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YDP Alum: Building Bonds Through Mentorship

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IBA’s Youth Development and Afterschool & Summer Learning Programs foster independence, creativity, and academic growth among children and teenagers. This month, we will highlight IBA youth on our social media and website to celebrate their achievements. We interviewed a previous YDP participant to provide some insight on what we do.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Randy Echavarria, I’m from Boston, born and raised–though my family is from the Dominican Republic. I’m surrounded by Puerto Ricans here so I consider them family, too. A lot of my friends are Puerto Rican so I’ve adapted to their culture as well. I’ve been living in this neighborhood for 20 years. I grew up here, went to the Blackstone Elementary School, I know this neighborhood like the back of my hand.

What’s your favorite part of living in this neighborhood?

Villa Victoria has a great sense of community. The events that happen during the summer like Betances really bring people out to have a good time–no issues, no problems–to celebrate a great culture and a great neighborhood.

How long were you involved with the Youth Program?

I started when I was 14, and I was with them until I was 20. I have so many good memories of IBA and the program, how it started and how it’s developed. It’s honestly one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. It just feels like family. It let me experience so many things I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

How did you become involved?

When I was in middle school, I had a bus stop around the corner and I just happened to see the flyer posted there. I signed up for the convenience, but it ended up being a lot closer to home than I even anticipated. It touched me. I made connections with the people I worked with that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. A lot of them I see throughout the neighborhood, so just being able to see a face and recognize it versus seeing a face and it’s just another person is nice. I think it just brings everyone together. The nicer you can be, the closer you can feel to a person definitely improves the quality of life here.

You really rose through the ranks during your time there. Can you tell us about that experience?

I started as a peer leader, which is an entry level position. It was meant to team build, foster leadership, and a lot of it was focused on putting everyone out of their comfort zone. I was a very shy kid growing up! I’m no longer a shy person, and I absolutely think it’s due to the experience I had with IBA. I’m no longer afraid to be who I am or express my thoughts and ideas in any situation. It helped me realize that everyone’s opinions, thoughts, ideas matter. They matter.

After that, I continued with the program by becoming a sort of manager or supervisor to newcomers. I’d help people get into the program, understand, make sure they were okay if they were running late or something. That helped me with my current job at Starbucks, where I started as a barista and went onto become a shift manager. A lot of the responsibilities I learned at IBA also applied to the current position I have now in terms of responsibility, getting ahead of things, and being able to adapt to any situation.

What was the most rewarding part of your experience?

After I turned 16 or 17 I started working with the little ones over at Blackstone in the afterschool program, helping to run different workshops that helped them with their school assignments. I remember the first girl I worked with was just a little thing and now I see her around the neighborhood but she’s not little anymore! Just seeing kids grow up and being a part of their lives is rewarding because they remember you and they need to be able to look up to someone who isn’t a teacher. I eventually moved on to become a Teaching Assistant with IBA’s After School and Summer Learning Program even through the summers which really allowed me to be involved behind the scenes running a curriculum for these kids.

Do you think you’ll pursue teaching as a career?

I don’t see myself becoming a teacher, but I think being able to be there for someone younger is incredibly rewarding. It’s tough nowadays. There’s so much going on with their lives, I think being able to mentor kids one-on-one is essential because they take such joy in it. Being there as a TA allowed me to expand on what each kid really needed.

What are your plans for the future and how did your involvement in the Youth Program shape them?

I’m currently a biology student at UMASS Boston. I love being outside so I want to research and be out in the field. I want to see first hand what’s going on, which was definitely shaped by the youth program. All of our workshops always had a community or environmental aspect to it. I really want to be out helping the environment, helping people. I want to help preserve the world that we have because there’s no other world like this one and I don’t think it should be taken for granted. I think that’s what my passion is.

Are you interested in getting involved? Learn more about IBA’s Youth Development Program here. To enroll your child in our After School or Summer Learning program, click here. You can reach out to Lauren Bard at lbard@ibaboston.org with any questions regarding the Youth Development or Afterschool and Summer Learning Programs.

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