The ballroom of the InterContinental Boston was packed full of state and local officials, community leaders, law enforcement, supporters and advocates on Friday for a morning of inspiring stories and relentless courage.
Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins, along with Roca founder and CEO, Molly Baldwin, served as emcee of the breakfast, which honored participants, alumni and staff, thanked those who have supported Roca’s efforts and celebrated the progress in the past year.
“We created an organization for the young people to do not show up, who are not ready, willing or able to go to school or work, but we know that with enough time and the right opportunities, they can,” said Roca Founder and CEO Molly Baldwin. “We figured out how to work with the systems that so many people are afraid of and assume fail to do good or cause more harm, and we are so grateful to all of you all. Together, we can help young people change.”
Speakers and attendees of the event celebrated participants Joseph Canzano, Christopher Mullins and Keishla Aponte who were awarded the Vichey Phoung Award. The three young people expressed new hope for their futures after finding support in Roca’s transformative programs and relentless outreach.
“People stepped up and they made sure that I never lost hope,” said Police Commissioner William Gross, sharing his own personal story and the importance of community support. “It’s does take a village. This is why I am here. My parents are you, the neighborhood who raised me.”
Featured speakers also included Michael Jacobson, Director of the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance and former President of the Vera Institute of Justice, and Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins who could not be in attendance but sent a video message for the event.
“Everyone in the room knows that the population that you are focusing on are the individuals that need the most of our help,” said DA Rollins. “[Molly] I think you go where the hardest work needs to be done. I think you’ve been told ‘no’ so many times but you continue moving forward and you build something really, really special.”