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Immigrants Lead Boston

(September - December 2022)

Twenty immigrant leaders make up the third class of Immigrants Lead Boston, a program by the Mayor's Office for Immigrant Advancement. The participants represent 17 countries, eight Boston neighborhoods, and speak 14 languages. Their careers range from healthcare to mutual aid, and some are full-time students pursuing further education. 

“Participating in Immigrants Lead Boston allows me to gain more knowledge, so I can help and advocate for a greater number of immigrants in my community,” said Narda Peña-Reyes, a participant from East Boston.

Throughout the 12-week program, this year's class learned how to advocate for their communities on issues like housing security, equitable property development, education, and access to COVID resources. They met with City officials from eight cabinets, City Council members, and local nonprofits that do advocacy work here in Boston. Two people from this year's class led the Pledge of Allegiance during Mayor Michelle Wu's first State of the City address, and one person was selected to represent immigrant communities in the 2023 Boston Marathon.

“I will share what I have learned to provide guidance for people that need help, especially for newly-immigrated members of Boston,” said Dawit Semere, a participant from Jamaica Plain. “I will encourage them to join programs provided by the City.”

The Immigrants Lead Boston Graduation was on December 16, 2022. People shared their reflections from the program and Mayor Wu shared her experiences and answered questions. Watch here and see pictures here.


Ramón's Story

Meet the Participants

Meet the Participants

Phil A, ILB

"I believe Immigrants Lead Boston is a great opportunity to have a better understanding of how the City of Boston works, how decisions are made and how help can be offered to my community. My main interest is to learn exactly what resources are available for low-income and immigrant communities so I can extend that knowledge to fellow community organizers, family and my own community."

"As Boston continues to grow, I'd like for the City to find more effective ways to keep its long-time residents at the top of their priorities, so they are not forced out of their communities due to an ever-growing gentrification problem. For my community, I would like to see more involvement in community organizing, so that the community's interests come on top when city officials make decisions that go against them."

Khaled A, ILB

"I participated in Immigrants Lead Boston because I wanted my community’s voice to be heard— not just to point out what isn’t going well but also to recognize and appreciate what is going well. I believe that the government of Boston will benefit immensely from the feedback participants of this program will provide."

"We need to help immigrants assimilate into Boston faster and better. The inability to understand English or social and cultural norms are only a few of the challenges immigrants face, especially at the early stages of their resettlement in Boston. The City of Boston should provide immigrants with all the help and support needed to successfully integrate and assimilate them into American society."

Ramon B, ILB

"I’m so glad to be part of ILB. One of my motivations to apply to this program was because I wanted to be like many Mexican leaders and raise my voice for this huge Latin American immigrant community around Boston. I wanted to learn and contribute with my resources while also sharing with the community the needs and programs that the City of Boston supports."

"For those who identify with the LGBT community: it’s true that we were working so much on our rights, but we still need to make a bigger push. The world still needs so many people who love and be loved. We can make a real and better change. Runners and Bikers: Boston is now called the sport city, but we are not going to stop until we have the city we deserve. We are all in this together."

Nathan B, ILB

"I joined Immigrants Lead Boston because I would like to be the bridge between underserved immigrant communities and local government. I would like to extend the city's economic opportunities to these communities and raise awareness about social and civic responsibilities."

"I want to see a city of Boston where immigrant voices are heard and where they are given an opportunity to actively contribute to the city's economic and social welfare."

Manuel C, ILB

"I am participating in Immigrants Lead Boston because as a young immigrant, I want to serve as a voice for those who do not feel represented. I want to educate myself through this program so I can have a better knowledge of the resources Boston has for the immigrant community."

"I want to see immigrants in Boston be able to come out of the shadows and to raise their voices without fear. I want them to feel that they belong and that it is okay to speak up about issues that negatively impact them."

"As an immigrant, I am seeking to participate in Immigrants Lead Boston with the intention to gain exposure on the issues that immigrants are facing in Boston and, ultimately, to seek long-term solutions."

"I would like to see the emergence of systems in which each individual, no matter their background or country of origin, is given the opportunity and access to basic necessities of life such as food, housing, security, and education."

