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“I hired Patty to be a teacher here. I saw her Boys & Girls Clubs experience on her resume, and immediately I said, ‘I know who I’m calling next.’”

– Katie Grassa, Curley K-8 School Principal and Edgerley South Boston Club alumna

For Patty Garcia and Katie Grassa, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston provided a nurturing and structured environment that helped shape their careers in education and passion for youth advocacy. Their paths never crossed as members at Gerald and Darlene Jordan Club and Edgerley Family South Boston Club, respectively. But their parallel journeys at the Club have led them here, as colleagues and leaders at Boston Public Schools’ Curley K-8 School.

Katie’s Club Experience Sparks a Lifelong Passion

Katie joined the then South Boston Boys & Girls Club at age 12, quickly finding it to be an inclusive space where she could access new opportunities. She participated in Club leadership as Keystone Club President, developing nuanced skills that still aid her today as Curley K-8’s principal.

“Keystone was my favorite thing about the Boys & Girls Club,” Katie says. “It taught me so much about being a leader in my community, doing things for others, and collaborating with friends. It absolutely applies to the work I do today.”

The Club exposed Katie to travel, taking her to a national Keystone Club conference in California. This trip fostered independence and inspired within her a sense of adventure. “The Club was the first time I was very independent, and my family trusted everything I was doing there,” says Katie. “I experienced packing to travel on my own, visiting new places, watching my money, booking flights—it’s made me love traveling and seeing new things and meeting new people.”

Katie Grassa, left, and Patty Garcia, right, outside Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain

For Katie, the Boys & Girls Club unlocked a passion for guiding youth that shaped her career. The lessons in leadership and encouragement to expand her horizons planted seeds for lifelong learning and service.

Patty Learns Her Calling at the Club

Patty Garcia’s experience followed a similar arc. Joining as a shy teenager at the then Chelsea Boys & Girls Club, Patty found a safe, creative space where she blossomed. The patient mentorship of Alice, the Art Director, boosted Patty’s self-esteem and artistic expression. Patty continues the cycle of guidance today as Curley K-8’s second grade inclusion teacher.

“Alice’s room was a favorite area for me to express myself,” Patty says. “Even when my art wasn’t the best, she made me feel like it was a masterpiece. She also got me into creating art for my community, which really helped me with my confidence. She was the person I would go to with anything, not just art, as someone to talk to.”

Trying new things at the Club also revealed Patty’s hidden talents. Though initially outside her comfort zone, Patty zip-lined for the first time at summer camp. This adventurous leap showed Patty she was braver than she realized. “Now I’ve gone sky diving, hiking, climbed mountains—that all started at the Club,” Patty says. Later, her role as Keystone Club Secretary helped hone organizational skills that aid her as an educator today.

Like Katie’s experience, working directly with youth at the Club led Patty to her career path. Tutoring children in the Education program made Patty realize she wanted to teach full-time. The Club provided the hands-on opportunity to discover her calling.

Katie Grassa, left, and Patty Garcia, right, outside Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain

From the Club to the Classroom

For both Katie and Patty, the mentorship and experiences gained at Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston sparked their commitment to education. Patty carries the values she learned in the Club with her every day as she guides her second graders through their year. For Katie, it’s about finding exceptional leaders like Patty to embody the work ethic and life skills needed to excel as a teacher.

“I hired Patty to be a teacher here,” Katie says. “I saw her Boys & Girls Clubs experience on her resume, and immediately I said, ‘I know who I’m calling next.’ You already know their values. Her Club references never saw her teach but they spoke about her character. It’s such a great connector for alumni to get a strong character reference from someone who truly knows them.”

Advice for Today’s Members

Katie and Patty’s message for today’s members: try everything the Club offers to discover your talents. Keep challenging yourself. “Find those people you connect with and know that even though you’re moving on to college or career, the Club is still there,” Patty says. “Whether it’s checking in on people you’ve built relationships with or you want to volunteer, stay connected. They’ll always welcome you back.”

What’s Next for Our Young People

As Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston celebrates its 130-year anniversary, Katie and Patty both hope that today’s youth have access to the same life-changing opportunities in the next 130 years. As our young people’s needs evolve and their needs become more complex, Katie pointed out that we all need to work together to ensure we know how to meet those needs.

“Our young people have so much more access to things than I ever did at that age,” Katie says.” I didn’t even have a computer at the house—I’d type my papers at the Boys & Girls Club. Access to information is great for kids, but also can be harmful and hard to process. It’s so important for us to be thinking about the social emotional needs of our kids. They’re going through experiences that many of us have never had. We need to teach our kids how to be safe with technology and how to use it for a purpose.”

A Full-Circle Career

With committed educators like Katie and Patty leading the way, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston’s legacy of leadership and service lives on. By supporting educational programs and inclusion, the Club can continue empowering youth to find their calling. As Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston embarks on a strategic plan to ensure our members have equitable opportunities to succeed academically, these women both serve as critical partners. They’re working alongside the very Club that raised them—working every day to shape young lives as the Club shaped theirs.

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