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“You are capable, and you don’t have to be perfect. If you’re following a feeling and that feeling feels right, you’re doing all that you need to do.”

-Joakeem Gaston, Berkshire Partners Blue Hill Club Alum and Co-Chair of Josh Kraft Mattapan Teen Center

Joakeem grew up in Dorchester and was a brief BPS student, who later became a METCO student in high school. His experience with both school systems helped him appreciate his local neighborhood as he observed the difference in resources between both communities (Newton and Dorchester). Having such exposure made Joakeem sensitive to the positive changes that could be made for underserved neighborhoods, which inspired him to give back to the community he was part of at Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston 

Joakeem’s Introduction to BGCB and Development for Success:

“Honestly, my mom was like, ‘I need somewhere for this kid to be.’ She wanted me to be somewhere where she knew I would be safe and taken care of. So, she brought me to Berkshire Partners Blue Hill Club when I was 11 and the rest is history. My life would not be as cool if it had not been for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. I got my first internship at the Boys & Girls Club, which later led to me getting my first job.” 

Joakeem started producing his own music at the age of 15 and learned how to do so at the level that professional music producers would. With such experience, Joakeem felt well equipped during his college years and believes that he would not have been as skilled had it not been for his experience at Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. His first entry level position was in a support role for iZotope, an audio tech company. As a result of his time at BGCB as a young member, Joakeem’s music experience built a strong foundation in music engineering concepts that later helped him acquire a technical role in support at iZotope. 

Blue Hill Club Staff Influence in Joakeem’s Life:

During his time at Blue Hill Club, Joakeem had many positive role models who were staff, such as Carl Thompson, the current Director of the club. With Carl, Joakeem always felt seen and safe in an environment where he sometimes might have felt overlooked. Additionally, when it came to figuring out Joakeem’s career path, he confided in Mike Lembke, the Creative Arts Director at the Blue Hill Club. Joakeem appreciated Mike for his honesty when having discussions about Joakeem’s future. Mike was someone who helped Joakeem gain a lot of perspective on the possibilities of his future, and Joakeem thanks Mike for the opportunities that were granted to him through their relationship. 

Joakeem’s Introduction to Photography and Music:

I felt like I was always a creative person even from a young age. I didn’t have a lot of toys when I was younger but going to the Boys and Girls Club gave me a safe place to play. By play I mean the opportunity to just enjoy and experiment, and when it came to photography and music, those were things that I just got to do at the Club. We didn’t necessarily have a photography program, but the Video Director at the time allowed me to help him. When it came to music, Rick Aggeler helped me learn how to focus. As a kid with many interests, I felt like Rick was someone who never dismissed me, instead, he wanted to see me do something with music. I still make music to this day largely because of Rick’s influence on me when I was younger. 

Not only is Joakeem an active member of Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, but he is also a well-known photographer in the greater Boston community. Joakeem is often commissioned to photograph large and smaller events in the state of Massachusetts. He also photographs his own inspired work which is currently showcased in a Young Artist Exhibition in Rhode Island. Joakeem currently has two prints for sale in this exhibition, and he continues to work in photography and in music as his creative passions. 

Joakeem Photographed (2020)

Joakeem at Blue Hill Club Music Room (2016)

Member and Co-Chair of the Josh Kraft Mattapan Teen Center Local Advisory Board:

Prior to being a Co-chair of Josh Kraft Mattapan Teen Center’s Local Advisory Board, Joakeem was an advisory board member at the age of 21, the youngest advisory member in BGCB history. Joakeem was invited to be an Advisory Board Member by Javon Martin, a fellow Berkshire Blue Hill Alum, and Rick Aggeler the current Director of Josh Kraft Mattapan Teen Center. Later, Joakeem was encouraged to be a Co-Chair member by Javon, who Joakeem admired during their time in Studio Heat together, a music band from the Blue Hill Club. Soon after, Joakeem was voted on as a Co-Chair for Josh Kraft Mattapan Teen Center’s Local Advisory Board 

Joakeem’s Goal as a Co-Chair of Josh Kraft Mattapan Teen Center Local Advisory Board:

I would say that there is definitely more that I want to do, but through external connections, I’ve been able to help create impactful memories, which has been the most valuable to me. Growing up in the city can be rough and really difficult. But my goal is to make contributions towards Mattapan Teen Center that makes it easier for members to just be kids. I want members to be able to just enjoy their youth, make mistakes and do so in a safe place. My focus is to make sure that the youth in this city can just be kids and not be pressured to be anything else. I want members to go to MTC and BGCB to feel safe and feel like they have a second home. 

Joakeem’s Words of Encouragement to Current and Future Members of BGCB: 

“You are capable and you don’t have to be perfect. If you’re following a feeling and that feeling feels right, you’re doing all that you need to do. I’ve met many successful professionals and have learned that everyone is just following a feeling. If we all had it figured out, we’d all be millionaires and would have things that are symbols of success. But we are all different and we all live in this large mosaic of identity, culture and personality, and none of our paths are meant to look the same. Whatever you want to do, just do it. Finding creative solutions will breed success, and success isn’t something that will look just one way. Being comfortable with discomfort through the changes and growth areas are different opportunities to learn, which will help make you the best version of yourself.”

Joakeem thanks BGCB for allowing him to be involved and for granting him another family everywhere in the city of Boston. 

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