Karina F, ILB

"As a young girl, being the only one who spoke and read English, I remember translating documents for my parents that were far out of my knowledge capacity. Throughout my experience as an immigrant and daughter of immigrants, I have had the opportunity to use my knowledge and share it with others. In college, I majored in social work where my knowledge and outlook expanded. I joined Immigrants Lead Boston to put both my lived experiences and education to work for my community. I believe Immigrants Lead Boston will give me the opportunity to learn more about the city I live in and how to take advantage of the resources it has to offer for the community as a whole."

"Boston has been the only home I’ve known since I first arrived in the U.S.A. I hope to see Boston create a more equitable and just society for its residents. Creating safe spaces where we as residents can enjoy the city as our authentic selves. In my neighborhood of East Boston, I envision creating a community that helps each other and works together to tackle the current obstacles we are facing. I envision a community that is full of resources for all ages and in all languages, where we as residents are assured that we are not alone and help is just a phone call away."

Jose H, ILB

"Immigrants Lead Boston is a great chance to gain the necessary knowledge to help my community access the resources available for them to succeed."

"I want to see a more affordable, less crowded, and more efficient city that is full of public programs to help those in need reach their full potential. This is the Boston I’d like to help transform."

Deysi G, ILB

"I am participating in Immigrants Lead Boston because I want to gain more knowledge on Boston's structure. I want to learn who is making decisions for the city. I want to know how communities can reach out when they need support and how the city reaches out to communities."

"In Boston, I want to see more intentional work being done in collaboration with community groups and the city. The city and community working together would be a force to be reckoned with! For my community, I want to see all my neighbors having access to housing. One of my visions is for residents to live anxiety-free in a home."

Mishika J, ILB

"I participated in Immigrants Lead Boston because I want to be a source of information and leadership within the Haitian community. I am hoping to bridge the gap between city officials and Haitian community members of Boston through partnership experiences such as this one. I am hoping to represent Immigrants Lead Boston as best as I can by being an ambassador to the Haitian immigrant residents of Mattapan."

"One specific change I would like to see in Boston and for my community is the removal of the large gap between immigrants and non-immigrants of Boston. I want my community to feel like valued members of the city and not a subset of it. I want there to be more opportunities for my community to feel represented in local policies and changes that primarily affect them."

Cindy M, ILB

"As an immigrant, I have seen firsthand the obstacles that immigrants face when trying to build a new life in a new country. I have also seen the transformative power that comes from having a strong support system. By participating in Immigrants Lead Boston, I will have the opportunity to help other immigrants navigate the challenges of adapting to a new culture and even learning a new language. I will also be able to help them navigate the resources they need to succeed in their studies and find stable jobs. I want to be a part of this program because I believe in its mission of helping immigrants lead successful and fulfilling lives."

"As a Boston resident, I want to see an equitable, resilient, and inclusive community that we all want and deserve. I want to see a community with extensive greenspace, affordable housing (both rental and home ownership), housing for our seniors, improved transportation infrastructure and much more. I want to see investment and promotion of programs to improve youth and adult mental health and well-being by decreasing social anxiety through increasing communication and leadership skills in social interactions and through student project development."

Charmin M, ILB

"I wanted to participate in Immigrants Lead Boston to get more information on how to be more involved in my community. I had always been involved in my community, but, after having my kids, I had to take a step back to care for them. I have always been involved in my community either by doing some volunteer work with college students, teaching ESOL classes to adults, or teaching bible school to children in my local church. Through Immigrants Lead Boston, I want to learn how to be involved politically in my local community so I can make a bigger impact."

"I want to see a more inclusive Boston. I want there to be less violence and that the root cause of this violence is studied and fixed. I want to see a Boston where me and my daughters feel safe walking around at any time of day. I want to see local business owners thrive, and I want the community to feel empowered to become involved and be assured that their voices will be heard and that actions will be taken."

Narda P, ILB

"I am participating in Immigrants Lead Boston because, for many years, I have tried to help people around me— immigrants like me who have a very difficult time navigating the government system. Being bilingual has allowed me to understand and have access to some information. Participating in Immigrants Lead Boston allows me to gain more knowledge, so I can help and advocate for a greater number of immigrants in my community."

"In the future, I would like to see a greater number of Latinos in political positions, specifically in East Boston because we do not have representation. I would like a more unified community— for all of us to feel like Bostonians, even though our roots are from different parts of the world. I would like a bilingual community to be encouraged so that all young people preserve their roots and ties to their cultures without shame. I would like immigration policy to ease the process of getting documentation so those who are undocumented, who are part of the growth and progress of our community, can access more resources."

Carolline P, ILB

"I decided to participate in Immigrants Lead Boston to better serve the immigrant community in Allston-Brighton (and neighboring communities). I want to learn about and teach others how to navigate the city system and services and understand how we can advocate for our community."

"I believe Boston is on the right path to being a city for everyone— we just have to make sure everyone knows that! I would love to see more information getting to people that need them. I also hope to see some improvement in infrastructure— from roads to public school buildings— and a more equitable investment in education that would give a real chance for all communities to thrive. I would also like Boston to be more affordable, guaranteeing everyone access to their needs."

Blanca Ramirez, ILB

"I am participating in Immigrants Lead Boston because I want to see, I want to live and I want to breathe. Four years ago I came to the United States, renouncing my culture, my language and my people. I could not see any opportunities or a life for me and, of course, the oxygen felt like it did not belong to me. I remember the discomfort of going on the bus, the insecurity that I felt on the streets and the inability to trust anyone. Little by little, American high school felt like being in Guatemala, and being on the bus was not uncomfortable. But something was missing— trust. I want to trust the government, I want to trust their willingness to help everyone, and that’s why I joined Immigrants Lead Boston."

"When I think about change, I imagine my people not being scared of going to the hospital, of asking for help, of walking the streets and of representing their culture. I want to see everyone have the opportunity to be themselves (speak their languages, practice their traditions, celebrate their cultures, etc.) completely and without fear."

Marzieh S, ILB

"I am participating in Immigrants Lead Boston to learn more about laws and resources available to me and my community."

"I want to see Boston support the Persian community more."




Anu Sahu, ILB

"As an immigrant myself, I understand the challenges and unique life experiences you go through when you immigrate. Although various immigrant communities have their own barriers and experiences, we all have a shared experience of being uprooted from our homes and having to figure out life in a different country. I am participating in Immigrants Lead Boston so I can amplify voices of various immigrant communities and be equipped with the right tools to advocate for all."

"I would love to see intentional outreach and engagement from the City of Boston to engage more immigrant communities in local government. Immigrant voices need to be heard and government needs to be accessible to everyone."

Program Administrators

Program Administrators

Picture of Hawa Yusef

As the Civic Engagement Coordinator for the Mayor's Office for Immigrant Advancement, Immigrants Lead Boston (ILB) holds a special place in my heart.

My journey in this office began by learning alongside ILB participants who now form a community of 58 immigrant leaders in Boston. I extend my gratitude to you all—it has been an enriching experience to learn and grow with you, and I assure you that this is not the end of our journey together. My vision is for ILB to continue to foster its alumni network while we relentlessly work toward creating a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable community for all immigrants in Boston.

Read Hawa's bio on the Immigrant Advancement webpage.

Sarah L, ILB

As the Civic Engagement Fellow for the Mayor's Office for Immigrant Advancement, the opportunity to work with this class was an incredible experience. Not only did I get to see the participants learn, I also learned about myself. I am a first-generation American in a Dominican and Honduran household, and I grew up advocating for my parents and family members, all of which are immigrants in the US. I am really interested in civic engagement and community organizing because I have experienced the positive impact that strong communities can have on all of our lives. 

ILB is important to me because it brings together immigrants and first-generation Americans from all backgrounds to build our ideas, so we can all better advocate for our communities. This program builds a multiethnic community of immigrants and creates a network that spans across cultures. I hope to see the ILB network continue to grow and expand. I also hope that alumni will continue to develop their skills after they’ve graduated from the program.

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