized by the experience and had an opportunity to come together to reflect on their journey at the BMC headquarters in Charlestown, Ma.

To hear more about Jorge, Lisa and Petrina’s amazing cross-sector collaboration and the teen‚Äôs exciting field trip to Washington, D.C., check out their audio interview: