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Mayor highlights residents’ stories as he shares vision for Boston

During his State of the City speech, Mayor Martin J. Walsh tonight welcomed four Bostonians to the stage to share their stories and begin his annual address to the people of Boston. 

“The State of the City is not about me: it’s about all of us — the people of our City,” said Mayor Walsh. “I believe in Boston because this city made my immigrant family’s dream come true. I’m so proud to serve as your mayor, and help lift up all voices in Boston. My vision, my passion, and what I work for every day, is for Boston to be that city of dreams for every child, every student, every worker, every senior and every single person who calls our city home.”

Below are the remarks given tonight by Yohan Almonte, Lamarana Bah, Smiler Haynes and Angel Castillo Pineda, four residents of Boston. This is the first State of the City speech where residents have taken the stage to share their stories of Boston, and introduce the Mayor of Boston. 

“My name is Yohan Almonte, and I’m from Mattapan. As you can tell, I’m not Mayor Walsh. But we both know the power of second chances. After my mom passed away, I was homeless, and ended up behind bars. But the Mayor created a program called Operation Exit that changed my life. Now I’m a member of the Laborers Union, earning good pay and the respect of my community. Mayor Walsh believed in me and I believe in Boston.”

Operation Exit is a restorative justice program aimed at allowing Boston's population most vulnerable to gun violence and returning incarcerated citizens, greater opportunities to reenter and give back to their community.

“My name is Lamarana Bah. I immigrated 15 years ago from Sierra Leone. My wife and I work hard, but we didn’t think we could afford a home to raise our three sons and take care of my in-laws. Mayor Walsh’s Neighborhood Homes Initiative helped us and hundreds of other families. We got help with our down payment and mortgage, and now we own our home in Dorchester. I want everyone to know about these opportunities. Our dream came true and that’s why we believe in Boston.”

The Neighborhood Homes Initiative uses City-owned land to create affordable homeownership opportunities for Boston homebuyers. Under Mayor Walsh’s leadership, Boston has set an overall housing goal of 69,000 new units by 2030, to meet Boston's expected population growth. These 69,000 new units include 15,820 new income-restricted units, which would elevate Boston's income-restricted inventory total to 70,000, or one in five of all housing units. In addition, the plan set a goal to preserve 85 percent of Boston's most at-risk privately-owned affordable units, and to purchase 1,000 units of rental housing stock from the speculative market and income-restrict them for perpetuity. To date the City has hit a milestone of over 32,000 new units of housing permitted.

“Hello, I’m Smiler Haynes, and at 86, I’m aging strong. I love all the senior programs at the Grove Hall Community Center. I tell all my friends that the Mayor’s Age Strong office is a great resource for all kinds of things: free shuttle rides, home repairs, volunteer opportunities, fitness classes—my favorite is tai chi! The City believes in our seniors, and we believe in Boston.”

In 2019, Boston rebranded its aging commission into Age Strong Commission, and in September launched its first-ever public awareness campaign, aimed at revealing implicit biases around aging and dispelling stereotypes about older adults to promote more positive messaging around aging.

“My name is Angel Castillo Pineda. Four years ago, I immigrated to Boston from Guatemala. I enrolled at East Boston High School, where I felt accepted and inspired to follow my dreams. I joined the Mayor’s High School to Teacher program. I’m planning to go to college, then come back and teach ESL to students like me in the Boston Public Schools. I believe in Boston because Boston embraced me.”

Boston Public Schools’ workforce to pipeline development program is the Boston Public Schools (BPS) High School to Teacher Program. This program develops strategic partnerships to identify, cultivate, and support high school students. These high school students reflect the cultural, linguistic, and racial diversity of BPS, and with the support of the program successfully navigate high school, graduate from college and return to BPS as passionate, qualified teachers.

For more information, visit the State of the City website.

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