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“At the time I made this promise to my parents, I had no idea how I would do it. I just knew I wanted to make it happen.”

– Paris Figuereo, Nursing student at Rutgers University, Yawkey Club of Roxbury alumna 

At a young age, Paris Figuereo made a bold promise to her parents. Confidently, she told them they would not have to pay a single cent for her to attend college. Today, she names this accomplishment as the greatest (of many) in her life so far.  

“At the time I made this promise to my parents, I had no idea how I would do it. I just knew I wanted to make it happen,” Figuereo explains. 

This was not just a dream but a testament to the determination of a young girl. Paris’s story is about recognizing opportunity, seizing it, and not looking back. It is about harnessing the power of community and mentorship. And it is about imagining a great future and turning it into reality. 

Recognizing a Culture of Excellence at Her Club

Paris’s initial impressions of her Boys & Girls Club came through the lens of a younger sister looking up to her siblings and other role models. 

Paris after being named her Club’s Junior Youth of the Year in 2019

“I would see my older sister and her friends participating in the teen programs, and I knew I wanted to be just like them,” she said. “I could see myself participating in the same programs as them one day, and this kept me coming back to the Club, which was an important part of my experience early on.” 

She realized that prioritizing responsibilities was also an essential part of being a part of the Club. “The whole day was structured around taking care of the things we needed to do before enjoying the things we wanted to do for fun,” she recalled. “I needed to complete my homework before I could go anywhere else in the building.” 

Paris also identified another opportunity early on: to start building wealth. The Club she attended, Yawkey Club of Roxbury, offers a series of paid positions for members to apply for as they progress through their Club experience. In addition, it also offers financial literacy programs to help members plan what to do with their money as they earn it. 

“When I was 13, none of my friends were making money,” she remembers. “But as a Young Leader at my Club, I was able to. I opened a savings account and began depositing my earnings.” 

To this day, that money is still sitting in her account. “Because of the financial literacy skills I built at the Club, I haven’t needed to touch any of it.” 

Tapping into the Club’s Leadership Pipeline

As soon as she was able, Paris joined Torch Club, which is the first phase of her Club’s leadership pipeline. She jumped at the opportunity to strengthen her leadership skills, including public speaking, and within one year, she became the group’s president.  

“Becoming Torch Club president was a foundational component of my early life and a stepping stone for my future at the Club and beyond,” she explained. 

After Torch Club came Keystone, the next step in her Club’s leadership pipeline. As a member of Keystone, Paris continued refining her leadership skills while focusing on academics and community service, as well as preparing for her future life after the Club. When given the opportunity to speak in front of 800 people at BGCB’s Annual Dinner, Paris pushed herself past her comfort zone and rose to the occasion. 

“There is no way I would have been able to do that without the foundation of programs and experiences I had built earlier on at the Club.” she explained. “All of the different programs I participated in prepared me for that moment, which was another key stepping stone in my life.” 

Paris speaking at BGCB’s 2020 Annual Dinner in front of 800 attendees

Embracing Mentorship in Role Models

Paris found a family of mentors and role models at her Club. She identifies Geoffrey Bynoe and the late Murray Bass as additional father figures in her life who guided her toward exploring and trying new things as she navigated the Club experience as a younger member. 

“I was initially uncomfortable branching out into new programs, but they encouraged me to push myself to do it anyways and coached me through that phase of growth in my life,” she remembers. “I felt like I could rely on them in the same way I relied on my own father at home.” 

As a teen, she found mentors like Jen Medina, who advised her not to “dim your light to make others feel brighter,” a mantra she reminds herself of often to this date. “Jen was my mentor when she worked at the Teen Center at the Club, and has remained one since she moved on to become BGCB’s Senior Director of Workforce Readiness at the downtown office,” explained Paris. Mike Davis, whose affirmations helped Paris believe in her potential, was also instrumental in her personal and professional growth. And then there was Saaran Sillah, who in Paris’s own words, “helped me stay grounded in times of stress, such as the college process and my deadlines, even when I wasn’t on top of them myself. Saaran also led the HBCU College Tour that Paris attended in 2022.

These relationships with staff created a positive feedback loop in Paris’s life. “You can tell the staff loved what they did, and they wanted to help us, and that made me want to be a part of the program more and kept me coming back to continue improving myself.” 

Paris with friends Ida and Wedeb and BGCB’s 2023 Annual Dinner

A Home Away from Home

Paris, like many students in Roxbury, participated in the METCO program. As a result, her school was far away from her home in Roxbury. This distance made it challenging to participate in after-school activities and find a community at school to get plugged into.  

“The community I didn’t have at school, I found at the Boys & Girls Club,” she explained. “The community at my Club was filled with other kids who looked like me, went through the same experience as me as a person of color in a predominantly white school, and understood the challenges that came with that.” 

As a young women, Paris also could count on staff to guide her through any questions she encountered. 

“At Girls Group, one of my staff mentors, Mercedees, guided us through sexual education, dealing with racism and stereotyping that exists in the world, and helped teach the yes’s and no’s of life.” 

Paris with staff mentor Jen Medina at 2022 Teen Recognition Dinner

Paris and with Saaran Sillah and Kiara Powell during BGCB’s 2022 HBCU College Tour

Life After the Club

Today, Paris attends Rutgers University on a full-tuition scholarship as a Posse Scholar. She was one of only 50 students chosen in Boston to receive this prestigious honor sought after by thousands of high school students. She carries her existing leadership skills into this program and is studying Nursing.  

“Nursing was really the one thing that I was like, ‘I know I could do this and I could help change a child’s life. We don’t have many people of color in medical fields, so I wanted to be a part of that percentage. I wanted to know that I was going to work and I was making a change in someone’s life and in society.” 

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