"For me, IBA was always a safe space"

"For me, IBA was always a safe space"

Isaiah joined IBA’s Youth Development Program during his first year of high school. Wanting to help his parents financially, he signed up for a part-time job near his home. Isaiah wanted to be a productive part of his community in a safe space outside school. Not only did he achieve all of this through YDP, but after three successful years as a youth participant, today Isaiah is a Senior Peer Leader on the IBA team.

In this interview Isaiah tells us about his experience with the program and the opportunity he had to make a positive impact on his community.

Welcome to IBA, Isaiah. We’re happy to have you on board. Can you tell our audience a little about your background and your role today at IBA?

I’m a Boston native, born and raised here, student athlete, love doing sports, going to school, love working. Honestly, I love IBA! IBA has taught me a lot, they got me involved with the community and they gave me a lot of opportunities to meet new people. I even got the chance to meet Michelle Wu before she was elected, and was given the opportunity to work with her. All that thanks to IBA’s Youth Development Program.

I started as a youth and as I got older I kind of aged out, but since I know how things work, Pedro (Youth Development Program Director) gave me the opportunity to move up, step up into a Senior Peer Leader role where I can talk to the kids more as a mentor rather than just a peer. I have more responsibilities, but I also can connect to the other kids on a more personal level because I’m closer to their age and that helps a lot.

What led you to get involved with our organization?

Honestly, just the welcomeness. They always made me feel at home, they made me feel that anything that I needed, as long as there was a reason to provide it, they would do it. They were always open arms and they always gave me opportunities so I really wanted to give back.

What kind of opportunities will the Youth Development Program provide to our community this year?

Right now, we are working on assessing problems within the school system. We’re gathering kids’ opinions on the school system and how they feel about serious topics like mental health. We’re doing a lot of workshops around that, and bringing me in makes those kids feel like they’re not the only ones. Being so close to their age lets them connect, as opposed to someone older who might not understand or they just don’t relate to.

How do you identify with IBA’s mission, and how will that mission be presented through your new role?

When in the youth program, I was part of those who created the mural in O’Day park. I got to see some of the changes within the community and now I get to help today’s youth to have a voice, to have opportunities like I had. I got to see how IBA affected me, and now I got to take an inside stance into how to affect others and better people’s lives.

For me, IBA was always a safe space. Any issues or situations I brought up, they always kept it a safe space for me. They always welcomed me with open arms. The lessons IBA taught me were super important. But the fact they were a family was the most important because not everybody has that. Them being so caring and inclusive is something I definitely appreciate a lot.

If you want to support other youth like Isaiah, please consider donating to our programs here. Thank you from all of us at IBA, especially the Youth Development Program staff and participants!